This past April we led one of our Writing on the Wild Edges retreats on the beautiful island of Inismor off the coast of Galway. We will be sharing some of the writing which participants gave us permission to share here in the next few weeks. We begin with Julie Mitchell, who traveled from Australia to join us.
Accompanied by Angels
The pilgrim walk did not begin well.
Fifty steps along the way
hail sheeted in from the east,
mocking the splash of red designer umbrella
in a landscape of deepening grey.
The graveyard offered unexpected refuge.
Limestone sentinels received the ice stones
as I drew myself into myself behind them.
I thanked my silent companion beneath for uncomplicated hospitality.
Yet, I cut a miserable pose crouching there among the dead.
Good sense spoke firmly and loudly: Go back.
But the Angel of Wildness would have none of it.
Dark grey lightened into blue enough blue and the ice was gone.
I left the road for a track,
not knowing its undulations, surfaces or destination.
Stone shelves rose to meet the lip of a cliff in the distance,
inviting my presence.
Fields deep with pasture and wildflowers, the occasional cow
and criss-crossed with gate-less stone walls,
lay between track and cliff edge.
Wildness, already over the fence and in the field
offered a hand, knowing my days of nimbleness had passed.
Too-high walls shifted shape to meet my stature –
stones dislodged softly and my body moved
with unexpected ease and grace
through threshold after threshold.
I replaced each fallen stone, restoring the mystery of the walls.
By now Imagination had joined us.
A holy trinity stepping in mutual rhythm,
we traversed the great cracked shelves
to their sheer edges.
I stood breathing in Atlantic air,
smiling at the playful fluidity of seals in the bay below,
grateful for the welcome and holding of stone, sea and sky,
light and buoyant, knowing that shackles had been shed.
Time had unfolded and necessitated return.
I noticed I was alone.
Back to the ocean, the landscape ahead was bereft of markers,
wave after wave of limestone blocks gave way to wall after wall –
grey upon grey upon grey.
My throat tightened.
‘Just step forward.’
Gentle guidance loosened my limbs.
Footfall found me on a broad, grassy path
bleeding out of the confusion of grey.
After some distance it narrowed though, faltered and dissolved,
but angel graces assured me of finding a way.
Openings in the network of stone, unseen earlier,
now drew me in zig-zags
across patchwork meadows to the track.
Drawing near again to the graveyard,
The sky lowered, darkened and great blobs of water
collided with my scalp.
This time I angled my umbrella successfully
and felt the strength of my body
moving me to meet
the uncertainty ahead.
—Poems and photos by Julie Mitchell