Sacred Stone, Sacred Water
Women Writers and Artists Encounter Ireland
Edited by Carolyn Brigit Flynn
by Gerard Clarke
GERARD CLARKE is an ecologist and history/archaeology guide. He has worked at Newgrange and was Head Guide at the Hill of Tara for five years. He now works as the Outreach Officer for the Columban Missionaries in Dalgan Park, Navan. His specialty is Education and Ecology, and he works with students and local communities to promote awareness and care for the earth and to develop a tree culture in Ireland. Born in Mayo, he has worked in Europe and North America and briefly in Asia. He now lives in Meath, Ireland.
I have worked as a guide in Ireland for more than 25 years, and it was under that heading that I first met Carolyn Brigit Flynn in 2002. She was bringing a group of writers to Ireland, and needed someone to show them around the Boyne Valley. Thus began a connection that has continued, broadened and deepened over the intervening years. Carolyn, I discovered, was not only a creative writer and poet but a woman who was passionate about her roots and equally passionate about her love of Irish heritage and culture. She brought a fresh way of looking at what we take for granted here in Ireland and presented it to her fellow American travelers and seekers. I gradually came to understand what was required of me, but also realized that these visitors had a great willingness to explore the way Irish society now lives in a landscape steeped in history, archaeology, folklore and tradition.
I have worked at many of the major historical sites in Ireland, but the times I spent at Newgrange and the Hill of Tara have been some of the happiest years of my life. At Newgrange, I was lucky to meet renowned academics as well as poets, musicians and deeply spiritual people. I was also in charge of the Hill of Tara, Ireland’s most sacred ritual site, for five years. The exploration of Tara in every discipline taught me about the influence of landscape, history and beliefs on the creation of a national identity. The challenge as a guide was to put all that into a coherent and logical interpretation for those not of Irish background.
Carolyn and her groups of writers and artists would arrive in Ireland every few years. Each visit brought its own dynamic but also a joyful, passionate and at times irreverent look at Ireland. The works produced by the fourteen dedicated and inspiring artists in Sacred Stone, Sacred Water are both striking and stimulating. Looking at the art and photographs and reading the deeply felt poems and prose brings back the excitement and joy that was in the air each day as we progressed from site to site. The wealth of knowledge and experience each brought, their willingness to listen, and their beginning to understand what being truly Irish means is humbling. Reading it now, I see that I have grown in their company. I owe a debt to these Americans who came to discover Ireland, but who in their own way have made me look at Ireland not just from the traditional viewpoint but through New World eyes. That has impressed me, but also given me the confidence to be proud all over again. That we can stand there, shoulder to shoulder, with ancient eyes and young thoughts commingled.
Working with these groups has not really been work at all; rather a chance to affirm my beliefs in the ancestors, in our landscape and in the people of Ireland. While my role was to be the introducer of Ireland to the group, I was always conscious that their journey onwards after our four or five days together would involve meeting different interpreters in different parts of the country. Carolyn has chosen well with all of her Irish locations and guides. Sacred Stone, Sacred Water is a thoughtful, warm collection of connections, reactions and statements of a diverse group of people from all over the United States, brought together by their love of art and of Ireland. I look forward with eagerness and anticipation to our next Irish American encounter.
Beir bua dibh, agus beannachtai deithe na cloiche` is na h-uisce oraibh go leir.
Best wishes and the blessings of the gods of the stones and the waters on you all.
Ecologist and Eco-Spiritual Mentor
Mayo and Meath, Ireland
MORE ON CAROLYN'S UPCOMING WRITING RETREAT AND TOUR IN IRELAND, SEPTEMBER 15-26, 2019.