Monday, May 14, 2007

Cratloe Woods

For years, as I was dragging myself,through childhood into adulthood, Sunday mornings had a reassuring, monotonous colour to them. Stumbling out of the scratcher, in a relative state of cleanliness - due to the Saturday night ritual of bathtime - breakfast and then Mass. Our mother fed and watered us, checked that we were "presentable" which usually entailed rearranging the clothes, wiping the sticky marmalade off our ears, clearing the boogers out of our noses and then herding us out to the car where the Boss was waiting patiently. Somewhat of an ordeal for her I suspect.

Then off we tootled, en famille, to perform our Sunday duty.

The spirituality and sanctity of the whole exercise was a bit lost on me. I was much more interested in what was going on around me. Who was there, what they were wearing, who was very holy, lips moving in silent devotion, who was asleep, who was fervently running the rosary beads through their fingers at breakneck speed intent on garnering credit for the afterlife, who was glaring crossly at me for staring at them..... any bit of distraction at all was more exciting than the ancient one on the pulpit droning on, and on, and on, sometimes in Latin.

Much fidgetting, shuffling, twisting and turning later, it is over. Forty five minutes and we were well on our way to getting into Paradise.

By my mid-teens I had stopped going to Mass. My parents knew, I'm sure, that my Sunday morning excursions to "Mass" with my friends were fabrications. Not having a reasonable account to give of what the gospel was about probably gave it away. But they gave me my head. No bitter arguments, no tyrannical tirades, no fire and brimstone. Maybe they realised the futility of arguing with an angst-ridden teenager. Such wisdom.

But now I'm back at the Sunday morning ritual.

Only this time it is not a church, or a synagogue, or a temple.

It is a tract of land covered in high trees, dotted with hollies, ivies, ferns and all kinds of growing specimens that I can't put names on. Anonymous monuments to a greater power.

Now, I still stumble out of the bed, the state of cleanliness is usually passable, breakfast is skipped - a postponed pleasure - the runners are donned and off I go for my spiritual fix.

Twenty minutes later, I am there. Ready, willing and able. Spiritually speaking. Physically, I remind myself of a very old, very delapidated, Model T Ford that needs to be cranked by one of those thingies that you stick in the front and twist until the engine bursts into life. But 10 minutes of forcing one foot in front of the other up the steep hill at the start is rewarded by the familiar feeling of elation. I'm here, I'm upright, I'm moving, I'm still breathing.

And then. It is pure heaven.

The trees, tall and stately, sometimes swaying in the breeze, sometimes roaring angrily, sometimes as still as death, are always magnificent. The paths are just dirt tracks which nature endeavours to cover with cheeky tufts of grass and more sedate ferns. These paths trail through the forest like meandering ribbons, going this way and that but never leading one astray. Bit like Himself, really.

And the silence. My soul yearns for this silence.

Sometimes I go to the hills and can recall nothing of the run after the first, hard hill. I suspect my soul has left me momentarily and gone to play in the real world. I don't mind being abandoned like this because when my errant spirit does return, it is usually rejuvenated, calm and content.

It certainly beats the socks off sitting and listening to someone telling me I'm damned forever.

For whatever sins and misdemeanours I have committed.

On Sunday mornings, I feel more at one with nature and the true essence of myself. I feel, its O.K. to just be me .... warts and all.

It takes effort.

Sometimes, I really would prefer to loll on with the papers and my dreams.

But the price is too high.


Molly said...

It's not nice to taunt people. Shame on you...I could almost smell the piney air, and see the foxgloves growing in the hedgerows, and feel my pulse slowing and my mind relaxing....and see through the trees the Shannon, off in the blue haze on the horizon. Wahhh! I want to go home. And you could always stop at the village church [where we both got married, so-o-o long ago], and have a chat with Your Man anyway, or climb the steps to the Stations, or has that been allowed to go to weeds due to the lack of piety in the modern Irishman?
I remember riding bikes out there, and struggling up that hill to the very top, from where you could see for miles in every direction,and then the wild exhilaration of riding back down at a hundred miles an hour and not having to pedal once. I hope you're proud of yourself for making me so homesick...

riseoutofme said...

Ah Molly, I never meant to make you all homesick!

AND .. I remember being dragged out by you on bike trips only to end up whingeing and whining 'cos I was exhausted and just not into every little bush, nook and cranny that took your fancy ... so you've exacted your revenge already!

2 weeks to go!!??

Tracey Petersen said...

You need to work out how to add photos so that we can all feel the soul cleansing benefits of the place that you so eloquently describe! It sounds beautiful.

meggie said...

Being a person of no religion, I find my soul to be cleansed & blessed & renewed by trees, & the goodness of nature.

How lucky you are to have such a resource for your soul. And how beautifully you describe it to share with us.

Molly said...

Funny you should mention that Tracey, since I was thinking exactly that! I have some beautiful pictures of Cratloe Woods, taken when I was last home and went there with Rise... I'll conduct an uploading pictures tutorial when she visits me [only 2 more weeks]. Which should fall squarely under the heading of The Blind Leading The Blind....

sMC said...

was wondering what to call you and there Molly comes up with the logical answer..Rise..
so Rise your words are beautiful but I do love photos....:. Am I right in assuming that you are going to the States to visit Molly, or have I misunderstood. aubirdwoman

Barbara said...

You would have loved my outing to the labyrinth today. It speaks well beyond organized religion, as does the setting you just described.

mikaelah said...

I have never heard of a scratcher...??? ... since you stumbled out of it... is is a bed? I don't like to sound dumb but why is it called that?

Your Sunday morning ritual sounds like heaven.

frannie said...

beautiful imagery

and that's my kind of religion!

Isabelle said...

Love your shopping entry - and am impressed by the running one. No wonder you're tall and slender. Well, slender. I don't suppose that running makes you tall.

riseoutofme said...

Thank you all for your comments ...I love getting them! Like a small child being told "Close your eyes, hold out your hand and see what God will send you ..."

Tracey: I know, I know, I'm a bit of a lazy, technophobe ... and really you should be VERY careful what you wish for!!

Meggie: I used to find the Disney-type cartoons of talking trees BIZARRE! And insulted on the trees behalf.

SMC: Yes, quite right ... to the air with me on the 27 June to put some manners on the Molly!

barbara: Thanks for dropping by ... Off with me to the labyrinth...

Mikaelah: A scratcher is, as you so astutely guessed, a bed. The term originated, I think, when they used to fill the mattresses with straw or horsehair! Needless, to say, I was not around in those days ... I'm way too young!

Frannie: Have been over today to your blog, but it won't let me leave a comment... Why?

Isabelle: Correct! Straight to the top of the class! Running DOES NOT make you tall .... if it did I'd be in BIG trouble ... 5'10" is high enough for me and what height might you be?

In fact, what height is everybody? And are they happy with it??

mjd said...

Theological, author Marcus Borg, would call your Sunday morning walks a "thin place", a place where you feel close to the Divine.

Barbara said...

I just added you to my link list. Hope that's OK!

fifi said...

That is a lovely image. I have tree envy now, but have imagined the climb through the woods.

So important to immerse oneself in the natural world. My place of worship is more sapphire coloured than emerald, but offers the same sense of glory and wonder.
Well, I am off to church right now, I hear the bells a'ringin'.

best wishes.

Stomper Girl said...

That was a lovely story. And this says more about me than you, it instantly evoked the opening credits of the Sound Of Music in my brain ... sorry about that! (but it is one of my fave movies so I mean no disrespect)

meggie said...

Condolences for Uncle Willie.
You dont seem to have an email, so this was as close as I could get.
Be well.

Tracey Petersen said...

"and really you should be VERY careful what you wish for!!"

There is enough cheeky mystery in that response alone to make me wish for it all the more!

sMC said...

I know you are a busy lady, but rise..... sshh... you've been tagged for a meme... aubirdwoman

Tanya Brown said...

I'm just stopping in to say hi; I hope you're okay, having a good week and so forth.

This was a lovely post. I've looked at it several times and never have commented. How does one comment on something that is pure and perfect?

Isabelle said...

I used to be 5'4 but I think I've shrunk to about 5'2 and a half now, which is especially unfortunate considering that I weigh a lot more than I used to...

Thanks for your comment about my dear son-in-law. It made me think. He's had a terrible week but is better today... not confident that it'll last, though.

Princess Banter said...

That's great that you've finally found something to believe in. Going to church and everything, even though we've gotten used to it when we were young, we eventually stray if we don't believe in it solidly. Your place of sanctity sounds incredible :) Do enjoy! And enjoy the peace...