Now I can’t wait to hear the final edit.Tomorrow, February 11th, we fly back to Corca Dhuibhne. The significance of that date only hit me last week as I sat at the microphone in my sound booth. February 11th is Lá ‘le Gobnait – the feast day of St. Gobnait. Which means that as we’re sitting on a plane somewhere over the Irish Sea, high on a western clifftop, whipped by the Atlantic wind, the people of Dún Chaoin will be taking part in an ancient rite that’s survived there for thousands of years.
I don’t know if the realisation of that fact coloured my reading of the following paragraphs. You could hardly blame me if it did, considering what I’ll be missing.
“On St Gobnait’s day, for as long as anyone can remember, people have gathered at the well on the cliff above the ocean to perform a ritual that has roots older than Christianity.
In Dún Chaoin tomorrow, our neighbours will pray in St. Gobnait’s church and then climb the path to circle the well that once belonged to the Goddess. There’s a cross cut into a flat slab above it now and. just above the water, is a carved female head with wide eyes looking out towards the ocean. The ancient Celts carved no images of Danú. Instead they imagined her as present in the water in the form of a fish. In their shamanistic world view, the guardian spirits of sacred places often took the form of fish, birds or animals.
I remembered that last week as I read on through the chapter, towards my next coffee break, and came to this final paragraph.
“When I bent over Gobnait’s well to look at the tribute of wildflowers, I saw something else had been left there. Down at the level of the water, the pointed quill of a seagull’s feather was wedged between two stones. Held by the fixed quill, the feather itself reached out like a bridge. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement in the shadow under the stones. Then a tiny shrew ran out onto the feather. She had sleek ash-coloured fur, delicate, five-clawed feet, and eyes like black pin heads in her narrow face. Her ears were like translucent pink petals. Balanced in time, her weight balanced on the quill held by the stone, she looked at me. Then the feather trembled, its shadow flickered on the water, and she ran back into the dark.”