I am the victim of a seasonal ailment.
To be entirely truthful, it is a chronic disorder, a dull ache that lingers throughout the year, persistent but not overly debilitating. As the Autumn season approaches, however, and the temperatures begin to ease, the symptoms of this disorder tend to flare up acutely.
It is this time of year when Ireland calls me home.
Can I call it home?
I do not live there, was neither born nor raised there.
Yet, since the first time I set foot upon it’s soil and breathed it’s air, the Emerald Isle has felt more like home to me than any other place I have ever known.
I sometimes wonder if I am the same person who boarded that Dublin bound plane almost a decade ago. Perhaps I have been made a changeling. I would think myself a little too old for that sort of thing, as the lore typically speaks of stolen children. Still, I can’t help but question why else I should feel so uncomfortable in my own skin. And why does everything I touch suddenly seem either too small or large for comfort?
Has anyone ever wondered if a changeling knows what it is from the very beginning? Or does it only discover it’s faerie heritage when revealed to the world as an impostor?
Do I exaggerate?
As I write this, I think back to this very day exactly two years ago and remember that I was walking in County Sligo, along the shores of Lough Gill, through what W.B. Yeats called the Sleuth Wood, near “a leafy island where flapping herons wake.”
The morning sky was a deep grey and, although a light rain was falling, the thickness of the canopy above provided sufficient shelter from the worst of the damp. My companion and I followed a lazy path which meanders along the rain dappled shore. Straying from the path (and how many tales have I read which caution against exactly that sort of thing), we climbed up the rocky slope into the deepest part of the wood. There we truly felt as if we had entered another world.
It is no wonder Yeats mentions it as a faerie-place in his poem. It exists as nothing less than an aggregate of light and shadow, a realm where every surface teems with both life and decay. The totality of the forest seemed to crowd in from every direction while the air was silent but for the muffled echo of dripping water and our own footfalls – a quality of sound that I have otherwise heard only when exploring deep caves.
For an all too brief stretch of days in September of 2010, we followed the path of “The Stolen Child“. Leaving the hum-drum of the weeping world safely behind us, we explored the deeps of Sleuth Wood, wandered the shores “by furthest Rosses” and dipped our hands into the waters which gush “from the hills above Glen-Car.”
If Yeats’ poem is truly (as many believe) about reclaiming the “stolen” inner child that lives within each of us and embracing the true wonder of the world around us, then we took him at his word. We came back from that journey refreshed and more open to the magic that lives between the mundane moments of the daily grind.
Such things are difficult to hold on to for very long. Children are want to wander. Time passes, and the day to day pressures of simply living take their toll. Bit by bit, moment by moment, the child is stolen away from us. We shall have to find him yet again.
Just not this year.
It was a difficult decision. Although my resolve still wavers, we have put our next trip to Ireland off until the coming Spring. Until then we shall try, in the coming weeks, to salve the growing ache, with a brief trip into the mountains of Washington State. I do not doubt that there are wonders there to rouse the inner child, for a while at least.
Until we may once again…,
“Come Away to the Waters and the Wild.”