Edges Have Ruffles

July 12, 2018

“If you’re not living on the edge,
you’re taking up too much room.”
~African Proverb


Are you, like me, feeling ruffled at the edge of all that’s happening in the United States and around the world? Our borders are invisible edges that some say immigrants have crossed illegally. The cages placed around the displaced immigrant children create sharp edges. The young Thai boys caught in the cave had to negotiate many rough edges in order to be safely rescued.

Many times in my life I have been called to “the edge,” that universal place of great discomfort that hovers between what was and what is becoming. That place where we are symbolically “living in the leap.” We have let go of one trapeze, made the turn in the air, and yet not quite grasping hold of the second trapeze. Do we want to go there? Probably not. Do we have to go there? Yes, if we are to live a fully actualized life of purpose.

One of the world’s most brilliant edges is at Dun Aonghusa, a 3,500-year old promontory ringed fort on the west side of Inis Mor off the west coast of Ireland. After the half-mile hike up to Dun Aonghusa, pilgrims are beckoned to cross through two stone walls. The inner most wall reveals a stone platform, with a 320 foot sheer drop off the edge into the Atlantic Ocean. I have been blessed by visiting this edge on three occasions, each time having a different experience.

In May of 2000 I traveled to Ireland for a month-long solo pilgrimage of the soul. Recovering from a broken ankle, it took me a while to negotiate the rocky path up to Dun Aonghusa. Upon arrival at the inner stone wall, I was met by blazing sun and strong winds. Much too unstable to approach the edge, I stood at a distance watching others perform an ancient ritual. Locals say you must crawl on your belly to approach the edge. This is for safety, and for respect of the spirits of the land. More than one cocky tourist has been swept over the edge, only to meet an untimely and visibly traumatic death. I should also note that this has been the site of more than one suicide. Not wanting to play in either of those realms, I stood safely back and just watched. This was a wise decision, yet also showed me how in many ways I have risked my own adventure by just watching others—vicariously living through others rather than living my own destiny.

My second visit to Dun Aonghusa was in May 2002 while guiding my first sacred site tour to Ireland. With 22 pilgrims following my lead, and with healthy bones this time, I enacted the ancient ritual. It was again sunny, only this time there was no breeze. It was amazingly calm, which helped steady my nerves. A bit shaky, I knelt down, crawled on my hands and knees, and took myself to the literal edge. How exhilarated I felt by looking down the steep drop-off! The water below was churning spirals of green and blue. The puffins were dancing on the air, the sun blessing us all. I even performed a yoga posture—the Cobra—right at the very edge. By first going to the edge myself, I welcomed others to join me. Some could, some could not. This time I learned that each time I take a risk, it not only and empowers me, it empowers others.

May 2006 found me once again on retreat on Inis Mor, and once again I was blessed by sunshine. My walk up to Dun Aonghusa was a brisk one this time, totally trusting where the path would lead. The third visit gave me confidence in the familiar. It was interesting to note that, although the breeze was mild, not one of perhaps 50 tourists was at the edge. I gauged whether this was for a proper reason and decided perhaps they just needed permission. About 20 feet from the edge, I once again dropped to my knees. Saying a silent prayer, I crawled on my hands and knees to the same edge I had visited twice before—the first time as a by-stander, the second time as a hesitant participant. Looking down this time felt like a welcoming home.

Later that morning, relaxing in the soft sun and warm breeze, I opened my journal to begin writing. I was stunned to read a dream from the night before:

Dream, night of 5-11-06

I’m in the driver’s seat of a car high up in a parking garage. There are no barriers around the edges of each level. I am slowly moving forward towards an edge, and cannot figure out how to stop the car. It is on a forward moving path with no option to turn. I frantically try to find reverse, while the car continues to roll towards the edge. I feel panic knowing I will go over the edge and die if I don’t find reverse. At the very last moment, with the car perched precariously on the edge, I find reverse and the car stops. I wake up not knowing if I stopped in time.

Even recalling the dream brings about a sense of dread. But, in truth, it is excitement I feel. I have the knowing and the know-how, and now the confidence to bring the two together. That’s what I wrote 12 years ago.

So here I sit today, at the edge of the New Moon and Eclipse, reflecting on the edge I visited in Ireland many years ago. What does it mean to me today with the many rough edges swirling around me? Am I just going to stand back and watch others come to the edge? Will I remember to pray and take action that is, first, a safe step, and, second, necessary in order to facilitate change? What will I see if I muster up the courage to come to the edge of all that is happening in the world? If I come to the edge, will the feeling of being ruffled go away?

“Listen to the wind,” an inner voice sings to me. “The winds of change are at hand. Let nothing ruffle you. We are ready. Come to the edge and you will see.”

John Denver, “Windsong”


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