Ben Bulben


Back Again.

We have all had our hearts broken. Some of ours break more easily than others, some of us do more of the breaking. The unlucky ones have had theirs shattered and the most unlucky of all never have theirs even cracked.

This is not an extraordinary story, but it is a personal one. It is something you most probably have lived yourself in one form or another. It is for those who love to live and live to love.

That big lump of funny shaped Irish rock up there is…well…it’s me. And the other funny shaped lump of rock in the background is a big hill, or a little mountain; it is called Ben Bulben and it sprouts from this green earth in Co. Sligo, in the West of Ireland. Buried in it’s shadow is W.B. Yeats.

Yeats was a nobel lauriate, he was a writer and a poet. He was in many ways great. He was in many ways flawed. This is what made him human. He was also haunted, not by the dead but by the living and the tortured life of unrequited love. This is no life at all.

He loved a woman call Maud Gonne, and with a name like that I suppose it really had to be love. But it was never to be, he could not woo her despite words as sweet as honey. Not even the old chestnut of courting her daughter won her over-and if that didn’t work, well what would?

But snide remarks aside, when my own heart was out of rhythm I found solace in his rhyme. I sank deep into his poetry and it scared me because I could associate with more of it than I wanted to accept. I had loved someone that did not love me, worse still I had absolutely none of the qualifications one needs to build a bridge and get over such a thing!

Everything in moderation; especially moderation.

I made the unforgivable mistake of falling in love with the wrong person. It was a sickly kind of love, born out of convenience. There was more passion than substance, more fire than flame. Less sharing, more blame. Each kiss was like an ice cream; it was sweet in the moment but it left me sick and wanting something that was healthy in the long run. But if too much of a good thing is bad for you, imagine what too much of a bad thing does?

I have been to the edge.

The edge is sharp, the drop is deep.

Out there, there is room only for your own feet and the feet of no other.

I have been to the edge and back.

In the end it all ended in a spectacular fashion: think Hindenberg meets Titanic. That girl and I travelled the long and bumpy curve of ‘strangers to friends, friends tolovers and right back to strangers’. We had come full circle. But travelling in circles just makes you dizzy, and soon that makes you sick. And so it was time to move forward.

I set myself a goal, that I would travel to Ben Bulben at a certain time and when I stood before that rock I would see what I had learned, if I had learned anything at all. Despite the greatness of W.B. Yeats and my aspirations to emulate him in many ways I did not want to live the same mistake he had died with. I saw that rock as a legacy of heart break, a life time spent loving where there was no love; wanting where was no want and lusting where there was no longer passion.

It is said the heart will never be made fully practical until it is made to be unbreakable.

When I finally got there, Ben Bulben did not speak to me when I saw it. It did not loom or whisper, there was no ‘Mufasa in the clouds’ moment. There was just quiet and in it the reassuring fact that I had made it there, which meant I had survived, which was enough of a reason to keep going.

It was however beautiful, but it was windy and cold and so looking at it was not easy. And it taught me an unexpected lesson: that being in the presence of something truly beautiful was not easy and that I should never expect it to be; a mistake I will never never make again.

A journey can be as much about what you are leaving behind as it what you are moving towards. I learned that a journey is less about the destination and more about the company by your side as you travel.

But most of all I learned that the shadow of Ben Bulben is a cold and lonely place to be buried; personally I have learned that to live in a shadow is even colder. It was beautiful journey, but by the end it was time enough to step in to the sun, at least for a little while.

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