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(In search of sacred sites in The Burren Co Clare)

Its early morning!

After three long shifts at the hospital, my body craves a lie on, but my mind has other idea’s.

I am up with the birds.

I’ve been seperated from my writing for those three days and I miss it.

Its my therapy, my relaxation, my saving grace.

So, with an espresso at my elbow and the sun climbing higher, I turn on my laptop.

The yellow bicycle leans disappointedly against the fireplace.

As usual I don’t have any story planned, I just see where my mind and fingers will take me.

I let my thoughts flow and start typing..

Today is St patricks day. Our national holiday. Though it started of course away before himself. In ancient celtic times or even before that again.

Newgrange, Loughcrew, the hill of Tara, Knocknarea, Carrowkeel, Creevykeel, carrowmore, Poulnabrone!

I am just pulling a few out of my head.

Portal tombs , passage tombs, standing stones, ring forts, passage graves.


What better places to go to and sit and contemplate in and draw energy from on our national day.

Some rather the street parties, the parades, the carnivals, the music and the crowds and there are times when I enjoy those things. But don’t think me odd when I choose something away from all that.

Its just that I’m recovering from the hectic people oriented place that is my work and needing some quiet time to recover before heading back into the fray again in a couple of days time.

And it is not in defiance of St Patrick (a good and holy man I am sure) that I am drinking italian coffee.

And as the cupboard is looking bleak and I am loath to start the day with a shopping trip, breakfast will be noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil.

A far cry from traditional porridge or a full irish breakfast.

There are no traffic noises yet.

The birds are singing enthusiastically. I can identify the sound of the blackbird and a robin. A small sparrow lands on my balcony but scares himself with his reflection in my window and takes off again with a frightened twitter.

Over the sound of these smaller birds, a large black crow croaks.

I wonder if it is my friend. The one with the twisted beak.

I am partial to crows and other members of this family.

They are sociable beings, plus they have the honesty or maybe it is impertinence to look you in the eye.

I like that about them.

I always greet them on passing, don’t ask me why.

I find myself doing that a lot with wild animals lately.

‘Hello fox’ I say, when I pass him or her on my early morning cycle for my train.

‘Goodmorning Mr Jackdaw’ I call to a scruffy one sitting on the fence.

‘Be careful’ I remind the flock of finches as they swoop low over the ground.

‘Wow Look at you’ I shout to the buzzards as they soar above the scots pines near my daughters house.

But back to my friend the crow. I fear a life of hunger for my lad with the deformed beak.

It must be difficult to stab for worms and I wonder will he starve to death?

But no! he is still around and I save a bit of ham to throw him when passing.

I know I should try to feed him more regularly and I do feel guilty that I might be giving him false hopes of security.

Feeding birds over the winter should be a consistent thing or else leave nature to do it. It has done so successfully for millions of years and we humans are not the best example to be playing god, taking into account the damage we have done.

But still I fill the bird feeders religiously at my daughters house and watch with fascination the code of ethics between finches and robins, blue tits and goldcrests.

My empathy for other beings sometimes overcomes me, to my own detriment.

I remember years ago, walking to school with a friend.

We were probably ten or eleven and we had come across a half dead rat at the side of the road.

It was mewling piteously. We stared in horror for a moment before my friend ran away screaming.

But rat or no! I couldn’t bear to see it suffer and picking up a large stone, I dropped it on the poor creatures head killing it instantly.

I remember saying sorry to it as I carried out the act and I probably cried too but I knew I had to be strong and put it out of its misery. To leave it lying there half dead would have been a far greater act of cruelty.

It was probably at that moment, unknownst to myself, that I decided to become a nurse.


Yesterday one of my patients was given bad news.

She has a gangrenous foot and despite angioplasties, fempopliteal bipasses, iloprost infusions and all other works of modern medicine her foot and lower leg can not be saved.

She needs an above knee amputation.

She looked in panic from the surgeon to me and back again, her eighty three year old face filled with fear and grief.

After the surgeon had gone, I sat with her, holding her frail hand.

She suddenly tightened her grip ‘I can’t believe this, It can’t be true, maybe it will get better, surely it’s not as bad as he says’. She was looking at me hopefully.

I said my usual words of reassurance but for once they sounded hollow and well practised.

I knew what was wrong. I was tired, my own legs were aching, I wasn’t putting myself in her shoes (pardon the analogy).

So I shut up, ashamed of my falseness and just sat with her.

‘Is it nice out today’ She suddenly piped up.

‘Yes its a lovely spring day’ I answered, smiling at her .

She sighed ‘I suppose its for the best’ She looked out the window at the blue sky.

‘It is’ I stroked her hand.

She was silent again for a while

‘I suppose I’ll be better off without it! She looked at me, resignation in her faded blue eyes ‘Its very sore you know?’.

‘I can imagine it must be very painful and the painkillers I give you are just making you so drowsy all the time’ I replied sympathetically.

She nodded ‘Yes I am either asleep or in pain and what’s the use of that’ then looked at me smiling, her blue eye’s brighter now. ‘You have been very kind to me’ She said.Β ‘Thank you’.

That is why I am a nurse.

All the money in the world could not give me what she gave me.

And that included an important lesson.

There are times for words but sometimes being silent and really listening is better.

the end.