One early evening, on the island Inishmore, I went searching for an old castle. It was uphill the entire time on the main road. I think I even had to get off my bike and walk it at one point, and I was probably in first gear. The island was quite sloped, and offered me lots of ways to get my posterior aching. Again.
I found the castle, roamed around inside it. It was really tall and I was able to climb an existing stairwell inside to the top and look out through a passage. I had a pretty clear view of ocean, and what seemed like an endless sea of rock walls leading to it. A maze. I kept looking around there for a bit, but found myself more interested in walking toward the sea… through the walls. From way up there, it didn’t look too far. Parts of the walls were missing, and I wondered why, when other structures kept on standing… I parked my bike along a wall next to the castle and started walking the paths toward the ocean.
The island’s landscape made the castle smaller and smaller as I walked… pretty soon it was out of sight all together. I was the only one out here. It seemed like I could see for miles; not a soul anywhere. I just walked. Strutted is probably more accurate. It was warm today, and I was center-island, so there was not a lot of wind. And I was feeling really in my element. Grounded.
I looked at walls and how carefully they were built, and thought about how long they had been standing there, and why so many. I asked this question later and was told, it was to uncover earth, so they could farm, and to stop the prevailing ocean winds. (By the way, my bike was titled before I left, which I painted in black on its frame, Gnáthghaoth, which means Prevailing Wind in Gaelic.) As I was walking, I saw a couple of goats. I think I startled them. I talked to them like they were just people standing there and kept walking. The castle was gone, I had taken a couple turns, I stopped hearing ocean, but I was in love with wandering these twists and turns. After two hours, I realized that I was totally lost. All the walls and pathways looked exactly the same. And they were everywhere. I could see no castle. I could hear no ocean. I felt like I was trapped in a Labyrinth. (And for those of you, who are unfamiliar with them, here’s a cut and paste from WIKI – In colloquial English labyrinth is generally synonymous with maze, but many contemporary scholars observe a distinction between the two: maze refers to a complex branching puzzle with choices of path and direction; while a single-path labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate. Labyrinth is a word of pre-Greek (Minoan) origin absorbed by Classical Greek and is perhaps related to the Lydian labrys (“double-edged axe”, a symbol of royal power, which fits with the theory that the labyrinth was originally the royal Minoan palace on Crete and meant “palace of the double-axe”),
It took three hours before I saw some young kid coming flying down a path on a dirt bike. He was from Sweden, and said he had no idea where the castle was, because he was coming from the other end of the island and rode off. I wandered, I sat, I took turns, and I made choices. I started considering this the Labyrinth of my life. I went from earliest age and experiences, to now, to where I was that day. I went to Ireland not knowing what would come next, what I even wanted anymore. I felt like I didn’t know anything.
I thought when my oldest daughter Meghan left for school, that I would be one those together moms who would handle that all with ease, but I wasn’t. I found her being gone a real loss, and I felt like some part of me was grieving; like I just got fired from a job that I loved. Now I had all this free time, and I had no idea who I was anymore.
As soon as I made a choice, around the next turn was a white horse. Only one, all by itself inside one the rock walls. I immediately connected with this horse, and started a whole conversation about all the thoughts in my head. I told him that I was positioned to sit on every white horse, in every Children’s themed Fairy Tale park, from Maine to Florida when I was a kid. Every plastic, cement, huge white fairy tale horse my parents could find. I have the video to prove it. My mother was apparently a big fan of the fantasy. Which of course, I gladly took on.
A white horse. Perfect. My totem animal. I realized, that without those rock walls, he could run free and wild. I also realized he could run right off the edge of the island to his death. But here he was, content to be caged in because he didn’t have much of a choice. Here I was with all these choices, no real walls, and I felt more trapped than he did I think.
It took me four hours to find my bike. But if I didn’t I was sleeping with that white horse.