Nearly twenty years ago, at autumn equinox, I journeyed by three trains, a ferry and a car to our first residence in the Republic of Ireland. Within three months we had found our permanent home in West Cavan, I had a job, and we began to build our new life in what became the region known as Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
Flash forward to 2011 and I had just successfully pulled off a tour of spiritually minded American tourists. The late American writer, Patricia Monaghan, wangled me the gig and set me on my parallel career track as tour guide. Cavan-Monaghan Leader introduced a tour guide training programme for the Geopark that spring and I launched into creating my tour brand Irish Blessings Tours. On completing the programme I became one of the first MAC Geopark Ambassadors.
A Geopark is a UNESCO designation that indicates a region that has unique natural and built heritage of global significance. Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark was the very first geopark to cross an international boundary on the planet. Cavan and Fermanagh marked a border that had been riven with strife for thirty years previously. This local trouble was known as ‘The Troubles’. In the wake of the Good Friday Agreement in 1997, the painstaking work of taking down barriers and harmonising environmental legislation was done to create this Geopark. The work done by those bureaucrats and individuals is another kind of a international monument – one to the co-operation and the healing necessary when there has been longstanding civil and sectarian violence.
In 2021 to more accurately reflect that crossborder identity, the Geopark was renamed Cuilcagh Lakelands Global Geopark.
Nature, as many of us know, is a great, perhaps the greatest healer.
The landscape in Ireland haunts the soul. It grabs you and, in some cases, refuses to give you back to your old life. It may drown you in deluge or smote you in upland bushfire. Nonetheless, it persists in making you care. Theologian Matthew Fox has called the Irish landscape the ‘body of the Goddess.’ I concur. The landscape is Spirit made matter.
Living in this landscape also made me get serious about my vocation as a writer and poet. Since 2014, I have been facilitating creative writing workshops around the Geopark region to both adults and children – in a prison, in schools, in youth clubs, arts community centres and, since the pandemic, on Zoom. That part of my livelihood is known as Word Alchemy.
Now, in 2021, I am combining the Word Alchemy with the Geopark Ambassador roles by curating a unique digital project for the Geopark. We are creating an online Poetry Map of various sites across the Geopark. That project is scheduled to go live in October 2021.
If you would like a guided day out with me in Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark you can book me by contacting me direct. My days out are slow savouring of the spirit of this landscape, its myth, legend, and mystique. Come as a pilgrim to the land and its magnificence. Feel its presence, its hiddeness and succumb to surprise!
Blessings on you sojourns!