Everything is still. Nothing moves. The wind blows in off the sea but the grass holds still without a rustle, the meadow flowers have stopped their dance, the birds are suspended as if held by invisible strings, coasting on currents of air.

I am up high, as if at the top of the world – or on the edge of the world – clinging to a jagged rock that rises out of the sea. This rock I cling to, it seems to come from nothing, with nothing in sight, no horizon, just the continuous blue of sky mixed with sea.

From up here, though the waves crash with dramatic force far below, their heaving whitecapped fury appears frozen, unmoving.

All is still. A moment ago, there were others, scaling the cliff faces, tottering up and down the ancient stone steps, steps worn away through the ages and by the shuffling of feet – first the feet of the few monks who lived here, now the feet of the thousands of tourists who flock to this historic and religious site.

In this moment, though, I am suddenly alone. It is as though the others have melted away, or perhaps they were never actually here.

I am partway up the craggy rockface. The man-made steps from another time, another millennium, are so narrow that I must place my feet on them carefully, almost sideways. I am climbing slowly, with only the puffins now as my audience, their round little white bellies and bright, multicoloured beaks dotting the brown and grey rocks here and there.

I do not look down. My heart beats wildly.

Behind me and to each side is a sheer drop, hundreds of feet below to what I know are churning, briny waves.

But up ahead, just over the next turn in the stairs, I can see the edge of an alpine meadow. It rests in a crook between two jagged peaks.

I continue my climb up to the meadow and am rewarded with a breathtaking view. Short wind-swept grasses are dotted with tiny white field flowers. The two peaks rise on each side and, like protective walls, they block the strongest ocean winds. Between these rock faces, out beyond the edge of the meadow, is the other side of the ocean. From this vantage point, too, it disappears into blue oblivion.

For a moment, I lie down in the meadow, unwilling to tackle the last leg of the climb to the top. Despite my fear of heights, I have made it this far and I know that when I can gather my courage and continue to the top, I will be rewarded. There, I will be able to touch history.

Monks founded a monastery at the top of this island, possibly as early as the 6th century. Searching for peace and a hermit’s religious life, they climbed into their boats one day and rowed out to this imposing rock, somehow climbed to its peak and, using the stone they found here, built six beehive huts, two oratories, a graveyard and small terraces facing out over the sea. And here they remained until the 13th century.

They grew vegetables on the terraces and survived on these, fish and eggs from the island birds. They also built three wells.

While there is no evidence that it was ever used prior to the arrival of the monks, it feels as though it must have been. There is a myth which tells of the 1400 BCE burial of Ir son of Milesius. More than that, this rock is found in the extreme west and therefore consigned to all that the west in Celtic lore represents – the Otherworld, the afterlife, the place of the gods and magic. Standing here, it is easy to understand why. I can almost see the gods of the sea and the sky clashing in epic battles stretching back forever in time.

Eventually, I pull myself up from the comfort of the grass and continue my climb up the steepening stony staircase. At the final approach, the stairs almost flatten and the land to the side falls away. The drop is paralyzing.

I make my way across the final stretch, nothing more than a ledge on the verge of nothingness, and pass through a stone “doorway.”

Inside the settlement, there is evidence of humanity everywhere, yet it is a soundless and abandoned humanity, cloaked in that noticeable stillness.

The site was meticulously constructed and the carefully-placed hand-hewn stones seem to be exactly as they were left a thousand years ago.

There is a prehistoric beauty here. The stillness is a stillness of the ages. As nothing appears to have moved over the centuries, it is as though even the winds and the rains have not touched these stones.

Standing here, looking out across the blue, I feel time flash backward and forward, and then stop completely as though it has been so for centuries. I feel the power of nature, a coiled energy in the stillness.

As I turn to begin my descent, it is not the shadows of monks I see against the stone walls, but that of a powerful priestess, arms raised, head thrown back as she commands the wind and the rain, the sky and the sea.

In that brief flash, the stillness is momentarily broken and I can see how savage and wild it can be out here.

And then, the shadow is gone, the roaring ceases and all is still once more.



Daily Prompt: For a moment today, time stands still — but you can tweak one thing while it’s stopped. What do you do?

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11 thoughts on “Stillness

    • Thank you! I’ve always wanted to go to Israel. I was supposed to go to the region years ago on an archeological dig, but chose instead to go to Ireland. Ireland was breathtaking, but I still hope to get to Israel.

  1. How breathtakingly beautiful. I would love to go to Ireland, but I doubt I ever will. You have shown me a small piece, however that I can treasure, vicariously…….. : )

    • Well, that’s a lovely sentiment! Glad I could bring you there. I may never get back but lived there for 5 years, once upon a time. Its beauty is breathtaking.

      • Ah, I’m green with envy. A lot of people talk about the, oh, paranormal aspects of Ireland, for lack of a better term, for the moment–I have trouble bringing proper words to mind when I need them. Did you feel any of that? I believe in paranormal, in that para means above, so paranormal means above normal, to me. I do believe there are things that can’t be explained yet, but am not one of those people that take it to extremes, not that there is anything wrong with them, just saying that is not me. I keep an open mind is all. Ireland has such a rich history, as do so many other places, and the stories abound. Just wondering if you felt what a lot of others feel…… Another day, am recovering from a protracted stomach bug and gots some catching up to do, but am looking forward to your thoughts. Good writing and great Blessings, Stubbs

        • What a great question! The truth is, I desperately wanted to feel whatever-that-is. I had studied Celtic Studies and had just graduated before I moved there. I went with all sorts of romantic notions in my head. What I found at the time (1998-2003) was a country ready to forget their history, a country wanting just to move on, move up. The Celtic Tiger was in full swing and many people spoke of making money on technology, looking toward the future, and materialistic interests. I spent most of my time in Killarney, where, being rural, there was less of that than in, say, Dublin or Cork. In Killarney, much of the focus was on having a good time, and listening to good music. That was definitely 2 things I did successfully. What I can say about the majesty of the country is that it is the most beautiful, breathtaking place I have ever been. For 5 years I drank in my surroundings and never once took the beauty for granted. I loved walking the hills, taking the train through the rolling vibrant green fields, looking out over lakes and the ocean, wandering through mossy forests. I was always in awe of the beauty of nature, and the vastness. No matter how many times I tried to capture it in a picture or video, it never did it justice. I’m not sure if that is magic or paranormal. I think it is, just maybe not the paranormal I had initially hoped for. I have written a few posts now about my time there so if you haven’t seen them, you may enjoy them as well.

          I’m sure there will be more to come too!. I found I had trouble writing while I lived there, but now my memories provide me no end of inspiration.
          I hope you feel better!
          – Silverleaf

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