A Thin Place

Oct 5, 2016

Ireland is often described as a “thin place,” one of those physical but mystical locations on the planet where God and the Divine seem particularly close or accessible. The mind clears, the heart opens, and epiphanies occur unbidden in these places. Whether this is the nature of the place itself or the result of hundreds of years of prayers and expressions of awe uttered in these places is unclear. The boundaries between spirit and flesh, between heaven and earth seem to vanish.

I was in Ireland for 18 days. This water-wrapped country is so beautiful, so lush, and so green. I “Ooh”ed and “Aah”ed with the same frequency as I did when I lived in Colorado in 2015 and my daily prayer was “Wow!” Although no particular holy spot in Ireland knocked me upside the head or was a thin place for me, I felt thin here. (And not in physique.) By thin, I mean that the inside of me felt close to the outside of me–that I was like a piece of sheer fabric, maybe even porous.

I am not a cryer. I cry about twice a year, usually inappropriately watching a movie about dogs or reading a children’s book. But in Ireland I cried daily. At Glendalough, the 6th century woodsy monastic home of St. Kevin, a clump of soft, spring green moss brought me to tears. On the winding narrow road to the west coast, the rock-enclosed fields of sheep wading through knee high grass set me off. The rocky cliffs of the Atlantic Ocean at the edge of the Dingle Peninsula overwhelmed me. The tiny churches and stone cells of saints who spent years in solitude and prayer brought tears. An experienced guide at St. Sourney’s Well in the Burren talked about the relationship between people and their landscape and I started to cry. And though I am uncertain whether these are tears of sorrow, joy, or astonishment they were cleansing, maybe even baptismal–as if they had been waiting for a way out for a long time.