For me, a twelve-hour visit to Carlingford, Ireland, meant an eighteen-hour round trip from Cardiff, Wales. This might sound like a disproportionate amount of travelling time in order to meet up with friends, but time so often seems to take on elasticity depending on the quality of its use. Despite advances in telecommunication technology, there is simply no substitute for meetings in person. A virtual tug-of-war, or an egg-and-spoon race via satellite, just would not be the same.
The outward journey could almost have been justified alone by the sight of silhouette mountains embracing an inlet of sea: the water at our destination as one huge length of trembling silk, the air sweet and wholesome, leaving the lungs hungry for more. Mangala had waited up for us, and directed us to our home for the night. We were welcomed to our guesthouse by a lady uncommonly sprightly for the time of night. She offered us cosy rooms full of gentle images of the Madonna and Child.
Shane was already singing with great gusto in the car park of the hostel at 5.55am, breaking off from uncertain duties (and singing) to welcome us profusely and kindly to the meditation hall. Meditation was attended by around sixty people from no less than sixteen nations. That sublime start amongst friends, amidst golden lilies and Sri Chinmoy’s flute recordings, was followed by singing. An angelic sustain accompanied every note in the hall’s vast acoustics.
A 2-mile race ensued around the pretty streets and along the water’s edge. We then enjoyed a breakfast of eggs and homemade soda bread at our accommodation, while watching the sea and the closest mountain. Though I don’t mean I watched the mountain for leprechauns, as my hosts encouraged me to do - I don’t believe they’d have let themselves be so easily visible, especially from that distance ;-) - I mean that the longer one watches a mountain, the friendlier it seems: less a lump of rock than a hive of life and a masterpiece of colour and form. We would not have time for climbing as others would, but I enjoyed it all the same from the breakfast table.
It was a perfect day for playing in fields, and for lying in grass, chatting. The sun matched our exuberance, but had the gentleness to allow one to go about without a hat. Horses mooched and switched away the flies between us and the sea. Shane and Colm were in full costume, though as I arrived a little late I’m not sure what it was exactly. It included capes, and sparkly wigs, and plastic swords. It certainly gave weight to their storytelling and their commendable demonstrations of the more traditional games. It also enhanced the already abundant jollity and laughter.
Intense concentration was seen on every face though at some point, as the challenges certainly were challenging. The most memorable was making the shape of a larger-than-life cow on the ground, using only a length of rope. Yet more difficult when you consider it was to be done in teams of eight, where half were blindfolded, and half called out (mainly ambiguous or contradictory) instructions. The results had us all in fits of laughter: the poor cows looked rather ungainly and uncomfortable.
Two of us had to leave before the afternoon meditation in order to get back to work on Monday, but we just managed to sneak in for a group photo to be sent to Sri Chinmoy. Paula offered to make the hour round trip with us to Dundalk, where we could catch our bus to the airport. The way back was long and hot, but it really didn’t matter - those twelve hours have left so many sunny memories. Being a little out of the way in Wales, we usually have to make long trips for Joy Days, but it’s always worth it, and we always make sure the travelling is part of the joy.