An Ohio cousin told me at the family reunion one summer about his recent glorious trip to Ireland. I had been there several times, so we swapped favorite memories, but I didn’t tell about the day I visited Blarney Castle.
I had dismissed it as too touristy, but my parents insisted we go. I relented, and, as I climbed through the old dark castle, began to get more devout feelings about this whole thing. What if kissing the Blarney Stone did confer on me a little eloquence? Would I complain? Or maybe a touch of poetry–hadn’t I been carrying my paperback Yeats all over Ireland?
Here’s what happens at the Blarney Stone: lying on your back, you lean your upper body over a precipice with your head lowest, clinging to safety bars while an old man holds your legs and the local photographer snaps your picture. It’s over before you have time to wonder if it’s dangerous or if you look foolish. I went first and then watched my father. To my dismay, he was being directed to kiss the stone just below the one I had. Of course! You could see it was worn. But upside-down, things hadn’t been so evident. I had kissed the wrong stone! Did that mean that in five minutes I would start to talk in jibberish?
The others went off to the gift shop. I would try to redeem the day by visiting the sacred Druid groves on the grounds. Since it was past high tourist season, I found myself alone inside the ring of ancient cypress trees where Druids had placed ceremonial rocks, offered sacrifice and, I presume, taken cover from the eternal Irish rain. It was a different world, shadowy and mysterious. I could understand why it had been considered a sacred place. Nearby I saw a small sign, “Wishing Stairs.” I ducked under the stone arch and down the stairs, inventing large, happy wishes, including one for eloquence, all the way to the bottom. There!
Looking for my parents near the parking lot, I heard a woman telling her friend, “Yes, you walk down the stairs backwards and your wishes are granted.” What did going down frontwards mean, then? I dared not imagine.
I could almost hear the ancient spirits of the isle having a good chuckle over this silly American.by