Recently, as readers of this blog will have noticed, I have been letting life fill in the blanks. Last week it brought me into the company of the Taoiseach and Ireland’s leading poet as if by “chance”. But as Carl Jung said, there is no such thing as chance. Everything happens for a reason and I am learning one important lesson. In order for extraordinary things to happen you have to do two things: something and nothing.
The “something” is putting oneself out there.
The “Nothing” is waiting for it to happen.
Having said that I woke to a Sunday with no such thoughts in mind. I had my usual busy Sunday schedule. 12.30 ski lesson followed by a Muay Thai boxing session, followed by a swim. But before I could hit the alarm button my ski trainer had cancelled and my boxing instructor had absented himself. Suddenly I had nothing to do.
The afternoon dawns and I decide to go to Killiney, a half hours drive outside Dublin. It is a beautiful part of Dublin, home to rock stars like Bono and Enya. While motoring up the Vico Road something stops me. I pull in and park and get out of my car and look at the stunning view. It’s cold but clear and the sun is breaking free from the straggling clouds. I decide to stroll down the hill to the beach way, way below.
It is steep and I stop on the way to take photos. Finally I make it to bottom. Then my phone dies and my attention is no longer distracted allowing something more interesting to happen.
In front of me is the great sea. It fills the whole horizon and is wild and grey, driven by a great surge tide that makes waves crash on the rocky outcrop just in front of me. There are stairs cut into the rock and I think about climbing them; but as I approach the steps are submerged in a boiling carpet of foam.
I stand still and watch. Every sense in my body is saturated by sound and there is a strong salty tang in the air. The boom of the surf resonates in every cell. The buffeting wind sends chills up my spine while the sun catches the top of the waves, sparks explosions of diamond light. I am hit by a sudden sensory overload.
I shift, burying my feet into the fine sand to steady myself. On my left a courting couple kiss and then move away from the rocks that tower behind us. I go to sit on an outcrop but my attention is caught instead by the intricate design in the strata of the rock and I gaze at it in wonder.
The colour is so delicate, the rock so very ancient formed as the molten lava cooled. I am looking at a sliver of my planet millions of years old. The layers are like the rings of a tree and I find myself in awe of this simple lump of rock.
I sit down and gaze out at the seething ocean. I breathe in and out . . . in and out as I watch the frothing waves crashing at my feet. Another image fills my mind. Comets of ice crashing into our young planet while it was still a smouldering rock. It is these comets scientists believe that brought the water to planet Earth. The water that became our oceans and seas. The water I am now looking at bubbling at my feet.
It is beyond my comprehension and I sit dumbfounded.
It is a while before I can drag myself away, up the hundreds of stairs that will take me back up to the coast road. It is here that I encounter the third part of my everyday miracle. I am wondering up the path and looking out over Killiney Hill when above me a cry echoes out. My head shots up and my eyes dart this way and that until I locate two birds swooping above me in the clear air.
To my untrained eye they looked like birds of prey as they soar. They come together in an aerial embrace then sweep apart. I watched enthralled; my head swivelling like a camera trying to keep them in focus as they dive and soar, driven by the gusting wind. And as I look I can’t quite figure out if the birds are enemies or friends – are they fighting one another or weaving a lover’s dance?
They pass overhead and I circle trying to keep them in view. They are higher now, two small dots disappearing over the brow of Killiney Hill. My own movements stop and for a long moment I stand swaying in the wind, my eyes fixed on the heavens. The clouds have parted and above me the sky is blue and momentarily I am lost in strange bliss.
It is as if I am no longer on the ground but soaring.
I am unchained. Unworried.
I am free.
It is a dog barking that brings me back. I find myself blinking away the vision and standing again on my own two feet. The black Labrador bounds past and then it hits me. I have had an out-of-body experience. Is this what happens as death approaches? Can an experience on earth give us a glimpse of heaven?
A little bit of heaven on Killiney Hill?
Albert Einstein once said: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
On Killiney Hill last Sunday I experienced an everyday miracle. The extra-ordinary on an ordinary sunny day.