Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife.  
The first question was, "Did you bring joy?"  
The second was, "Did you find joy?"

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Arriving in the Cotwolds

My friend Jane and I arrived in a little town called Painswick yesterday. We had a very rude awakening when our little, very old lady from the B & B picked us up at the Gloucester train station. At first she was all cuteness and we thought the great good luck of Wales and Mo and Carol, our welsh caretakers, was going to carry on to the twee little world of small town England. But as we nearly lost our lives in the little sports car with Elizabeth driving a clutch that she could not operate and telling us how the "Blacks" were ruining London and the the "Greens" were driving up the gas prices, we thought life had taken a turn for the worse.

But we took a deep breath and realized that our dear old Elizabeth was probably born in the early 1900's and needed the patience we would accord our grandparents who had lived to see the world change so much, so quickly.

Walking around Painswick is like walking around a is all stone and flower gardens and beauty. And the winding paths led us to a little eatery called Olivia's....where magic happened. We found ourselves a job...for the night.....

I hate to leave you at that junction, but I've just been told I have to vacate the library Internet....just rest assured that the magic of Wales has blessed us...I should say the magic of this trip still continues to sparkle down on me and I cannot wait to tell you more!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Do All Ducks In America Walk on Red Carpets?

This and other welsh miracles await explanation. It seems cruel to keep leading you on, but people, let me tell you that Wales is magic to it's core. The air, the trees, the people, the sea, the sky, the all of it. And I only have a day and half left before I move on to Cornwall. So you shall have to wait.

Today I am in Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas lived the last years of his life. As I am short on time, and nowhere near the writer anyway, I'll let him tell you about this mystical place:

Off and on, up and down, high and dry, man and boy, I've been living now for fifteen years, or centuries, in this timeless, beautiful, barmy (both spellings) town, in this far, forgetful, important place of herons, cormorants (known here as billy duckers), castle, churchyard, gulls, ghosts, geese, feuds, scares, scandals, cherry trees, mysteries, jackdaws in the chimneys, bats in the bellfry, skeletons in the cupboards, pubs, mud, cockles, flatfish, curlews, rain, and human, often all too human, beings; and, though, still very much a foreigner, I am hardly ever stoned in the streets any more, and can claim to be able to call several of the inhabitants, and a few of the herons, by their Christian names. Now, some people live in Laugharne because they were born in Laugharne and saw no good reason to move; others migrated here, for a number of curious reasons, from places as distant and improbable as Tonypandy or even England, and have now been absorbed by the natives; some entered the town in the dark and immediately disappeared, and can sometimes be heard, on hushed black nights, making noises in ruined houses, or perhaps it is the white owls breathing close together, like ghosts in bed; others have almost certainly come here to escape the international police, or their wives; and there are those, too, who still do not know, and will never know, why they are here at all: you can see them, any day of the week, slowly, dopily, wandering up and down the streets like Welsh opium-eaters, half-asleep in a heavy bewildered daze. And some, like myself, just came, one day, for the day, and never left; got off the bus, and forgot to get on again. Whatever the reason, if any, for our being here, in this timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town with its seven public houses, one chapel in action, one church, one factory, two billiard tables, one St. Bernard (without brandy), one policeman, three rivers, a visiting sea, one Rolls-Royce selling fish and chips, one cannon (cast-iron), one chancellor (flesh and blood), one portreeve, one Danny Raye, and a multitude of mixed birds, here we just are, and there is nowhere like it anywhere at all.

But when you say, in a nearby village or town, that you come from this unique, this waylaying, old, lost Laugharne where some people start to retire before they start to work and where longish journeys, of a few hundred yards, are often undertaken only on bicycles, then, oh! the wary edging away, the whispers and whimpers, and nudges, the swift removal of portable objects: "Let's get away while the going is good," you hear.

"Laugharne's where they quarrel with boat hooks."

"All the women there's got webfeet."

"Mind out for the Evil Eye!"

"Never go there at the full moon!"

They are only envious. They envy Laugharne its minding of its own, strange, business; its sane disregard for haste; its generous acceptance of the follies of others, having so many, ripe and piping, of its own; its insular, feather-bed air; its philosophy of "It will all be the same in a hundred years' time." They deplore its right to be, in their eyes, so wrong, and to enjoy it so much as well. And, through envy and indignation, they label and libel it a legendary lazy little black-magical bedlam by the sea. And is it? Of course not, I hope.

From Quite Early One Morning, published by New Directions Publishing Corporation, New York, 1954 Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1956, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1977 The Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas.

Friday, May 23, 2008

This must be Heaven

Well, I have arrived in Wales only to discover that Vernazza was a close second to Heavenly Wales. Craggy and verdunt and filled with the mystical allure one would expect from the land that bore Sean Connery and King Arthur, is Wales.

On the first afternoon, while my traveling companion, Jane, newly arrived from Seattle, slept off her jet lag, I explored the little town of Betws-y-Coed (yeah, I've been there for two days & still can't pronounce it). I stopped at the camping store...okay one of 10 camping stores within a one block radius and I saw postcards from the National Park we were in the middle of (Snowdonia). I started to pull some to send home and also so I could go back to Jane and say...let's go here...and here...and here. I also pulled out a card for my friend Amy which pictured a Celtic cross at sunset. It wasn't the best postcard, but I thought my wise-woman, mystical friend would like it. As I was getting ready to pay I decided the card wasn't really special enough for her, so I went back and put it in the rack.

That's when I saw, right below the Celtic crosses, a card of one of the most beautiful spots ever....I pulled the card....and this magical place was called The Fairy Glenn, and it was within walking distance of where we were staying. For those of you who know my email address...this will be especially significant. Oh, all right, for those of you who don't, its Morganna.queenofthefairies.

Anyway, that's when I knew I had come home. For that is what Wales feels like, the most mystical of homecomings.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reason to See the World Number 312

To discover that $4 a gallon for gasoline in Seattle is cheap compared to the almost $15/gallon they cough up in Ireland! Of course this is probably why their public transportation systems are so good....

Of Course That's The Holy Well!

After being depressed all day Sunday, I decided to go on a guided tour yesterday to some Celtic hot spots in the Irish countryside. I joined a small band of tourists, three from Italy, two from Germany, a couple from Washington State, a mother and daughter from Holland via Curacao, and six young college guys from Kansas University. We were led by a wee Dubliner named Eamon, who came prepared with stories and cds of celtic music and U2.

Being somewhat of a Pagan, I thought that going to some iron-age ruins might rustle up some vitality in my listless spirit. But as we stopped at Fourknocks, an ancient burial tomb of the early Pagan people, Mellifont Abbey, the remains of an ancient Cistercian Church and a few other early early Christian sites I was vaguely intrigued, but I didn't get goosebumps or any other kind of strange signs that the my ancient ancestors were speaking to me. I will say, however, that the company of our little traveling band was really enjoyable, and until I discovered that the young men from Kansas were Bush loving, anti-Obama-ites, I was feeling very hopeful about the future of our country with these curious, humble young men in the picture.

After a tourist gouging lunch stop, we headed for the Hills of Tara. This is a spot better seen from a helicopter in that it is the grass covered remains of an iron-age Pagan village. It was the seat of power of the early Celtic peoples. There is a very phallic stone set on the top of the hill that the high kings of Ireland had to embrace while calling out into the wind in order to transition into their reigns. Other than that all that remains is a hill, or series of hills that were man made long ago.

I was sure that as I stepped onto this sacred firmament my whole being would light up, explode with life and synergy. But as I set my foot on the hill, nothing happened. I set off in the direction of what seemed from ground level like a spiral path leading to the High King stone, winding around I approached the royal rock, hugged it just to make sure I wasn't the new king & stood there wondering, just a little, what was wrong with me that I felt no visceral affinity with this ancient place.

I looked around and noticed my group reading plaques and climbing the tomb hill, but my eyes were drawn to two beautiful little trees seemingly outside the encampment. They were two of many trees along the border. They, like the others, were covered in little white flowers. But something about them called to me, so I walked over to them, away from everyone else, away from all the plaques telling me what was historic and important. As I got closer I noticed that these trees had all sorts of things tied to them: scarves, socks, shoelaces, plain old string, bibs, baby clothes. It was utterly mystifying and enchanting at the same time.

I immediately removed the head scarf I was wearing and was going to tie it to the tree. But that didn't seem right for me. Then I heard what I thought was the call to head back to the bus. I panicked. I knew I had to leave something at this spot, but I didn't want to hold up the tired and cold group.

As I stood under and between these two fantastic trees wondering if I should leave my scarf or rip something off my clothing, I noticed that there were all sorts of coins inserted into the nooks and crevices of the trees as well. That's it, I thought. I pulled out a .50€ and jammed it between two branches.

It fell to the ground.

I picked it up and set it carefully and deliberately into the tree. At the same time I said a very hurried, but honest prayer/wish. And then I ran back to the bus, only to discover that I had misinterpreted the call I'd heard, and we had a bit more time. So I went out onto the hills of Tara and took a deep breath and sat for a few minutes with the land.

When I went back to the bus I asked Eamon if he knew the story of the two trees and why there were things tied to it.

He said, "Oh, that's where the Holy Well is. It was custom to tie pieces of clothing that belonged to a sick person to the trees closest to the Holy Well in order to be cured."

Amazed, I said, "But I didn't see any water."

"Well, that's because it is a spring that lies under those two trees. The ancient people believed that the source of the great rivers were Holy sites and so named them after the Pagan goddesses, they were that Holy."

"I didn't leave a piece of clothing, I left a coin."

"Oh, well that works too. You know, it's like an offering."

Indeed, I thought, it was an offering, not to cure a sickness, but as thanks for this beautiful land, thanks for the abundance of opportunities I have had to connect to the people on this planet, to the planet itself. It was an offering to the great goddesses of this ancient land in hopes that I might be lucky enough to continue to open my heart to the beauty of this world and to learn how it is that I might repay my debt, how I might learn to put everything I have been given to use. As trite as it might sound, it was an offering to the Holy Well so that I might learn how it is that I can help make this grand and brilliant world a better place.

My mother asked me on Sunday, after I called her and told her I was depressed and lonely, if I wanted to come home. I said no, but I kinda felt a little like I did.

But then, yesterday, though there were never goosebumps, it must be said that something ancient called out to me and pulled me closer at the Hills of Tara.

Perhaps I am coming closer to the home within myself. This stumble around Europe, this lost feeling of the last few days might just be the right path after all.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Getting Lost

After a week of exploring Northern Ireland with The Paperboys, I am on my own once again. This time in Dublin. I like Dublin. I have a nice little room with my own bath in a B & B run by one Mary and Joseph...seriously...glad there was room in this inn...and I am tracking down tickets for the Abbey or Gate, got a tour of Celtic ruins lined up, and in three days I get to see my friend Jane in Wales for hiking and pub-crawls.

I am, though, to tell truth, a wee bit down. I feel a bit homesick and sad after hanging out with Tom, Geoff, Brad, Matt and Kenny. It was fun living tour life for a week, traveling with a "real band" as Geoff said, listening to my favorite music everyday, being a small part of the trials and tribulations of life on the road: sound checks, bad hotels, the effects of no Internet service. It was such a joy to get to know the musicians better. It is always chancy when you love an artist/artists and then you really get the opportunity to know them as people...will that love carry through? In this case it did. Without speaking out of school, let me say that each of the people I got know on this trip are extraordinary human beings, making their way in this world with humor and creativity, compassion and integrity. I feel blessed that as I journey here in Europe I was invited to share a bit of their journey as well.

But it was the second parting of my ten week sojourn that simply undid me. Leaving my mom and sister and Vernazza itself in Italy was equally wrenching. It is interesting that leaving home to start my trip I was filled with so much joy and enthusiasm, I felt not that I was leaving something behind, but that I was going toward something great and undiscovered. So it has surprised me to feel such deep sorrow in these partings from people and places that I will surely see again. I am experiencing the kind of childlike sadness that I used to have when my big brothers and sister would leave home for long stretches of time. I even chose last night to leave the band before they played their last gig, a gig I had really been looking forward to, on the excuse that I needed to find my way from the country into the city sooner rather than later. It was just like when I was young and my brother Pete, who lived far away, would come home and on his last night in town I always made plans for a sleep over, and then cried for days afterwards, because I hadn't had the chance to say good-bye.

I know there is something rich and deep for me to discover in this sorrow, something about connection and open heartedness. In fact, I am certain that my decision not to cross my arms over my heart, to keep myself open-hearted on this trip is at the crux of my heart-break. So, I suspect that my ability to connect with the people around me is blossoming in a way it might not have since I was a this can only be good.

But, for now, I feel a bit lost.

I always say, though, you can't really learn about a place unless you get lost there.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where's Morgan?

Newcastle, Northern Ireland.

I've been rescued from city life and the little Pakistani man in my seedy hotel who tried to come into my room uninvited, by my dear friends, The Paperboys. They've invited me to hang out with them for a few days, so I am getting some rest from big city life and decision making. As an added bonus, I got to see them play one of the best gigs ever in Belfast.

As some of you know, it is a wee bit hard for me to let people help me out. While I travel and try to figure out what the world is trying to tell me on this journey, I think the little and big daily gifts of a helping hand from strangers, friends and family might be one of the things I am meant to learn from. Either way, my gratitude grows daily.

As usual there are stories to tell, but I ask once again for your patience.

Love to you all!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reason Number 922 to See the World

How else would you discover that there are such things as wall calenders with hunky young Roman Catholic Priests of the Month sold at souvenier shops in Rome.

Seriously, people. I just want to know who this is catering to?

Strangest Thought So Far

Okay, please forgive me for sharing this with you, if offends in any way....BUT, as I was trudging through the Vatican Museums, through the labyrinth of galleries, following little yellow signs to the "Chapelle Sistene", along with hordes of other people, I found myself thinking, quite by accident, that if the Roman Catholic Church ever wanted to get into the business of mass genocide, all they would have to do is promise people a peek at Michelangelo's masterpiece. We were sheep, and at times, it felt like we were, indeed headed for the slaughter. Once in the room, I'd like to say the feeling abated. But if you have never been there, let me tell you it is not a big room for the hundreds and hundreds of people crammed into it.

That said, if that had been my last vision on Earth, I would have left this life filled with the sight and memory of unimaginable beauty.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Reason Number 627 to See the World

To see how the world sees you. I am still walking around in my same body, with my same life, and the same personality, but out here there is a whole new set of eyes, a new batch of teachers. Every moment, every nod with a passing stranger gives me a slightly new perspective of myself, of the other people who live on this planet, and how I might live on it differently and with them. Tiny little lessons, each step, each glance is a moment to see something new.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Just a sip

I have arrived safely in first stop in the trip where I am entirely on my friends to stay mom and sister to share the sights with.

It seems oddly portentious that when I found the street that my pensione is on there were two sets of street numbers, one set in blue, the other in red. One set went up, one set went down; I had to make a choice. Which could possibly be the right one?

I went the wrong way.

I spent the rest of the afternoon running in circles, quite literally. Florence is a maze of curved streets wrapped around each other. I felt I needed to see the important things, the duomo, the David, the Arno, the city bathed in sunset light, don't even get started on the museums. I am only here for a few short hours really. I arrived at 3pm and leave tomorrow morning for Rome. Around in circles I went.

I found the David. He is huge, massive, beautiful. I wanted to touch him all over. Seriously. Perhaps it is being in Italy, being ogled at every turn, watching people neck on every park bench, but I wanted to lay down next to David and, well, you know. Instead I went out into the noisy world again and struggled to find the way into the Duomo.

Then I stopped, abruptly and realized that I was running around acting like I was never coming back to Florence. So, I thought about it and knew that all I really wanted was to see the sun set over Tuscany, to take that first sip of this magical place and trust that I would get to come back later and drink it all in.

So that's what I've done...climbed to the top of the hill and watched the city turn gold and pink. I yearned to be out in the countryside with some huge Italian family drinking wine in a vineyard, or to be snuggled up like all the other sunset watchers with the one I love. But in that too, I tried to remember that I will drink all those kinds of things in, when the time is right. Now is the time for communing one on and Florence, me and Rome, me and Ireland.

Walking home I felt my body give out from all the hiking in the Cinque Terre, from racing through Florence, so I am going back to my little hotel to sleep.

But I needed to say goodnight to someone, so "Buenaserra, my friends."

Tomorrow, Rome, wish me luck!

Monday, May 5, 2008

"In the morning by the station, in the evening by the sea."

Thats what Massimo the owner of The Blue Marlin Cafe said to me last night as I sauntered to the water at sunset. "You look lika you belong here, you have de rydem of this place."

He is right. Being in Vernazza is, for me, like being carried around in a warm pocket, cozy and comfortable.

I want to tell you about all the souls I know now, Antonio and Michelle, Valerian, Enrico, Penelope. These people who say, "Caio" to me as I walk through the town. Even the people whose names I don't know, but who recognize me, we nod, we exchange "buenaserra"s. There is swimming in the sea and walking through the olive groves, there are wild cats, like me, who roam the streets.

But once again, I leave you hanging. It is my last evening in town. The sun is thinking about lowering into the sea, the wine is being poured. My mother and sister go home tomorrow and I go onto Florence, then Rome. After, the cooler climbs of Northern Ireland. I see now that this blog is going to be a series of teasers, then when I return, I will spend the summer writing all the stories on my computer that sit safely in my heart and my journal, waiting for a comfortable chair and a free computer to ease the transition onto this webpage.

Bear with me, the time will arrive sooner than I can imagine it. In the meantime, I go out into the winding comfortable streets, and walk comfortably to the sea.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Oldest Trick in the Book

Yesterday while I was coming out of a little bar in Vernazza I spied a gold coin on the ground. Being a good luck penny picker upper from way back, naturally I bent down to snatch it up. When I got my little fingers on it I realized that it was glued to the ground. At that same second a host of cheers erupted behind me where the Italian men were waiting for just such a moment and just such a victem.

It was beautiful.

I cheered back.

I think Italy and I are gonna get along fine.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


My mother and sister and I arrived in the Cinque Terre today in Italy. Once again, I find myself hampered by internet cafe technology and the sheer expense of a minute of online time, so this will be brief and imageless. Though if you click on my itinerary on the side you can see a picture of the town I am currently in.

As soon as we stepped of the train I fell in love, clear down into the depth of love like only happens a couple of times in a lifetime. It is almost as deep as when I first heard The Paperboys play...yes, believe is fitting, perhaps that Brad, the banjo player from the Paperboys first suggested that I visit, then my friend Samara told me about it. To the two of them, I owe a wealth of gratitude.

To all of you who have sent me messages and suggestions, know that your love and your ideas are sinking in and I am carrying them around fervently in my heart and head and trying to arrange my schedule in such a way that I might get to certain places, like the Isle of Skye and Sienna.

My mom and sister await.

I promise you stories soon....some beautiful tales, some harrowing ones too.

And from this beautiful spot, both outside and in my heart, I send you all love!