Travel – One Year Ago Today in Wales

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​One year ago today, we were winding our way back from Wales, over hill and dale, across the Irish Sea to stay overnight in Dublin, and then return to our home base and our cousins in Northern Ireland.

When I first went on my solo adventure to Wales in 2009, upon returning I was asked if I wanted to bring my family to see what I saw. My immediate answer was no. I didn’t want to share it with anyone, but the reality was that I also didn’t want them to spoil it for me.

Like when you set up a movie night for your best friend to watch your favorite movie, and while they’re watching the movie you’re watching them to see that they love it as much as you do…but…they don’t, and it kind of ruins the experience for you, and now every time you watch that movie again, you’ll think of your friend who didn’t like it, and wonder why they didn’t like it.

Wales could not impress them as it did me, and I did not want to see the looks on their faces of huh, so this is it.

I knew that if I wanted to visit Wales on this trip, and I did, not only to pilgrimage to my saint’s holy well, but also just to feel the land under my feet, the rocks under my fingertips, then I would have to bring them along. This was a family adventure and I couldn’t leave them behind for three days. I resigned myself to whatever they would feel, and I made peace with it.

From the ferry, we began the drive across Angelsey to cross the bridge into mainland Wales and the hour or so drive to our hotel, adjacent to St. Elen’s Well. Winding hilly roads bordered by stone walls, and there was finally a pull off to see the view, right before the bridge.

Leaning on the cold stone wall, looking out across the field that met the dry bed that met the water, seeing the Menai Bridge across the way, the mountain ahead and to the left of us, I turned to see where my family was, and there I saw it.

Their looks.

Even the kids.

They may not have had the spiritual connection or the hiraeth of homecoming, but they had amazement. It was about to drizzle, and it was grey, but judging by their faces and their eyes sweeping across the landscape, it was the brightest, sunniest day they’d ever seen.

And as we drove deeper into the towns at the base of Snowdon, their eyes only got wider. We got out several times between that first time and reaching our hotel. There were rivers to see, stone buildings, mountain views, sheep and cows, but oh the amount of sheep defying gravity on the side of the mountain.

I was glad I brought them.

They could maybe kind of understand my obsession connection.

I wasn’t even mad when they unintentionally one-upped me. It was at the point when I couldn’t do anymore climbing, so when we passed through Llanberis on our way back to Holyhead, they went up to see and take pictures for me of Dolbadarn Castle, one of Llywelyn Fawr’s. Actually, I believe that his grandson, Owain Goch ap Gruffydd was kept confined there by his brother Llywelyn the Last. So I was a little jealous, but I was still okay with it. Mostly. Now, they’ve been to a part of Wales that I haven’t. 

Maybe one day I can rectify that.

Dolbadarn Castle. Llanberis. North Wales. (c)2018


On the path to Dolbadarn Castle. Llanberis. North Wales. (c)2018

Sundays in Lent – 2nd Thursday

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Hapus Sant Dewi Dydd

Translation: Do the little things in life. Quotation from St. David. Art, mine. (c)2018

Be joyful.

Keep the faith.

Do the little things.

Contemplate on the words of St. David and a small thing I drew on his feast day. Three simple suggestions, easily done, yet greatly appreciated.

20/52 – St. Elen, my patron saint

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There is very little information on St. Elen, the saint I chose for my confirmation. She is the patron of road builders and travellers. She is coincidentally from the place I visited in 2009 without knowing it as well as one of her holy wells being in the town I visited in 1987, also unbeknownst to me. I’m hoping to pilgrimage there this summer if at all possible.

Here is some insight into some of the reasons I chose her.

This is copied from my original post about St. Elen.

Initially, I was seeking out a Welsh saint because of my long spiritual connection to Wales and the Celtic peoples, but upon discovering St. Elen, I discovered that there were several other reasons why I connected to her.

First and foremost, Ellen was my mother’s middle name and it gives me a connection to her as I join the church. My first teacher, who taught me lessons of generosity and the importance of family.

Secondly, Elen is from Caernarfon, the town in which I stayed for three nights in 2009. It hadn’t been on my list of places to visit until a Welsh friend randomly suggested it that I should go there and see the castle.

Her daughter is said to have married Vortigern, the only source for their marriage being carved on the Eliseg Pillar which is very near Valle Crucis Abbey, another Welsh place I gravitated to.

Ellen is also one of my favorite television characters: mother, business owner, independent, smart, how could I go wrong?

11-52 -Do the Little Things

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St. David’s most widely known miracle was while he was preaching at the Synod of Brefi when a small hill rose beneath his feet so he could be seen and heard by those assembled. A white dove took its place on David’s shoulder. What preacher or public speaker wouldn’t want to be seen and heard more clearly? He also gave sight to a blind man and raised a widow’s son from the dead.

He established monastic settlements throughout Wales. His brand of monasticism was through simplicity and asceticism.

They [the monks] were to pull the plow themselves, eat only bread and vegetables, herbs, drink only water, own nothing and pray each and every evening.

They looked after travelers and the poor. Beekeeping was one of their other many missions.

Born around 500, he died, probably in 589 on March 1st, his feast day since the 12th century, and is buried at the Cathedral bearing his name in St. David’s, Pembrokeshire. His shrine was a popular pilgrimage during the Middle Ages and his relics are still there today.

Ironically for me, his flag is in Hufflepuff colors, a yellow cross on a black background. His symbol is a leek.

He is the patron of Wales, vegetarians, poets, and doves.

His last words to his followers were:

Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.

Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywydDo the little things in life has become a well-known inspirational saying in Wales.

This is such a good philosphy for everyone to have and to try and live by. We all have those moments of wanting to help or do something for someone else, but feel overwhelmed by the scope of what to do and how to do it. Moving forward with simplicity and doing the little things  are ways we can all contribute to someone else’s well-being. Start small. Offer to drive an elderly neighbor to the grocery store or to church. Mow someone’s lawn. Hold open the door for the person in front of or behind you. Pick up litter on your path. Smile at someone passing you in the aisle. There are so many small ways we can do big things.

One of my favorite non-profits is Random Acts. They excel at simplicity and creating big things out of small gestures. Check them out at the link and follow St. David’s advice: Do the little things.

50-35 – The Alarm

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Equal to Duran Duran for favorite bands growing up, and continuing into adulthood is The Alarm. I had a cassette that I played in the car constantly. I knew every word of every song. It didn’t hurt that they were Welsh at a time when I was obsessed with Welsh history and culture, something else that never went away.

The Alarm also holds another distinctive place in my life’s history.

In 2008, they came out with a new CD – Guerrilla Tactics. I wanted this album desperately.

In 2008, we were barely on the internet. I hadn’t even joined Live Journal then, we had no wifi – wifi was available but we didn’t trust it, so we had to be plugged into the wall. I had my first laptop, its own experiment into personal computing.

When I signed onto Amazon, well, actually, I had to create an account because I had never ordered online before, but when I signed on, I had a choice. I could buy the CD for $14.99 or I could download the MP3 version of the album for $9.99.

I actually thought about this for a couple of days. Eschew this new digital world and spend more money or give in to my innate cheapskate, get the album digitally and save the $5.

Eventually, I chose digital.

It was the first digital music I ever bought, and I listened to it always, over and over again. I transferred it to my new mp3 player, another new bit of technology that I had just discovered.

It opened a whole new world of digital media, and despite my going kicking and screaming into each new thing, I still went.

Eventually.