My Pilgrimage to St. Elen’s Well, Part 1

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​[Note: As I began to write this, I thought it would be an emotional look back at an important pilgrimage that I undertook last summer. However, as I began to write, it seemed that before I got to the actual pilgrimage and the feelings that it conjured, I had to wade through the logistics of discovering the well, and finding that it was important for me to visit it. The coincidences that have crossed my life’s path and Wales astound me every time I discover them.]

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Travel – Photos – A Brief Look at My Wales

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I’ve been fortunate to have visited North Wales three times. The first was randomness, the second fortune, and the third with determination. All three were spiritual and while the first began a decades old journey, all three began, and explored different aspects of that journey. All three had friends and family supporting and helping to make it happen.

Read the brief captions about the three photos I’ve chosen to represent my three visits, all steeped in more meaning than can be written in such a brief blurb, but will be explored more fully, or if not fully, then thoroughly in future days.

This photo, while taken in 2017, represents my first visit in 1987. I hiked and hitchhiked from the train in Betws-y-Coed to this youth hostel, just about center of the Llanberis Pass, a stop for hikers and climbers alike. It was my first foray into Wales, and it grabbed me in a way that many other things haven’t come close. It linked me to a place i’ve never been as if I’ve been born there. It is my soul’s homeland, and I feel the hiraeth as clearly as any native-born Welsh-person. The youth hostel at Pen-y-Pass. (c)2017-2018

Dolwyddelan Castle from the road. Taken in 2009, and representing my 2009 visit, it was also the view my family saw in 2017 when we stayed barely a mile up the road, but in 2009, this was one of my important, planned destinations: the birthplace of Llywelyn Fawr, the Prince of Wales. The castle wasn’t here, but he was born in and around this plot of land in 1178, and eventually built a motte and bailey castle on the mound here. This keep replaced that in future years.Llywelyn, and a gift from a dear friend, brought me to this place to see the places that i’d been reading about; and feeling about. The castle resides on private land, a working farm. You pay the woman at the back door, and walk through the cow gate, climbing the steep dirt path until reaching the pavement, and more hills going up and up. I wasn’t in the physical condition to go all the way to the keep. I may have tried if not for the misty rain making the slate and stone steps slippery. It was not a risk I was willing to take alone. I was still content to have reached as far as I did, and to meet some folks. I walked around for a bit, listening to the nearby stream and small rapids crashing lightly against the rocks. I discovered a snarled tree that was the perfect place for a distant photo of the castle. Looking forward to my next visit. (c)2009-2018

I discovered St. Elen’s well on a blog and was thrilled that ot represented my confirmation saint. I discovered long after returning in 2009 that the town where I spent three days (Caernarfon) was her town, and Dolwyddelan, where I’d spent a couple of hours walking around was less than a mile up the road from the hotel named for her that I must have passed on the way to the castle car park. We stayed at that hotel on this more recent trip, and the well is on the hotel property. There was some dispute on the land the path is on, but there seems to be some sort of arrangement as I had no issues other than the daily rain made the steep path a little bit slippery, but not undoable. Slow going made me take the time to stop and, not smell the flowers, but observe the vegetation, the tree branches, the cows and church next door, listen to the birds all around me, and come upon the well slowly. I could hear the water flowing before I could see the well, and it could do with a weeding, but it was still glorious, and spellbinding, and I felt the spirituality of not only Wales, but of Elen while the smells of the variety of plants were captivating, and the holy water was cold to my touch, but tasted refreshing and revitalizing. I sat for some time in contemplation. My family was very cooperative of that. (c)2017-2018

Sundays in Lent – 2nd Sunday

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Readings: GN 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18, PS 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19, 2 ROM 8:31B-34, MK 9:2-10

G-d calls and we answer. I honestly don’t know what my response would be if G-d asked me to sacrifice my first-born, or any of my children. I wonder if it would have been different had Sarah been asked.

A few things struck me from today’s readings and we begin the second week of Lent.

I hadn’t noticed before how the sacrifice of Isaac parallels G-d’s own sacrifice of His Son. It’s more than mere coincidence. As any parent knows, it takes many forms to show the same lesson and for children to absorb it. Abraham and Isaac were the first in a long line of sacrifice and covenant. Not blind faith, but trusting in G-d, waiting to see the path before us.

In the second reading, Paul asks, “If G-d is there for us, who can be against us?” is a parallel to the Angel’s conversation with Mary, “for nothing will be impossible for G-d.” [Luke 1:37]

And finally, G-d’s announcement, his acknowledgment that Jesus is his son before witnesses. His direction to listen to him [to Jesus]. The confirmation by having the two revered prophets, Moses and Elijah, both from Exodus as if to offer a new exodus fo the followers of Jesus.

Where will this week take you?

Are you escaping something monumental or mundane? Have you explored or at least introduced yourself to the three pillars of Lent – fast, pray, almsgiving?

Is there a way to include those three every week, or every day if youo’re able rather than a ticky box of accomplishments?

Can you make them part of your post-Lent life?

Maybe.

If nothing is impossible for G-d, then nothing is impossible with G-d.

This is the path I had to take to reach the holy well of St. Elen in Dolwyddelan in Wales. I had come to this place especially to visit the well. I guaranteed seeing the well by staying at the adjacent hotel, named for Elen, although it’s debatable with Welsh Elen it’s named for. This was my pilgrimage, my mission, and when I encountered this steep, muddy, slippery path, I paused. Three thousand miles, a rental car, a ferry across the Irish Sea, a FERRY for two hours through WATER, and this steep, obviously exhausting path was going to stop me. I hesitated for only a moment. It was an impossible task, but I would not let it stop me. For nothing is impossible with G-d. (c)2018

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39/52 – Three Days in Wales

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I didn’t do the spiral journaling while I was overseas, but I thought it might be a nice idea to go back and just do the three days I spent in Wales. Some of it is the basics of where we were and the towns we visited, but there were also some reflective moments that came through despite the small writing space. It was also amusing to find that I wrote more as the days went on despite not really having done more. I think I got more comfortable in describing my thoughts and feelings, and on the last one, I really ran out of space. Continue reading

Spiritual Sites

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What I call my “relics”. These are not historical or sacred in any way except to me. 1. (Top left): Dried flowers and rock along with holy water from St. Elen’s Well in Wales. 2. (Bottom left): The top and bottom of a rock from what is still standing of my mother-in-law’s uncle’s house in Northern Ireland. 3. (Top right): A shell and a rock (or a fossilized rock) from Ballintoy. 4. Middle right): Holy water and pebble from St. Olcan’s Holy Well and a rock from the Cranfield Church ruins as well as the top and bottom of the rocks from the site. 5. (Bottom right): The dried flowers and rock from St. Elen’s Well without the holy water pictured. (c)2017

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Glimpses through Instagram, Part 2

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I found a few more photos that I shared through Instagram and Facebook while I was in Ireland and Wales. They’re really quite eclectic, and show the variety of things that I enjoyed doing as well as some of the local tastes. Continue reading