The original celtic year began on November first. This was the first day of winter, or Samhain. The celts believed that days began from darkness and moved into the light, which helps explain why winter was considered the start of the new year. The long, dark nights of winter giving way to the lighter days of spring, summer and fall.
This first week of winter in Dingle has been unusually warm and sunny. A blessing as the darkness has come fast, as we had been told it would. Traditionally, this is a time for going within; for rest and reflection. It has certainly slowed down in terms of tourists. The streets are much quieter and we're beginning to see and connect with the same faces everyday. With the weather so gorgeous we continue to spend time outdoors, although even that has diminished with the darkness. I'm taking more time to myself to reflect and write. In fact my manuscript is finally complete and the first of what will no doubt be hundreds of query letters has been sent. Now I'm ready to turn my focus to the experience of my days here and capture them through words and photos.
To that end, Christine and I participated in a mass to dedicate the new chapel at the old famine burial ground, on November second, All Soul's day. The walk up the mountain to the site was steep, and slow, but offered incredible panoramic views of Dingle harbor and town. We stood among the town's people, many of whose ancestors may have been among the 3,000 people buried there. Who knows, maybe some of our own ancestors were buried there as well. There was a sense of sadness and yet of celebration at the same time. Young school children laughed and ran among the stone markers making up little games while mass was celebrated in the honor of the soul's lost to the famine. The image of this was actually beautiful. Children, free and playing happily among the stones that marked the place where bodies buried in groups of ten or more without their families ever knowing where they were or what had happened to them. Life and death celebrated in one place at one time in this place. I wonder if the others were moved by this as I was.
It was a chance to experience the people, the place and the culture. One of what I imagine will be many, many more. All of which I will reflect on, write and photograph. The new book may well write itself...