Being a single, self-supporting woman for most of my adult life, I have mastered the art of taking good care of myself – whether at home or on the road. But an experience with European hospitality taught me I may have gone too far to the independent side.
Some years ago I went on a horseback tour of the Connemara region of western Ireland with Willie Leahy, master horse breeder and quintessential Irish storyteller.
A week of riding fine Irish horses through bogs, up green hillsides, around lakes and back roads where cars couldn’t go was a great way to see my homeland for the first time.
There were 14 in our group: 7 Americans and 7 Europeans and we had a choice of staying in 4-star hotels or charming bed and breakfasts. I chose the bed and breakfast because I felt it was the best way to get a feel for the people of Ireland.
As it turns out, I was the only American who chose a B&B – all the others stayed in hotels! And only one European chose a hotel – all the others stayed in the B&Bs.
For dinner the entire group ate together in a local restaurant; lunch was a picnic in a field along the way and breakfast was at our respective lodging. So I had breakfast every morning with the European contingent.
Most of us have heard the Native American term “it is a good day to die.” It was usually said in the movies by a Native warrior as he rode off into battle.
But how often do we think about what that really means? Do we live as though each day is a good day to die? Are we ready?
Most indigenous cultures understand that death is a natural part of the life cycle, and don’t fear it.
Modern American and European cultures do not have that understanding. While everyone knows they’re going to die, no one actually believes it.
And it’s a shame really, because being ready to die at any given moment means your life is spiritually rich and vibrant. It means you’re living with purpose and contribution.
The Irish are known for being clever, particularly when it comes to getting out of a sticky situation. So it’s only natural they have such a glorious celebration on March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day, celebrating all things Irish.
And it’s not just the humans who are clever. So are our animals, as this story demonstrates.
Many years ago a wealthy Irish man decided to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by going on Safari to Africa. And he took along his faithful Irish Setter for company.
One day the dog started chasing butterflies and before long he discovered he was lost. While wandering about he notices a leopard heading rapidly in his direction with the obvious intention of having lunch.
The dog thinks, “Boyo, I’m in deep trouble now.”
Most of us think of October 31 as Halloween, a time to dress up in costumes and make merry. But Halloween history tells of so much more.
In Celtic times, it was a time to honor those who have gone before us. The masked figures represent the spirits of the dead: our ancestors.
A Wee Bit of Celtic Halloween History
The ancient Celts, going back 4,500 years, divided each year into the dark half and the light half. The end of the light half was marked by Samhain [pron. Sow-ihn], a time when they were stockpiling food for the winter and giving thanks to the Sun God.
It is also a time of year when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest – an appropriate time to invite the souls of the dead to come back for a visit. Candles kept in the window guide the souls back home and a place is set at the table for them.
Next week being a major Celtic spiritual day, I wanted to lead up to it with one of my favorite Irish stories. Please pardon the colloquialisms; you must imagine it being spoken with an Irish brogue:
There was a man there long ago, and he had a great name for himself as being very holy.
He was the first up to the chapel on Sunday, and there was never a mission he wasn’t at, praying all around him. And he was being held up as a good example to the sinners as a very holy man that never missed his duty.
Well, he said to himself, it would be a good thing for him to count all the times he was at Mass, so he got a big timber box and he made a hole in the cover of it, and he locked the box so that no one could interfere with it in any way, and he hid the key where no one could possibly find it.