A cautionary tale of Irish shenanigans from our 2019 visit.
The first morning of our two day Irish walking tour was everything I hoped for. The weather was sunny yet mild, our packs were light upon our backs and we the luxury Bed and Breakfast booked for the night. The walking app with map on our phone gave us all the information we needed as we wandered over hills and dales, through velvet green valleys, past bubbling brooks and quaint little cottages which speckled the countryside.
Then the weather turned cold, we were prepared for that.
Then the phone reception dropped out. No map, few signposts.
Then we found ourselves in an Irish bog being attacked by invisible ninja assassins -midges.
Then the rain began to fall.
The bog was endless and we were mired in mud and muck. By evening, we were totally and absolutely lost, we may have started arguing at this point. Neither of us knew where the luxury BnB and I was cold wet and hungry.
Eventually we happened upon a small pub on the edge of bog in the middle of nowhere. If I’d been in a better state of mind I might have appreciated the pink rose trellis that laced its walls. If I’d been in a better state of mind I might have admired the duck pond with ducks, out the front of the pub but I did not because, I was cold wet and hungry. With our phone dead and our bodies exhausted, we decided to get a room for the night, charge our phone and in the morning, after a full Irish breakfast get back on course.
For a hotel in the middle of nowhere it was doing a roaring trade, people singing, playing instruments, laughing. The crack was in full swing. All the heads turned, and it fell eerily quiet as we walked in. I nudged Ulf forward, to ask about a room for the night.
“Would you be having a story and song then” asked the publican.
“No I butted in, just a hot shower, something to eat and bed, thanks, because I’m cold, wet and hungry”
“Sorry Mrs, you misunderstood, house rules is, if you want to stay then you have to give us a story or a song.”
Some of the other guests snickered at this stage. Ulf sighed “well I could give you a short story..”
Steam was rising off my sodden clothes and I felt steam coming from my ears. I was cold wet and hungry.
My voice rose a few decibels, “I just want a hot shower, something to eat and a bed is that too much to ask?”
“Sorry love, house rules is house rules”
I exploded in unladylike expletives and stormed outside. Inside, everyone burst into laughter.
Blinded by rage, I promptly fell into the previously ignored duck pond “Aghhhhhhhhhhh”.
Next thing I knew, two strong hands reached in and pull me out. Somewhat sheepishly I looked up at Ulf, but it wasn’t Ulf and it wasn’t an Irish farmer or the publican either. It was a tall ethereal being, with pointy ears and mysterious almond eyes. Then I heard music, strange otherworldly, intoxicating music- and I saw creatures dancing- fauns, sylphs, dryads and fairies.
And her. She had hair the colour of golden wheat, moss green eyes and when she danced as gracefully as the breeze through ripe barley. I felt a strange sensation in my groin, I reached down. What the? Where did that? How? I’m a man?? Before I could even form the questions in my mind, she snatched me up in her wild erotic dance.
And oh. How we danced, and we danced and we danced. It could have been a minute, it could have been for an hour, or a day. Carried away in the ecstasy of the movement and music.
As dawn broke, she led me to her bed, and we explored the new manliness of my body, again, and again and again.
After that first morning it was difficult to remember, the other world, my world, my husband, my three daughters, my femaleness. Each long summer night was filled with ecstasy of dance and every morning the ecstasy of love making. As I grew comfortable in my new manhood, my memories of my other life faded. All I could remember was there was something, something I'd forgotten.
Oh, that summer I was the consort of the queen fairy and happy seemed the fairy folk of my good fortune. They treated me with reverence and respect.
One evening, as the nights were growing short, my beloved queen came to me and said, “It is done, I am with child”. How we rejoiced, my queen and I, as the other fairy folk prepared a feast on a bonfire. When the celebration was prepared, they lifted me onto their shoulders and paraded me through the cheering throng of fairy folk. Delighted, they threw flowers at me, and sweetly scented herbs, and then great blobs of butter? Then they hurled me into enormous pot of water on the bonfire, “Aghhhhhhhhh”
Next thing I knew, two strong hands reach in and pull me out. “Ulf it’s you!” I fell into his arms, a crying, sodden mess. “Lindy, you just tripped into a duck pond” he said. “Come inside and we’ll get you dry”. Ulf led me into the bar and stood me in front of the fire, the room had gone quiet again and I could feel their eyes upon me.
Could they see I was a man? I reached for my groin, “Whew. Get this woman a Guinness, because man, has she got a story for you”.
A story about life, covid and feathered messengers.
FUNK- I was mired in a Covid funk. Not a dark dreadful depression, unable to rise from bed but more a Jane Austin-esque melancholia, taken to wandering waif like around the house, restless. Quite unwilling and unable to settle at a task and prone to outbursts of sighing, followed by more waif like wandering. A ghost unable to find rest.
Just 4 weeks earlier I had storytelling work, preschools, weddings and storytelling nights as well as other exciting projects lined up- a full length performance with musician, a collaborations with another teller and an international conference to organize, more than enough to keep me occupied as my husband travelled back to Sweden for an indefinite stay with his family.
Then Covid came…. the work, the projects evaporated, sigh. And then my husband was going, wasn’t going, was going, wasn’t going, was going wasn’t going.. then he went. Sigh FUNK
Of course, I knew many people were far worse off than me. I had a roof over my head, food to eat, government benefits… yet sigh, FUNKED I felt. The only thing that relieved my funk was anger. A battle raged within.
“Write something!”, “sigh no”
“Practice something!”, “sigh no”
Perform something on line!” “sigh no”
“DO ANYTHING!!!” “sigh, it’s all too hard” FUNKED
Funk and anger, anger and funk
Finally, one day, anger took me in hand for a brisk walk, determined to force funk from my body. I can’t say that I was enjoying the walk for it felt like a doomed enforced march. As I strode past the lantana tangled mangroves that bordered the sports field, a flash of blue brought caught my eye.
An electric blue male Fairy Wren, he popped his head of the bush out and gave me a proper chiding “peep peep peep”. Then his small mouse brown mate appeared, and she flicked her tail at me with such attitude. I stood astounded. What brave hearts they were to accost a woman mired in funk. Captivated, I watched and listened. Their peeps came to me Consider the birds of the air…
So I considered the birds, these birds. I considered the size of their brave hearts, the dimensions of the veins and arteries that carried the blood to their hearts, so impossibly small, and yet so perfect. My own heart marveled and warmed in response, and for a few hours my covid funk took flight
Alas, at home, Funk’s icy fingers closed around my heart once more;
“Will I work again, won't I work again”’
“Will Ulf come home, won't Ulf come home” And then Anger kicked in,
Write something!” “sigh, no”.
“Practice something!” “sigh, no”.
Perform something on line!” “sigh, no”.
“DO ANYTHING!!!” “sigh but it’s all too hard, sigh” FUNKED
Another day, another forced march day, this day not one pair but two pairs of fairy wrens accosted me They darted across my path, to sit in the bushes either side and admonish... “Peep Peep Consider the birds of the air…”. Quick as they appeared, they disappeared back into the bushes… not before leaving me with a warm heart and the memory of a folktale, the King of the Birds.
“Once, long, long ago, the birds of the earth decided that they should appoint a King, a bird to rule over all of them. But who to choose, how to choose?
“The largest” suggested the ostrich, “the wisest” offered the owl, “the loudest” laughed the kookaburra, “the most lovely voice” sung the nightingale, “the most beautiful” preened the peacock, “the most prolific” twittered thousands of sparrows. After much squawking, squeaking, peeping, twittering, trilling, ringing and cooing calling, cackling and warbling, they decided that the bird which flew the highest and closest to the sun, should be King.
The birds took to the air on mass, fluttering, flapping, flying up and up. Humming, whirring, whooping, higher and higher above the earth they flew, like a floating ceiling. Then, one by one, the smallest first, began to drop away, they could go no higher. One by one they gathered on the ground necks craned as they watched the sky till only the eagle flew, the long slow powerful beats of his wings propelled him higher and higher, closer and closer to the sun. The birds watched in awe. At last the eagle could climb no higher when, from under the eagle’s feathers leapt a wren.
A tiny wren, that spent its life hiding in the bushes and scrub, never daring to leave the protective brambles, leapt into the air above the eagle and bathed in the sun’s radiance, “Peep Peep Peep”
None were more surprised than the eagle himself. The wren had taken an enormous risk, he had trusted that the eagle, as an emissary of spirit would not eat him to hide his defeat. The eagle, in turn, recognised the wren’s cleverness and bravery.
The two birds thoroughly spent, flew back to the earth, the eagle taking care to keep below the wren to catch him should he falter. Exhausted the eagle and the little wren landed and before all the great winged gathering, Eagle declared wren to be king of the birds.
Funny that the story should pop into my head, it’s not a story that I have ever told. Consider the birds of the air.
Hmmm, were the birds trying to tell me something?
I was happy to walk the next day and as I did, I listened to a podcast about the ancient Chinese poet Cold Mountain. Along the walk I was met by not one, not two but 4 pairs of fairy wrens, “PEEP PEEP PEEP”. I said “I am, I am considering the birds of the air” and they bopped and nodded in approval. As I headed across the empty oval, I thought, if the birds are really bringing me messages then surely, they would have pooped on my head by now?
My podcast in my ear launched into a poem recital;
“a thousand sparrows descend on my empty courtyard, they swarm around me, trying to murder me with their racket"
At that moment a thousand crazy correllas descended on my empty oval, they swarmed around me, deafening me with their racket, then something heavy and warm hit my head. Bird funk. I look over to the lantana and the assembles wrens were peeping their little heads off in glee.
Their message now as plain as the poop in my hair.
Consider the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor reap nor gather into barns. They trust their needs will be met.
The little wren who spent most of his life close in the protective scrub feeling small, courageously trusted in the eagle, the emissary of spirit, and became king
All that was needed was a brave heart and trust in the spirit of life. Yes, I had a roof over my head, there was food on the table, for now that was enough. If covid kept my husband and I apart for some time, I would still be alright, more than alright, everything was going to be fine.
I arrived home to find two rainbow lorikeets making love on my verandah. Ha! Perhaps Ulf and I will be together sooner I expected, happy "sigh”
A heart to heart blog on life, spirituality, storytelling & stories.