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Fáilte go hÁrainn
Official Guide to the Aran Islands

Brendan & Aisling (A Love Story) – Part 1

It happened one May that Brendan flew from his home in the US, to effect a pilgrimage to Ireland in order to expiate the many sins of his past. He was a pilgrim – a peregrination pro dei amore – for the love of God. After landing at Shannon airport, in his ancestral County Clare, he began his long walk.

He carried a mighty burden on his shoulders and he had to lay it down, lest it crush him. And so he intended to ascend his namesake’s mountain, Mount Brandon in County Kerry, as he had done, once, some years ago. But the going was tough, and there was no one to help him but God. This was to be his crucible. And God did help him. Brendan did not meditate. He prayed.

As he walked, he remembered what an old monk had told him: “When emptying your mind, remember how difficult it can be. So, give your mind something to do…”

This was the core of his Christian faith, the so-called Jesus (or Publican’s) Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, A Sinner. As he trudged along the many miles, The Prayer helped him to focus on what (and Who) mattered most. His beloved dog, Bear, was now dead, and he had no more family to speak of (or to). He felt lost, and terribly lonely.

After several days, he finally reached the base of Mount Brandon, where he stopped and rested until nightfall. He had no intention of beginning his ascent until dark. He did not wish to be seen or heard by anyone in his lamentations. He would do his crying in the dark.

At each boundary (lacht), he threw another stone behind him, down the mountain. Another painful memory jettisoned. When he reached the crest of the mountain a few hours later, he laid in ‘Brendan’s Bed’ and slept for a few hours. Then he arose, fresh, to begin his soulful lamentation.

Only God could hear his painful shrieks of agony and pain. After what seemed like hours of crying and sobbing he collapsed where he lay. And then, at sunrise, an angel visited him in his díseart, gently waking him with the words: “Rise now and descend the mountain, for God has heard your prayers and forgiven you. Walk now in His Light and go to the nearby village where you will meet a young woman whose name is…Aisling.”

Brendan did as he was instructed. Though weary, he walked with new purpose and joy. He literally skipped down the mountain with gratitude. The village of Dalraida lay in the nearby river-valley. At midday he stopped at the local pub called “Murphy’s”, bought a pint of Guinness and sat outside on the terrace, people watching. And fascinating it was too. The Irish – his people – were a wondrous, mythic-minded folk.

After a few minutes, a woman approached him and, quite surprisingly, elected to join him at his table without invitation. She did however introduce herself. “You’d be Brennain” said she. “I’m Aisling”. He thought his heart would stop. She was astonishingly beautiful, with raven-black hair and green eyes. She was what was called ‘the black Irish’ due to the Spanish influence from the 19th century. “I’m here to collect you” she said. He took a long pull on his Guinness and considered her statement.

She enjoyed watching him wipe the foam from his mustache, and smiled. “And who, exactly, told you to do this?” he queried. “The same one who spoke to you this morning – on top of your mountain” she said matter-of-factly. Brendan was astonished, intrigued and bemused. But he had his ‘marching orders’.

They departed together in her small car. Evidently, she was an artist and local organic food supplier. They agreed that he would earn his keep by doing local chores at her small farm, while giving him time and (much needed) privacy to continue his writing. She was wise and respectful enough never to ask to see or know about what he wrote. He had made the mistake in the past of showing some of his writings to others, as a gesture of kindness.

It always backfired, and he found as many of his give-away manuscripts as possible, then burned them in the fire.