Weekend Daybook post. beginnings and endings edition

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As we head toward fall, I'm trying to get the blogging gears moving again with a weekly catchall post. I've posted this particular series in various iterations over the years, but all of them started as a discipline to counter the anxiety I often feel headed into a weekend of social interactions. Even though I love people, and I love meaningful conversations with people, as a 45-year-old introvert I still struggle with social anxiety. So this post is an attempt for me to collect beautiful, true, and good bits and pieces from the internet and from my own ordinary life in one place as a contemplative practice. I share them to help me remember, and with the hope that it might be helpful for some of you, too.

Please let me know what you've been reading, making, doing, listening and enjoying this week. I love the ideas you share here! (and if we happen to see each other in real life this week, by all means I want to talk about it all with you!)

a little song (or 20)

Roots & Wings Playlist

I made this playlist to comfort us on our trip home from taking our youngest daughter, Natalie, to her freshman year of college.  I've been saying this since we took our oldest son to his first day of elementary school about 20 years ago: There's nothing in the world more counterintuitive than to take your child to a place they've never been and leave them there. It feels kind of like shock, actually.  

We are so excited for her opportunity to attend the school she's been dreaming about in the program she's been dreaming about for a long time.  We're so thankful to live only three hours north on the efficient I-95.  We're even looking forward to this new "empty nest" season.  AND we are also sad.  It's just the end of an era, and deserves a bit of boo-hooing, in my opinion.  

When you take a child to college for the first time, you have all these ideas of taking beautiful photos. Usually you walk away with something like this.  

When you take a child to college for the first time, you have all these ideas of taking beautiful photos. Usually you walk away with something like this.  

If you're in the mood for something more cheery, here's my ongoing Summer playlist on Spotify. By the calendar we still have a couple of weeks left, friends.  This playlist kept me company during a pretty refreshing Saturday breakfast-making, herb-replanting and kitchen-cleaning session this morning.  Enjoy!

My Summer Playlist

Kendra at Captain's Cove marina, Bridgeport

Kendra at Captain's Cove marina, Bridgeport


a good poem


a fine picture

Swimmin, Rhona Garvin - source

Swimmin, Rhona Garvin - source

My brother and nephew swimming in the Long Island Sound off Jennings Beach.

My brother and nephew swimming in the Long Island Sound off Jennings Beach.


make & do

We've been given some beautiful fresh produce by neighborly gardeners.  Last night, to celebrate one of Kendra's last nights home, Brian grilled some delicious steaks.  I quick searched a recipe to use the zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes we had on hand, and made this delicious vegetable side:  Roasted Garlic-Parmesan Zucchini, Squash and Tomatoes. (perfect, right?)  The veggies were so yummy, Brian and I ate them with scrambled eggs this morning and Kendra finished them up with pasta and a bit of leftover tomato sauce for lunch.  One dish for three meals - is this what Empty Nest will be like?


a few reasonable words

Patterns of Home, Importance of Homeyness |  I have a little side hobby of studying urban planning and keep learning so much from this organization.  via Strong Towns blog

Retreat for Ministers to Artists: Kathleen Norris, Artists & the Vocation to Prayer | If you love artists, churches, or Kathleen Norris, you need to read this announcement.  If you love all three, you just need to register for the retreat already.  via Diary of an Arts Pastor blog

Joe Henry - The Mystery and Adventure of Life and Songwriting | Such an excellent interview between two intelligent, creative and seasoned adults.  Listen asap.  via On Being with Krista Tippett podcast

from the archives:

What I Wish My Son Would Say About Me On His 22nd Birthday | In honor of Andrew's 25th birthday this week!

My Top 4 Parenting Epiphanies, or My Child Is Not My Property but My Guest | I seem to re-learn this lesson every single September.  Read if you are a parent or you know a parent.  It's pretty important stuff.

We had a great time with 3 of our kids here in August!

We had a great time with 3 of our kids here in August!


a conversation prompt

Remember, friends: Only you can prevent small talk! Hopefully, I've given you a few things to contemplate and share in your conversations this week.  If all else fails, here's a great question to ask everyone you meet. 

What makes a teacher great? Tell me about one of your all-time favorite teachers.

I'd love to hear your answer to this question, so leave me a comment below!  

May your week be filled with truth, goodness and beauty, friends.

Tamara

Ireland, week 4

It's been over five weeks since we returned from our month in Ireland and moved into our new home in Connecticut. In other words, it's taken me five weeks to post the photos from our fourth - and final - week of travel. There's plenty of good reasons I put off this final post: I've been busy settling into a new home, new city, new church family.  I think I've also procrastinated because the final post marks a sort of end to the whole dream come true.  Not really, of course. Brian and I will always have our shared memories of the beauty and joy of Ireland.  We keep saying to each other at random moments, "Remember that time we went to Ireland and stayed for a month?"

Yes, honey, I remember.

We were sitting out with our oldest son on our deck last week, talking about our transition from Texas to Connecticut, from old job to new job, from full house to empty nest.  We told him the transition's been far easier than we anticipated, which naturally brought us again to thank him for the gift of Ireland. "There's no way to quantify the value of that trip, Drew" Brian told him between cigar puffs. 

And it's true. Which leads me to thank you all again, dear friends and family.  Thank you for giving from your valuable resources to such a small cause as a second honeymoon for Brian and me.  All we can tell you is thank you, and trust God our good Father will multiply blessing back to you for the care of His kingdom.  

Here's some pictures of the poignant places we spent our final week in Ireland/Northern Ireland:


Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare

One of Ireland's top tourist locations during the height of tourist season.  Still worth the trip.  Especially if your family loves and quotes The Princess Bride as much as mine (as in, the Cliffs of Insanity!).  The Cliffs of Moher stretch 5 miles (8 kilometres) up the Wild Atlantic Way on the western coast of Ireland.  The tallest cliff stands 702 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.  And people walk and sit and dangle off the edge like it's nothing.  Apparently Ireland is not overly concerned about liability.  Although they did post a photo on Instagram of a landslide that happened THE DAY AFTER we visited with a mild warning about walking the unofficial pathways (which were so crowded, we'd assumed they were official). 

Cliffs of Moher (or Insanity, for your Princess Bride fans)

Cliffs of Moher (or Insanity, for your Princess Bride fans)


Belfast, Northern Ireland

We wanted to spend some time learning a bit more about the Troubles in Northern Ireland.  In Belfast we bought a 48-hour pass for the double-decker bus tour which was the perfect way to see the major sites of the city, and to select a few places to stop and explore a bit more.  To be honest, Belfast depressed me.  I understand that there is a great renewal happening there, and that the people are generally optimistic about the current peace efforts.  Maybe it's because we arrived shortly after the contentious Brexit vote,which seemed to be stirring up some old anger.  Maybe it's because we were there just days before the annual Orangefest which has become violent, at times.  It could just be that I've never actually be in a city that is divided by a giant, ugly wall to separate people groups who historically hate each other.  When we walked by the wall, we saw the murals attempting to turn the site into a message of peace, but I couldn't get over the ugly monstrosity of the fence.  And I realized that even though I've always hated the rhetoric of "building a wall" to keep certain people out of our own country, I still imagined that wall as something regal.  In truth, walls are ugly and cheap.  It was a blight I felt viscerally in my gut.  The murals and memorials seem to receive more care than the homes and shops and streets.  On the other hand, we visited an Anglican church on Sunday morning and loved being able to worship with them in their historic church building just up the road from Queen's University.  We ate lunch at the thriving St. George's market, and toured the booths full of homemade food, art and vintage books.  We listened to live music and selected the most delicious array of meat, cheese, olives and bread to take to Londonderry for our supper.  I will keep praying for Belfast, and am grateful for its resilience and work for peace. May it be so.

memorial for bobby sands, one of the IRA prisoners who died in a 1981 hunger strike

memorial for bobby sands, one of the IRA prisoners who died in a 1981 hunger strike


Londonderry, Northern Ireland

I could have spent a lot more time in this city.  Alternately, Brian's response was more like mine in Belfast.  When we walked the Catholic Bogside neighborhood, studying the murals and praying at the Bloody Sunday memorial, his spirit was troubled.  We were there the day before the Twelfth (Orangeman's Day) and could feel tension in the air like lightning static.  We literally prayer walked our way through that neighborhood, asking the God of peace to let his kingdom come and his will be done in Northern Ireland as it is in heaven.  Certainly there has been a good decade of peace or so, but the homes still obviously feel impoverished and divided.  The handwritten signs for the IRA in response to Brexit were especially chilling.  If you ever get a chance, visit this place.  The history is fresh enough to give us a visual of what happens when political and religious ideals get confused with each other.  

a giant pile of pallets being prepared for Eleventh Night bonfires

a giant pile of pallets being prepared for Eleventh Night bonfires


Coastal Causeway Route

(aka, our drive from Londonderry to Annalong, Northern Ireland)

We cut ourselves a bit short in the our allotted time to tour Northern Ireland, and tried to make up for it with some drive-by tourism.  We plotted a route from Derry to Annalong via the Antrim Coast, past the infamous Giant's Causeway and Dunluce Castle.  We did stop alongside the road for a quick hike around an unidentified ruin. Then we dipped inland to see the Dark Hedges (newly famous because of Game of Thrones), and Slemish Mountain (where it's believed that St. Patrick herded sheep as a young slave). 

The Dark Hedges, Ballycastle

The Dark Hedges, Ballycastle


Annalong, Northern Ireland

We spent our last couple of days at the most wonderful Airbnb about an hour north of Dublin. Our original intention was to leave early enough to spend a full day in Dublin touring a bunch of great Dublin sites. What actually happened is that we were so comfortable in our garage apartment just across a walking lane from the Irish Sea that we stayed every last possible moment.  We plan to come back to Ireland as often as possible, and will make sure Dublin gets its due the next time around.

The Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland "I have seen landscapes, notably in the Mourne Mountains and southwards which under a particular light made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge,' he wrote in his essay On Stories. While living in England he spoke of the magic of Northern Ireland: 'I yearn to see County Down in the snow, one almost expects to see a march of dwarfs dashing past. How I long to break into a world where such things were true." - C.S. Lewis

The Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland

"I have seen landscapes, notably in the Mourne Mountains and southwards which under a particular light made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge,' he wrote in his essay On Stories. While living in England he spoke of the magic of Northern Ireland: 'I yearn to see County Down in the snow, one almost expects to see a march of dwarfs dashing past. How I long to break into a world where such things were true." - C.S. Lewis


Thank you, thank you, thank you, friends and family, for this precious, unforgettable gift.  We are forever grateful!

a few reasonable words for your weekend conversations.04

Happy weekend, all! I'm ending this blog hiatus starting with my weekend posts of interesting bits and pieces I found online this week. We're looking forward to a couple of get-togethers with new friends in Fairfield this weekend. What are your plans? 

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A dose of conversation-starters for all your weekend conversations. If you and I happen to bump into each other in the next couple of days, I'd love to hear what you think about these reads. (or, you could always leave me a comment below!)

  • Like most of you, our family loves political satire.  This podcast asked a question I hadn't even considered: Does American political satire help or hinder social protest?  via Malcolm Gladwell's podcast Revisionist History podcast, The Satire Paradox episode

  • Speaking of politics, here's an article I missed when it first published in early July.  I listened to an excellent interview with the author about his memoir of growing up among the white poor.  He gives intelligent insight into the addictive appeal of Donald Trump among his hometown community.  via J. D. Vance in The Atlantic

  • An editorial packed with truth.  "... remembering well always requires overcoming nostalgia—overcoming our selective memories, owning up to our forgetting. Remembering for the future has to face up to what we’ve repressed—shining a light on the shadow side of our traditions. This is why Christians invested in the goodness of creation can’t fall into the trap of Golden Age–ism, because to remember creation is to long for the new creation."  via Comment Magazine

  • Speaking of remembering, may God bless Pastor Heber Brown and so many others doing good, generative work in the wake of Baltimore's tipping point. via Yes! Magazine

  • I love the web-based documentary series Perennial Plate, and this short episode with a woman who has been selling homemade pies at her Colorado farmers market for 43 years is just beautiful.  Also, it made me crave strawberry-rhubarb pie. 

On the blog lately:

  • This week I'll share my final post of our dream-come-true trip to Ireland.  Here's parts 1, 2, & 3
  • A year ago today I shared this post:  Finding contentment during sleeplessness (You guys!  I got goose bumps when I re-read the Jane Kenyon poem I'd found in the middle of a restless night. Please notice the city mentioned in the poem.  Kind of freaky, right?)

The "How to Prevent Small Talk" question for the week:

You have 15 minutes to address the whole world live (on television or radio — choose your format). What would you say?

Hoping for a good and contented weekend for us all, friends.  

Peace....

Ireland, week 3

Here's week three which ended a week ago. I fell a little behind here for two reasons: spotty internet everywhere and we've been having way too much fun for me to wrangle with cyberspace.


Driving from Dingle Peninsula to Galway

Just a few drive-by photographs from our trip around the Dingle Peninsula.  Breathtaking beauty around every corner.

I told Brian I would not leave Ireland until I saw a rainbow.  Check. (from our hotel room in Galway)

I told Brian I would not leave Ireland until I saw a rainbow.  Check. (from our hotel room in Galway)

 

Inis Mór (Aran Islands)

You guys, you're not going to believe this! Brian and I BIKED about 25 miles all through the breathtaking scenery of this island (including a stop at a holy well, an ocean-side cemetery, and completely private beach).  Then we HIKED up to the top of Dún Aengus, and walked back and forth from our airbnb and the ferry dock.  We kept saying, "Who ARE we?"  Right up there with one of the best days of my life.  We left on a Sunday morning, and joined you all in prayer from the Teampall Chiáran ruins. 

Teampall Chiárain ruins next door to our Airbnb on Inis Mór.  This is where we said morning prayer on Sunday.

Teampall Chiárain ruins next door to our Airbnb on Inis Mór.  This is where we said morning prayer on Sunday.

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Glenstal Abbey, Co. Limerick

We were given this gift by our children and friends as a second honeymoon in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary.  Because we were taking the trip between leaving Austin and moving to a new work and parish in Connecticut, we decided to set aside a week devoted to a more traditional sabbatical - daily office, study, contemplation.  Of all the monasteries I researched this one in County Limerick fit our budget (pay what you can - who can beat that?) and timeframe.  It also felt like the biggest risk as we are not monastics, nor are we Roman Catholic.  We decided to take seriously the reputation of Benedictine hospitality, and hope they'd welcome two American Protestants.  While I did get yelled at by a monk within a couple hours of our arrival (I doubt my kids will be surprised on learning this), we were welcomed graciously to this beautiful place.  

We didn't know ahead of time that the Church would be undergoing major renovations and so missed the chance to pray the Offices with the monks in that setting, which was disappointing. They still offered a Vespers service (sung in gorgeous Latin) each evening, and that became a highlight of our time.  Another highlight was our "make-do" morning prayer in the monastery's walled garden each day.  We used this time especially to pray over each family in our new parish.

Another highlight was eating dinner in silence with the monks each evening.  The food was delicious, and graciously served in their private dining room.  If you've never eaten in a silent community before, I highly recommend it. (Your family could even do this as a Lenten practice.) There's something about enjoying food together this way that highlights the goodness of meals. It always surprises me how noisy a silent meal can be.  The monks seemed to not worry one bit about scraping their plates, or the noise of the trolley cart one of the brothers pushed around on the hard floor to serve the food and take away empty dishes.  Another brother read out loud during the meal (a practice I find completely delightful! ).  While we were there, he was reading from a history of the 1916 Easter Uprising.

Each morning we ate breakfast with the other guests and the monastery's appointed Guestmaster.  Father Christopher took this meal very seriously, setting a gorgeous table each morning with lovely china and all sorts of homemade jams, eggs, soda bread, porridge and pots of tea and coffee.  The jams he made from the berries he picked in the monastery garden each day (currant and gooseberry while we were there).  You'll see in the photos below, one delightful evening when Brian and I helped a monk, a Bishop, a 90-year-old nun, and a gregarious 86-year-old Irish woman "top and tail" the freshly-picked berries.  This moment was right up there with Latin vespers for me.

It took us a few days to settle into the quiet worship of this place.  It always surprises me how hard it is to truly be still, and how easily I lose my sense of "self" - which is exactly the point.  One of our readings in the Celtic Daily prayer book referenced T. S. Eliot's Little Gidding in a way that helped me release all of my expectations for some kind of "experience" and actually live in the present reality of quiet, hospitable prayer. 

[Eliot] seems in these verses to capture something of the nature of pilgrimage - the precise directions to somewhere often awkward to find; and you’re not sure quite why you came or what it was you’re looking for. If you find it, or it finds you, words cannot easily convey what has happened, but it becomes part of the journey that continues.

On our last evening, Father Christopher took us on a tour of the breathtaking icon chapel (located in the church's crypt).  I'd wanted to start the week there, and was frustrated by how little say I had in the matter.  I struggled mightily for a couple of days feeling like I could not fit in to the spirit of the Abbey. I felt ignorant and insecure, and was continually tempted to cope with those feelings with a prideful orneriness.  (again, my children will not be surprised at learning this) At times I felt like I was back in high school again, squirming under the disciplines of the environment.  If a sign said "No Entry", I immediately wanted to Enter. If prayers began at 6:35, I wanted to arrive at 6:40.  It didn't matter I had acres of grounds to explore.  I was Eve in the Garden, fighting for my rights.  I began to think I'd make the worst monk, and then decided maybe I'm exactly the right sort after all.  

In the end, Eliot was the one who broke through my contrarian spirit and helped me center in to the work at hand:

You are not here to verify,
instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
or carry report. You are here to kneel
where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
than an order of words, the conscious occupation
of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

If this is true, than all of it was an act of surrendered worship.  Lord, hear our prayer, and bless my husband & Father Christopher for putting up with me through it all.

This is the walled garden where brian & I held morning prayers while we stayed at the abbey.  We specifically used this time to intercede for each family in our new parish in fairfield, ct.  What a peaceful place, and will always be one of our favorite memories from the week.

This is the walled garden where brian & I held morning prayers while we stayed at the abbey.  We specifically used this time to intercede for each family in our new parish in fairfield, ct.  What a peaceful place, and will always be one of our favorite memories from the week.

 

Hopefully I'll be able to post our last week's photo diary soon.  Early tomorrow morning we head back to our new home in Connecticut.  While we've been adventuring the Emerald Isle all of our earthly belongings have magically (and with the help of salt-of-the-earth folks in both Austin and Fairfield) been transported and are waiting this very moment to be sorted and settled.  We worship with our new church on Sunday, and know that will feel, in many ways, like we are coming home.  Even while we all eagerly wait the day to be gathered, undivided, in our True and Lasting Home.

Ireland, week 2

We've just completed our second week in Ireland, and are still saying to each other every hour or so, "Hey! We're in Ireland!"  I am not tired of the beauty one tiny little bit.  Brian is still driving us around like a champ. And we got super jet-set savvy and flew across the Irish Sea to Wales for a few days. (also, we watched Wales win a great football match while we were there!)

South Wales 

WE MET SOME WELSH SHEEP DRIVING THROUGH THE BRECON BEACON MOUNTAINS.  

WE MET SOME WELSH SHEEP DRIVING THROUGH THE BRECON BEACON MOUNTAINS.  

 

 

Hay-On-Wye, Wales

VINTAGE PENGUIN BOOK TREASURE CHEST IN THE BOOK PARADISE OF HAY-ON-WY

VINTAGE PENGUIN BOOK TREASURE CHEST IN THE BOOK PARADISE OF HAY-ON-WY

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

Addyman Books

Hay-on-Wye Booksellers

Oscar's Bistro (try the Leek soup, the vegetable is the national emblem of Wales)

Shepherds Ice Cream Parlour ("the original sheep milk's ice cream")

Blue Boar Pub (to be honest, we mostly needed free wi-fi past 5pm on a Sunday night)

 

 

Bath & Wells, England

THIS SIDE-TRIP SPONSORED BY JANE AUSTEN (ROYAL CRESCENT, BATH, ENGLAND)

THIS SIDE-TRIP SPONSORED BY JANE AUSTEN (ROYAL CRESCENT, BATH, ENGLAND)

 
WAITING FOR EVENSONG IN WELLS CATHEDRAL

WAITING FOR EVENSONG IN WELLS CATHEDRAL

 

Llangynwyd, Wales

Brian and I were delighted to meet some of the good residents of Llanygynwyd, Wales. We went to Wales on our Ireland trip because we had a few details about the place that Brian's great-great-great grandfather Thomas Morgan married Gwenllian Bevan in 1851 before emigrating to the United States (Scranton/Lackawanna, PA area). We couldn't find much information, but thought we'd drive to the town and look for a church and a cemetery. Providentially, we turned on the street corner for the Llangynwyd Village Hall and met some of the loveliest, most helpful people! They moved into action immediately serving us tea, showing us photographs and bits of village history in the beautifully restored Village Hall. One of the couples (Thomash & Ann) hunted down (with several stops in the village, including the pub) a church key to take us through the 14th century St. Cynywd's Church and THEN treated us to fish and chips at the pub next door. They drove us through town and the whole group promised to share our contact information with the village historian. What a beautiful way to connect with the Morgan family history. Unfortunately, it was raining quite hard while we toured the large cemetery, but we did find a few headstones with some family names. We've been told that the name "Thomas Morgan" is similar to "John Smith" in the U.S., but we didn't find may "Morgan" headstones in the half of the cemetery we were able to search. We did find a Llewellyn Bevan, died 1874 which is the name of Brian's great-great-great grandmother Gwellian's father. Maybe? 

POSSIBLY THE SAME SPOT BRIAN'S GREAT-GREAT-GREAT GRANDFATHER AND GRANDMOTHER WERE MARRIED IN 1851.

POSSIBLY THE SAME SPOT BRIAN'S GREAT-GREAT-GREAT GRANDFATHER AND GRANDMOTHER WERE MARRIED IN 1851.

 
TWO OF THE HOSPITABLE RESIDENTS OF LLANGYNWYD WHO FOUND A WAY FOR US TO SEE INSIDE THE CHURCH AND THEN TOOK US FOR A PUB LUNCH where we had a rousing discussion about the brexit referendum.

TWO OF THE HOSPITABLE RESIDENTS OF LLANGYNWYD WHO FOUND A WAY FOR US TO SEE INSIDE THE CHURCH AND THEN TOOK US FOR A PUB LUNCH where we had a rousing discussion about the brexit referendum.

Llangynwyd, Wales

St. Cynwyd's Church, Llangynwyd

The Great Pubs of Wales, the Old House Inn

The Corner House Inn, Llangynwyd

Mari Lywd, Welsh New Year's tradition

Ann (Thomas) Maddocks, Llangynwyd legend of unrequited love (she is buried near the altar in St. Cynwyd's church)

Llangynwyd Village Hall

 

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry

 SEAFOOD CHOWDER & BEACH WALK AT INCH BEACH, DINGLE PENINSULA

 SEAFOOD CHOWDER & BEACH WALK AT INCH BEACH, DINGLE PENINSULA

 

This week, we'll spend a bit of time exploring Inis Mor on the Aran Islands and then head into the heart of County Limerick to Glenstal Abbey for a week of prayer, silence, and study.  We'd be glad to have you pray for us as we've set this part of the month aside specifically to prepare our hearts and minds for our new work at Church of the Apostles in Fairfield, Connecticut.  

Thank you, again, dear friends and family.  We're grateful for our relationships with you -- wherever in the world you might be right now.  We're giving thanks each day for those who have contributed to this dream trip.  Yesterday, Brian and were catching an early evening bite to eat in a pub before the evening crowds started to show up.  In the dining area, one other couple -- about our age sat eating, drinking a couple of pints and talking intimately.  At first, they appeared to me to be on a first date because of the deep interest they seemed to be taking in each other's company.  Soon, I forgot about them because Brian and I were so much enjoying each other's company.  The couple got up to leave and asked Brian about his Chuy's tee-shirt, "You must be from Austin?" the man asked.  "We lived there for 20 years before moving to Washington state."  We got talking, swapping basic information to discover that he and his wife were on sabbatical from their Presbyterian pastorate.  A quiet Irish pub, two long-time married couples, sabbathing in the midst of ministry hopes and needs. It wasn't the typical "thin place" of the Celtic spiritual sites, but it felt holy all the same.

Until next time, peace, friends.