With WB Yeats in Ireland

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While we were following Sarn Helen across Wales, we routinely asked Elen of the Ways where we should go next. I felt frustrated at not knowing where we were going, but we soon learned that plans would only show up when we needed them and not before. One day I found myself looking at sites in Ireland. I’m not sure why, but Ireland was on my mind. And Elyn’s. For some time, she had wanted to visit Coole Park, a site related to the poet WB Yeats.

At some point, Elyn remarked that she hoped this trip wasn’t just a “wild goose chase”—and suddenly we realized that that was the key to the next step on our journey. In the middle of the night Elyn awoke and asked herself: did WB Yeats write about wild geese? She did some research and found that he did—in his famous poem “September 1913” and about wild swans in “Coole Park.” Of course. It was obvious: our next guide would be WB Yeats.

 Waiting for the ferry with our fuzzy kid companions.

Waiting for the ferry with our fuzzy kid companions.

The next morning, we went into planning mode on my iPad and Elyn’s computer. I found that there is a permanent exhibition about Yeats at the National Library of Ireland in Dublin. We could take a ferry from Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey, North Wales, to Dublin and go by train from there to Gort, the nearest town to Coole Park. Very quickly, as if by magic, our plans unfolded. The next day, after a short train ride, we found ourselves on the ferry to Dublin.

The National Library exhibition “Yeats: The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats” is a feast for the senses. You can get a good impression of it from the online version HERE. A circular hall at the entrance, named “Verse and Vision,” presents eight of Yeats’ poems read by a variety of persons, accompanied by appropriate photos and scrolling graphics. We were astounded when we entered to hear a recitation of “The Wild Swans at Coole.” This was one of the poems that had led us to the Irish part of our adventure. That could have been a simple coincidence, since it was only one of eight looping recitations, but when we left the exhibition, that poem was being recited again. We smiled at each other: Coole Park was definitely our next stop. We knew that we were safely in Yeats’ hands for this part of our journey.

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The rest of the exhibition consists of a number of rooms and spaces, each presenting one aspect of the complex character of Yeats. We learned about Yeats as a poet, a playwright, an esotericist, a politician, and a patriot. I can’t imagine a better way to become familiar with all aspects of his personality. We left in an altered state and determined that we must dig deeper into the riches we found there. When we returned the next day, a singular recording of Yeats himself reciting “The Isle of Inisfree” greeted us. We felt that he was welcoming us back to his sanctuary.

While in Dublin we visited a number of other Yeats sites, including the Henry Moore memorial sculpture to Yeats in St Stephens Green. We also visited The Book of Kells exhibit and the Trinity College Library. Elyn once encountered WB Yeats wandering in an etheric version of this library in one of her meditations.

 Tribute in bronze to WB Yeats.

Tribute in bronze to WB Yeats.

Leaving Dublin by train, we arrived in Gort, where we hoped to encounter Yeats in the nearby park that he had loved. On the train we sat across from an elderly lady who engaged us in conversation that came around to Yeats. Imagine our delight when she recited “The Isle of Inisfree” in sonorous Yeats style.

We were going to spend several days in Gort, to give us time to visit Yeats’ sites. We were staying at the Lady Gregory Hotel, named for the owner of Coole Park in Yeats’ times. We arrived, however, at the final celebration of the Galway International Rally, during which hundreds of noisy cars race over muddy, single-lane roads, and their experienced drivers return to the Lady Gregory Hotel to eat, drink, and be merry. We despaired of ever making contact with Yeats in this environment, but by the next morning the cars and drivers were gone and we had a peaceful, rainy two days in the countryside.

 Thoor Ballylee.

Thoor Ballylee.

Kieran, our taxi driver, took us to Thoor Ballylee, Yeats’ Norman/Anglo summer home where he lived with his wife George from 1921 to 1929. The tower is maintained by the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society whose members volunteer to keep it open for tours. When we arrived, however, the tower was locked. We were about to leave when a young lad arrived to let us in. We enjoyed a video, which gave us a sense of how Yeats and his family lived in the tower. We thought of how difficult it must have been for Yeats’ wife, Georgie, to make a home there without running water and electricity for their family with young children.

 Elyn at Yeats' writing desk.

Elyn at Yeats' writing desk.

We climbed to the top of the tower to see the view of the river and bridge below; and we returned to Yeats’ study, where Elyn sat at what is billed as Yeats’ writing desk. She asked for inspiration and guidance from the Muse for her writing efforts. Yeats wrote at least two books that refer to the tower: The Tower (1928), and The Winding Stair (1933). We felt his presence as we ascended and descended that winding staircase and stood in his study. We are told that the tower is subject to periodic flooding and the Society has had to close it several times to clean up after heavy rains.

 The turlough at Coole Park.

The turlough at Coole Park.

Kieran next drove us to Coole Park, where we enjoyed a drizzly day wandering the wooded grounds and having lunch in the tea room. A highlight was our visit to the turlough (lake), where Yeats observed the “nine and fifty” wild swans he wrote about in “The Wild Swans at Coole.” We didn’t see any swans, but the wind-driven mist was evocative.

I began to fret over where we would go next. Continuing the Yeats theme, Elyn thought that we might go to the Sligo area, which is Yeats’ birth place and grave site. But when we asked for guidance, using one of our applied kinesiology techniques, we got a strong NO. We ran through a list of locations and were directed to the Orkney Islands off northern Scotland. We had visited these islands years ago when we were doing research for our book Powerful Places in Scotland.

Some people make decisions by making lists and debating the pros and cons. Some flip a coin. Some use a pendulum. Some ask for guidance. We often use “kinesiology”—a technique called “muscle testing”—to help us make decisions about where to go, which product to buy, and what to do that is in our highest interest. Muscle testing is used by many alternative health-care practitioners to test the relative strength of various muscles when presented with a product or asked about a future course of action. We find muscle testing to be quite useful in making many decisions, in spite of the controversy about its efficacy in the scientific community (see the Wikipedia article HERE.)

I was beginning to realize that, when the time arrived for future plans to be made, the way forward opened easily. I began to settle in to this seemingly random walkabout and trust the guidance we were receiving. Stay tuned for the next chapter.

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