Thursday, May 20, 2010

IRELAND Chapter 4 Burial Grounds

I am as drawn to cemeteries as I am to old houses and ruins. Each and every stone is a thousand stories. Not just one life, but a complex intertwining of people that were touched and people left behind.

The graveyards in Ireland were a world on their own. Some dating back to the 13th  century with just rocks as markers. Most of the old headstones were so worn; covered with moss and ivy that I came to the realization that there was little point searching for my ancestors from the 1700’s.

I wish I could translate the feeling that those sacred places evoke in me.  It was more than just peace and tranquility, and more than just the visual of the ancient Celtic crosses and weathered headstones. There was a definite ‘feel’ – an aura, a ghostly enchantment.

In some, there were rooks high in the trees – screaming ‘Get out! Get out!! Get out!!!’ Guardians of the grave.  I had so wanted to capture a photo of one on a headstone, but they did not come close. They shouted from a high with the most intense eerie racket that I have ever heard. 

The burial grounds called us in like a magnet. Except for one – in Skibbereen. It would have been interesting to visit it on a historic level, but when we couldn’t find the lane and drove by it, we did not turn around and I was relieved. I was uneasy just driving by – I know I could not have gone in with the same peacefulness that I find in other cemeteries.

It was far too heartbreaking, too overwhelming, too unbelievably horrendous. In that one spot, there 8,000 – 10,000 souls buried in mass graves, victims of the famine.  It was hard enough to read and listen to the stories at the heritage center and to be on the very ground that such a tragedy occurred. I know I could not handle being even closer, where the souls of the tormented can not possibly rest. Sad. So sad.

I am not sorry to have missed it. When I think about it even now, I get a tightness in my chest, a heaviness in my heart.  I need to protect my affinity towards graveyards, to guard them as a beautiful, gentle space between Heaven and Earth.  Crosses reaching to the sky,
Weathered stones and wrought iron fences.  Bluebells. Even screaming rooks speak of the sacredness of the places where lives are marked.
A thousand stories indeed, but some of them are still far too painful to hold closely.

1 comment:

BucksCountyFolkArt said...

It's all so gorgeous. I also am enamored by very old cemetaries, wondering about the lives the people had, what it was like back then, who they were, just their daily lives.

I could understand your not wanting to visit the mass graves, but I don't think of it as souls who never have rest. Just the opposite. I think of these poor people who finally now do have rest and peace. We have souls and spirits that aren't of this world, so there would be no need for them to remain here in bondage. At least, that's the way I see it. They're now soaring with the angels!