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.

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