My second of 10 sojourns to Ireland was a summer-long storytelling tour of the island that was certainly one of the highlights of my life. I kept copious journals recording my remarkable experiences. When I read them in 1996, I realized there was a book in it. So I wrote one. Took about a year and a half, but it was time well spent. I am a much better writer as a result, and let’s face it: anyone can begin writing a book. It’s an achievement to FINISH writing a book. I never attempted to publish, as travel writing is like milk: it has an expiration date. The Ireland I describe in this book no longer exists. Little more than a decade later, it is almost an historical document. But it’s good. I like it. It’s fun to read. That is enough. It would be even better if people would read it. Books like having readers. It makes them happy.
* * *
. Again, my sainted German-Irish Mother was there alone to meet me at the airport- three hours later than she had planned on, but unruffled by the delay, having long-since readjusted to the forgiving pace of Irish-time. (Paul used to tell a joke about this, and I quote: “A traveler, encountering a Trinity Don, asked respectfully- ‘What Irish expression corresponds to the Spanish term mañana’, or: tomorrow. The professor answered: ‘None. We have no need to express such urgency.’!”) In short order, my Mother was behind the wheel, whisking us along back-country roads to the familiar comforts of welcoming Toad Hall…
. As we entered the house, my step-father Paul stepped forward to greet me. It was a reunion of sorts. We hadn’t had much contact other since the death of my sister in 1982, twelve years earlier. Paul had always held a special place in my heart, because he was more of a mentor than my biological father, who deserted his family and ran to the comforting bosom of alcohol. I was sad to see that my old friend was clearly in his declining days. His body- once energetic, was worn and bent. His face was red and puffy. He seemed shockingly shriveled and frail. The once robust man now shuffled through the house carefully, as though afraid of losing his balance and collapsing in a heap. Thank God that ornery twinkle remained deep in his eyes. He was still and forever- Paul.
. After a welcome meal, I dragged myself upstairs to face my hideous jet lag. Wild dreams spun tangled webs through my mind. Maybe it was the temporary trauma of sleep-deprivation, the sudden shift in geography that jars your mind free of comfortable strait-jackets. Whatever the trigger, that night I had the most extraordinary epiphany: GOD appeared to me in a nocturnal vision!
. I was struck both by God’s unimaginable scale, and choice of incarnation. Curiously, “He” looked like a cross between Santa Claus, the spry ageless mascot on the cover of the first ‘Gentle Giant’ album, and Paul Liley: balding on top, with long locks curling down his back, prodigious eyebrows that rivaled his wispy gray beard in volume, and huge eyes as deep and blue as the ocean, sparkling playful mystery. This clichéd persona came as a surprise to me. I was a little disappointed in myself. (With all my imagination, couldn’t I conjure a better personification of ‘The Big Kahuna’ than this?) I have never thought of the supreme deity as a patriarchal figure. ‘God-the-Father’ seemed so limiting to me. Is not ‘Mother Nature’ a manifestation of God? Am I not, like all living creatures- part and parcel of God? Nonetheless, that throned ‘King of Kings’ needs to assume some familiar form, to achieve recognition- why not the wizened grandfather icon, perched on a celestial throne- an omnipresent figure large enough to dwarf the sun? Which brings us to the second observation: How does one measure the ‘size’ of God? When one considers it, there is no ‘frame’ around a dream, the way there is surrounding, say- a movie. The cinema happens within boundaries- there are edges and corners, beyond which is something ‘other’. In the dreamworld, the dream itself is the frame. Until God came to me, I never noticed scale in a night-vision. If dreams were like movies, the face of this “God” fellow would have filled the entire screen. This omniscient being was gazing right at me, smiling a teasing grin that said He knew something that I didn’t- that He had a secret He just might share with me… maybe. Then, with a flourish, God lifted one massive hand up into view- and then the other- both closed into fists. Turning them palms-up, He slowly unclenched His right fingers. In His enormous palm, sat a mewing baby kitten- soft, adventuresome and vulnerable. Turning His gaze to His left hand, He opened it to reveal a young owl, aware and alert and alive.
. Then God returned His penetrating gaze to me, with a sly wink that said I was supposed to understand…
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