Croagh Patrick is a mountain in County Mayo, on the Atlantic side of Ireland. It’s said that it was from this peak that Saint Patrick banished all the snakes from Ireland. Climbing the mountain is a popular pilgrimage that many thousands perform at the end of July.
Chapter 30: Dillon visits County Mayo to research his genealogy. But he also has some thinking to do, about everything that’s happened to him since the night he found Lana at his farm in the Gaeltacht. He has gone to climb Croagh Patrick while he does that thinking….
THE breeze was freezing, but Dillon’s body was burning, when he reached the summit of Croagh Patrick.
He sat upon the steps of the chapel on the peak, to catch his breath. Even in the semidarkness, pilgrims milled about, their torch beams dazzlingly harsh against the dawn – for despite his desire to avoid the Reek Sunday swarm, he’d not been able to take any time off until the end of July, after all. When he was rested, he meandered away from the muttered prayers to find a lonely boulder, where he could sit and finish his own meditations.
… Feeling a sudden urgency to return to his room and his work in the village below, he stashed the food and diary in his bag and started down the mountainside. The descent took careful attention, to prevent his stumbling headforemost into an untimely grave. It was worse than anything he’d traversed in Afghanistan – Afghan mountain trails having been created by humans to conquer nature, whereas the Croagh Patrick pilgrimage used nature to conquer humans – and his calves ached as he approached the foot of the mountain.
The stony slope flattened out into a pavement surrounding one of those ubiquitous statues of St Patrick brandishing crosier and shamrock. Dillon limped to the side of the pavement and sat in the shadow of the plinth, where he observed how the ascending and descending streams of sufferers divided around the monument: some of them making a brief detour in an anticlockwise circuit round the image and availing of the holy water stoup in the plinth.
Then he noticed that the parting of the ascending pilgrims began to occur a bit farther down the curving footpath, where they overtook a person who moved slowly with the assistance of a wheeled walking frame. As the figure drew near, Dillon saw that it was a man in his great old age, and when the man raised his head to amiably return the greetings of able-bodied passersby, that he wore a clerical collar. Then the priest’s glance fell upon Dillon – whereupon he halted abruptly at the edge of the pavement surrounding the plinth and gasped.
Happy St Patrick’s Day!
from Irish Firebrands
Blog text © 2016 Christine Plouvier. Excerpts © 2012 – 2016 Christine Plouvier. All Rights Reserved.