30 July 2014


God and the aspens alone knew how many winters the derelict building had seen, Tadhg reckoned. Where once were windows, bits of rotted wooden frames clinging to lichen-furred stone. The blank openings held the memory of glass, but no traces of the panes could be seen in the grasses nudging the slumping sides of the building. To his eyes, the ruin looked like it had been poured into place rather than by stacking stone upon stone. 

He wondered for what the building had been designed. Living hut? Chapel? The structure sat mute, giving few clues in its architecture. Small square openings up near the eaves gave Tadhg the feeling it had been used for something other than worship, but surely this must be the shrine for which he had so long been searching. He stood still in the morning light, shallow breath and pounding heart as his eyes searched for anything that would confirm his hopes.

He saw it then. In the lichen covered carvings above the doorway there was the softened outline of a man, arm outstretched, with a bird perched on his palm. At its feet was carved a tangle of sticks that Tadhg thought to be a nest. Tears of joy sprang from his dry eyes. St. Kevin and the blackbird, he was sure of it.

The small front door, or what was left of it, stood beckoning. Its opening was a pointed arch, inky black in shadows beyond. Tiny chunks of wood clung to the stonework. There had been a frame there, once and long ago, but the doors now existed only in piles of pale splinters mounded over the threshold. The jamb stones were mottled by little blooms of rust, florets telling of hinges long corroded away. Tadhg spotted a lump that he guessed used to be a beaten iron rivet. It bore more than a passing resemblance to the small russet-orange mushrooms that flecked the woods surrounding the building. 

The pilgrim carefully stepped over the threshold. Inside, the cool air filled his nostrils with the redolence of musky damp and cool stone. He breathed deep, amazed at the silence and the chill of the air. Translucent obsidian shadows were pierced by argentine shafts of light that coruscated through the windows and holes in the roof. Along the walls were carved stone shelves, dusted with the remains of objects long decayed.

At the rear of the space, Tadhg saw what could have been a stone shelf. An urn sat on it, both carved of the same greenish-black rock. He moved towards the back to get a closer look. The shelf was a thick, long slab of stone corbeled into the wall. It showed signs of wear, the edges worn smooth by the passage of hands and legs. Centered in the wall above the ledge was a small opening in the wall. Light streamed in. A soft breeze carried with it the liquid songs of birds laced with the scent of sun-warmed grass. A patch of azure sky could be glimpsed through the window.

Tadhg hoisted himself up onto the ledge. He found that he could not stand fully upright without scraping his head on the underside of the rough rafters and stone roof tiles. He knelt down, resting his arms on the sill of the window. He leaned forward to get a better view. 

The hut was surrounded by trees forming a glade around the structure. Aspens, birch, maples, perhaps. The sound of birds had grown louder. Tadhg could see their numbers flitting through the leaves, an avian susurrus washing him in song. Straight ahead through a gap in the trees could be spied a far-off mountain. Its sides were furred with green, deep green, so green the pilgrim felt himself begin to swoon.

"Such beauty here",  he whispered. His heart filled with a longing that threaten to burst him wide open. His vision swam with tears. Faintness overtook him, reminding him that he had not eaten properly in days. Now he felt he could not leave, the ache inside transforming into peace. Tadhg thrust his arm out the window to grasp desperately at the mountain as if it were closer. The tears welled into outright sobbing.

The sun felt so warm on his upturned palm. The hollow filled with liquid gold light. Tadhg knelt, trembling and praying. A sudden flurry of motion surprised him but he did not flinch as the light in his palm was replaced by a bird. A blackbird carrying a small bundle of grass in its beak. It eyed the pilgrim calmly, head cocking up and down.

Tadhg froze. The ache in his knees subsided, the weariness in his body drained away. In its place he could feel warmth spreading throughout, as if the earth itself were granting him peace. His legs and back thrummed with the seismic energies of the rock on which he knelt. He felt the blood in his veins as the trees feel their sap. The stuff of rivers flowed in his heart.

The blackbird ruffled its wings. With the skill of a tailor, it began to weave the grasses into a little bowl in Tadhg's palm, which trembled slightly at the end of his tired, sun-brown arm. The blackbird flitted away, returning shortly thereafter with another bundle of grass. The was a tiny leaf caught up in the green strands. These were swiftly knitted into the   grasses already there. The blackbird flew away, returned, flew away, returned.

The clouds rolled by. The sun arced slowly down the sky. The blackbird continued its trips back and forth across the glade. Tadhg watched in silent awe as the nest took shape in his hand. The blackbird completed it in the russet-gold light of the afternoon, settling down into a basket if its own creation. 

A trance deepened upon the pilgrim. He knew then that he would not move until the eggs were laid, the birds grown and flying on their own journeys beneath the sun. He would not move until the task was complete. Until he was complete. 

Night fell. Crystalline stars wheeled across the sky as the blackbird murmured to Tadhg of its dreams of Creation and fulfillment. The pilgrim, waiting patiently, felt the stirrings of love in his stony heart.


  1. Goodness, that is stunning. The ruin and despair becomes creation and dreams. Nice ...

    1. Thank you! The cycle of rebirth fascinates me.

  2. I could see, feel, smell, taste it all. So well described! You awakened all senses. Your description of this place was so vivid that I could see it! Amazing writing!!


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...