THE MAGIC OF IRELAND

by Kimberly Hoffman

Riding upon a ferry across the swells of the Irish Sea, I eagerly anticipated our landing on the Emerald Isle. My ancestors once inhabited this land, some even living in castles. The land had a somewhat bewitching quality that was hard to describe. It wasn’t due to fairies or leprechauns, but a deeper sense of the stories the land held in its rocks, roads, buildings, soil and its people.

The magic was not difficult to find. In fact, there was no need to go in search of it. The magic found me as I journeyed through Ireland’s sprawling cities as well as its quaint villages. It was found in all sorts of places. All one needed was a sense of adventure and a belief in what could be in order to be swept away in its grasp.

I felt the magic in a sense of awe as I stood before the Book of Kells. This ancient book, written in the 9th century, contains the four Biblical gospels. As I gazed upon its pages, I could see the monks sitting down with pen and ink in hand to write each word in flowing script. I saw one pass his finished transcript over to another brother who would illuminate each page with magnificent illustrations, stopping only briefly to massage the knots out of his hand. I saw another monk preparing the dyes for the colored ink used in each illustration. Each monk worked quietly and reverently. I wonder if they felt the veneration I did as I gazed upon each page.

Then the magic overwhelmed me as I walked through Trinity College’s immense library, my mouth agape in wonder at the sight of the numerous tomes. I watched as the dust motes floated through the vast expanse and wondered at how marvelous it would be to search through the volumes contained therein.

Trinity College
photo cred:
Kimberly Hoffman

The magic echoed through the sanctuary of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This vast place of worship contained within its walls memorials to soldiers from various battles. A sense of worship and patriotism filled the hall. However, amidst the magic here, was also a sense of sadness at the Tree of Remembrance. Though the tree was created to commemorate the ending of World War I, it had become a way for others to remember those who have been affected by conflict. I selected a white leaf and wrote upon it the name of a friend’s brother who had committed suicide due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The magic came through healing as I gently placed the leaf upon the tree and released the sadness.

Tree of remembrance at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
photo cred:
Kimberly Hoffman
Tree of remembrance at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
photo cred:
Kimberly Hoffman

The magic permeated the lovely village of Adare. With its thatched roof houses, gardens and walkways, I felt as if I had stepped into a storybook village. Even a local cat I spied on my walk appeared to be more than an ordinary cat. I was sure he possessed some uncanny ability. Later in the day, I could feel the magic in the ghosts of the majestic Desmond Castle. As I stood in the eerie depths of the prisoners’ hold, I felt the chill and desolation. The enveloping darkness was haunting. I emerged and stood under a dome-shaped tree within the castle walls, where I saw the ghosts of children playing beneath its branches. They enjoyed their lunch there and perhaps a Gaelic lesson before escaping their mothers to run and squeal in a lively game of chase. They evaded capture by hoisting themselves up into the low-hanging branches. As I walked through each room, I could see those who cooked, danced, played, loved and died there.

Gardens in Adare
photo cred:
Kimberly Hoffman
Gardens in Adare thatched roof houses
Photo cred:
Kimberly Hoffman

The magic washed over me as I stood along the Cliffs of Insanity – more commonly known as the Cliffs of Moher, and imagined myself as Princess Buttercup fleeing her captor with her beloved Wesley. I climbed up to the base of O’Brien’s Tower and was chilled by the crisp Atlantic winds. I looked out over the vast Atlantic Ocean and wondered what life would have been like as a watchman in this tower. For certain, I would have faced long, cold, windy nights as the wind howled around the lone tower on this stretch of land. As I stood near the edge of the cliffs, I was absolutely amazed at the glorious beauty all around me. Though my physical body chilled, I was warmed by the magnificence around me.  

Cliffs of Moher
photo cred:
Paul Hoffman

Then the magic became real and palpable as I became queen for a day at Knappogue Castle in County Clare. I watched my husband, the king, attempt to poison the guests, die from his own poison and then come back to life to enjoy a wondrous feast and entertainment. We laughed deep and heartily until our stomachs ached. We marveled at the dancers and singers who had come to entertain the royalty and their guests. I truly felt like a queen within those walls and was sad to surrender my crown and robe at the end of the night.

The king and his queen at Knappogue Castle in western Ireland during a medieval feast in which the king died and came back to life.
Photo cred: Susan Day

This magic would not have been possible without Ireland’s people. They welcomed us in as if they had known us all their lives. They weaved the stories into tapestries of amazement, wonder and delight. Without Ireland’s people from both her past as well as her present, the magic would have lost some of its power.

There were so many moments where the magic could be felt thick in the air, where the ghosts of long ago roamed among us, where I wondered at this little country with its intense history and where I felt at ease in the welcome of its people. Ireland pulled me in, wrapped me in its enchantment, and cast a spell that left me in amazement. Ireland is so much more than what you can read in a book. You must walk its land and hear the voices from long ago. You must gaze out upon its beauty and meet its people. That is the true magic of Ireland.

Kimberly at John Behan’s bronze sculpture Millennium Child, located outside the Peace Park at Christchurch Place, Dublin. The piece was intended as a collaborative symbol of hope for children and families for the next millennium.
Photo cred:
Paul Hoffman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kimberly Hoffman is the author of Emma’s Dancing Day and Sigmund Stanley Spider Squared. She enjoys presenting programs related to her books at schools, libraries and civic groups on topics such as “How to Write a Story”, “Overcoming Obstacles”, “Thinking Outside the Box Regarding Disabilities”, as well as other subjects. Her favorite program includes teaching a bit of ballet and then leading the students in dance.

Kimberly grew up in Columbus, Indiana where trips to the library happened nearly every week of her childhood. She loves to read and thinks the library is a wonderful place to be. She knows that books can teach us, transport us to new realms, inspire us, cause us to cry, or make us fall over laughing.

Kimberly loves to dance, although she had not taken a lesson until about 10 years ago. She can often be found dancing around her house (and sometimes in public), choreographing to whatever song is playing.

She is married to Paul, who is also an author, and together they have six children, one grandchild, and three grand-kitties.

She can be reached at danceforjoy63@gmail.com. Invite her to speak to your group!

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