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  • Writer's pictureKendra Goheen

The Rock, The Puffin and Faith

I have not watched the Star Wars movies since watching the original trilogy that began in 1977. So when a friend of mine heard I was going to Ireland, she asked me if I had gotten tickets to see Skellig Michael. I had no idea what in the world she was talking about. Never heard of it. Well, apparently the ending in The Force Awakens (2015) was filmed there as well as The Last Jedi due to be released this December.

I must say that when I looked up Skellig Michael, I became intrigued and impressed. First because of the name of the island and its correlation to Archangel Michael, then I read on. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the larger of the two Skelligs. The earliest reference to the island dates back to 600 AD. It is home to a wealth of birds including the Puffin. It was also the home of the earliest monastic settlements in Ireland. The monks of St. Fionan’s Monastery made their home there. They led simple lives and lived in beehive-shaped huts made of stone. Every day they would climb down the 670 steps to the water’s edge to fetch water and fish for their meals. It is not a gradual climb either. Skellig Michael towers 714 feet above sea level and is pretty much a straight up and down climb. The monks left the island in the thirteenth century, and it became a place of pilgrimage and apparently a fantastic place to film a movie!

The hunt began. I needed to find out how to get “landing” tickets and not just a boat tour around the island. I wanted actual docking tickets so that we could climb the 670 plus stairs to the top and view the edge of the world. These tours are considered eco tours. So they monitor how many people get on each day. Landing and docking the boat at the site is not easy to do because it’s all rock. So the sea has to cooperate for the tour to happen. The island is eight miles out in the ocean, it takes about an hour to get there, and it is quite a treacherous voyage. There are only fifteen boating permits granted per year to give excursions every day, and each boat carries twelve tourists plus two crew. That’s 180 people daily that set foot on the rock island, which by all accounts sounds like a lot of people. But when you are standing on the dock in Portmagee Marina watching the tourists that planned ahead leaving each day at 9:15a.m., it doesn’t seem like a lot of people! I am sure you can see where this is headed!

As I have shared in the past, I am not as much of a planner as I once was, and this tour was not on the to-do list until a week or two before we left. Therefore, we had two things against us: we were traveling during high season, and most of the tickets were purchased well in advance for this gig. Booking nine to twelve months prior to your trip is ideal to ensure you will get the date you desire. I am typically up for these types of challenges, like a fun game that I try to win, but this time the stakes felt higher because I really was curious to see what this rock was about.

I try not to worry about things that I have no control over and have faith that if it’s meant to be, something will work out. “Unattach from the outcome” is guidance I give frequently. How much can I really let go and let the universe work its magic. So this is something I was up for. I needed to convince my two travel companions, Caitlynn and Diana, that we could show up blindly and see what happened. Caitlynn emailed the captains of the boats to see if they could put us on a cancellation list. She was told, on more than one occasion, that we needed to get to the marina really early, around 8:30 a.m., and see if there were no shows, because they don’t create lists.

We were staying in the Ring of Kerry; so, the drive to Portmagee was about 45 minutes. Of course this drive depended on the sheep leisurely walking the road and how relaxed we could remain driving the teeny goat paths that our car traveled on while seasoned drivers clocked hairpin turns at 80 kilometers per hour. So we knew what time we had to be on the road. Up and out the door we went at 7:45 to be there at 8:30, hopeful we would be first in line. It started out as a sunny morning, and as we got closer to the port, it started to drizzle. By the time we arrived, it was down and out pouring rain. We were the second group of people to arrive, and as the minutes passed and the rain continued, people kept arriving. The lucky nearly 180 passengers were aboard their designated boats and in their reserved seats ready to depart. The seas were still good to travel. The dozen or so of us on standby remained hopeful that we would get onboard still, holding out that people must be cancelling in this weather.

Caitlynn, Diana, and I took turns pacing, and I kept saying out loud, mostly to remind myself as I stood there wearing three layers of clothing and shivering, “Have faith; things will work out. Just believe that we will get on. Don’t think anything else. It’s possible that if today does not work out, we have one more shot at this, and we will come back tomorrow.” The only bummer about that was that the next day forecasted more rain than what we were getting that day. As the last few boats pulled out, we were left standing on the dock.

So, we put a plan in place, and although the captains looked in disbelief that we had not booked earlier in the season when we showed up to wait, we left the port with the same determination that tomorrow would be our day. Disbelief or not, we were making it happen. We were dedicated, and we were all on the same page that something was calling us to the rock island. We could not pinpoint it, but we all talked about how we felt it was something we needed to make happen.

The alarm went off at 6 a.m. the next morning, and we checked the weather and looked out the windows. The notorious “they” were correct – rain and gloomy clouds stirred around us. I think I muttered something about wanting to forget the chase and was ready to roll over and go back to bed when Caitlynn bolted out of bed and said, “Nope, let’s go.” I truly think at this point we were all vested in the idea of believing in what seemed to be the impossible based on what everyone was telling us and the reaction of all those on the dock shaking their heads. Nope – if it’s meant to be it will be.

We decided to up the ante and make it to Portmagee by 7:30 to show we meant business. We made it to the port with ease – no sheep or crazy traffic traveling the ring that early. We parked right in front of the ticket booth – first blessing. Second blessing – no one else was there yet, not even the captains. So we waited with great anticipation, and as we did, we received our third blessing – the rain started to dissipate, and the sun came out. The captains starting arriving to ready their boats, and as they passed by they were a bit surprised to see us again. With subtle smiles they walked down to their boats. The crowds waiting this time were not nearly as big as the day before, and before we knew it, three people cancelled, and we were onboard putting our life jackets on.

We were elated to say the least. We talked about how we had envisioned ourselves on a boat and being on the island. We had held faith but were also mindful of the fact that if it were meant to be it would be. It’s that discerning balance of hope without attachment. The feeling I know we all had as we made the passage was disbelief mixed with excitement topped with incredible gratitude. As we sat down in our seats, we gave a prayer of gratitude.

It had become a day of beautiful weather with not a cloud in sight. So as we approached the two islands, we got a glimpse of how incredible it is. It is truly spectacular beauty, and we were in awe of such a majestic site that sits eight miles out in the middle of the ocean. The hike to the top of the island was for each of us a once-in-a-lifetime experience. When at the top, I felt like I was looking out at the edges of the earth, and I was deeply moved by the reaction of the two beautiful souls I was with. I know that I get into the energy of sites like this, but Caitlynn and Diana too became mesmerized by the experience. It was a beautiful experience to witness them.

Ireland is like that if you let it be. It is mesmerizing. It is rich with unimaginable history and an energy that wants to wrap you up and take you through a portal back in time. As we traversed the country, I watched these two girls and thought what an opportunity for them to travel to this mystical country, perhaps with a different perspective, and drive through the countryside, view the beautiful landscape, and experience the tours. In my personal travels, I have never experienced a more powerful place. Ireland is energetically inviting. It invites you to just be in the moment and feel at peace with the expansiveness of serenity and beauty that our Mother Earth has to offer. Ireland lets us enjoy the gifts of Mother Earth, undisturbed and preserved.

It was one of those trips where we moved quickly each day to see all that we possibly could. And yet as it unfolds in my memory and I share pictures and stories, it sweetly rests in my heart as a trip of a lifetime. And for my two lighthearted, sweet, fairy-like travel buddies – well they definitely had come home when they stepped foot in Ireland. I felt we all had.

In love & light,

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