Monday, February 7, 2011

Can you call it class when you're climbing in ruins?

Today began our exploration of the ancient ruins of Ireland.... It was a long day, but lots of fun- full of climbing, laughing, running, screaming, and other craziness.
Our first site of the day was a place called Newgrange. It was an ancient burial tomb that is older than the pyramids! It is a large dome shape that has rocks around the walls and grass on top. (See Facebook for a picture). The coolest thing about this place is its alignment with the sun. Exactly on the winter solstice, light enters through a small space right above the door and illuminates the entire center chamber. It's incredible! But since only 20 people can be in there at a time, they hold a drawing to see who the lucky ones are. Last year 25,000 people applied.
From there we went to the ruins of an abbey and got to climb around on all the rocks. This is the best way to do class! After that, we went to a monastery that had 3 high crosses and a round tower that date back to the 10th century. The crosses on top of some of the old gravestones were gorgeous. But what struck me the most was going around and looking at all of the gravestones. It is strange to think that once this was a life. This was someone's mother, father, brother, sister. And when they died, their relatives gathered and mourned right where I was standing. But now, all that is left, is that marker. It's a dark morbid though, I know. But sometimes, I think we try to ignore death. The reality is it comes for everyone. Standing there today, I realized just how grateful I am that I can look death in the face and know that it is not the end. Heaven waits on the other side. For I know, "To live is Christ, but to die is gain"!
We then drove to the Hill of Slane and later the Hill of Tara, both of which are important  in the story of St. Patrick. You'll have to look up the story because it's hard to summarize, but more or less what happened was St. Patrick lit a fire that only the High King was supposed to light. It was a signal fire to start a widespread celebration. Since he did this, he was arrested and brought before the king. As a result, he was able to witness to the man. Apparently, he spoke so eloquently the king's anger was pacified and Patrick was allowed to preach to the pagan army. Pretty incredible! Both of the hills were beautiful places to visit. At the Hill of Slane we were able to climb on more ruins. It is fun to imagine what these places would have looked like in all their glory. They would have been impressive structures. At Tara, we ran up and down the rolling hills and even managed to find some sheep! Sadly, they were not super friendly and we couldn't get close enough to pet them.
All in all, a pretty fun day. I can't really complain when my classes are taking place among the ruins and rolling hills!

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