Ambivalence is a wonderful tune to dance to. It has a rhythm all its own. –Erica Jong


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

We’ve all been there. Caught between yes or no, stay or go, do this or do that. Wafting between sensing and knowing. Between listening to the voice within or the calling from the outer world. Some say this is ambivalence, what the dictionary defines as “simultaneous conflicting feelings.” The origin of the word ambivalence comes from Latin: ambi- “both” + valentia “strength.” What if both yes/no or stay/go is where we find our strength? Not in the polarities, but in the third aspect that draws the two together? This is the core teaching of The Anam Cara Journey whose pathway is the Triple Spiral. For example…

A mentoring client once came to me confused and distraught over a long-time relationship. She was caught in the tug of push-pull. Push him away or pull him closer? Is this relationship right or wrong? The ultimate question was: stay or go? Her ambivalence was intoxicating, fueling the monkey mind to keep spinning a story of confusion. No wonder she didn’t know which way to turn. I felt dizzy just witnessing her inner turmoil. This is where the Triple Spiral became the teacher.

For this exercise, I asked her imagine a triangle. One point represented go, one represented stay, and the third represented ambivalence. I gave her 3 tissues with the instruction to place on the floor, one at each of the 3 points. Then I asked her to identify which point was which—go, stay, ambivalence. From a distance, we observed the dynamic that was spinning in her head. But what shifted the spinning was when I asked her to stand at each of the 3 points. To step into her monkey mind.

GO – Stand in that place and look at Stay and Ambivalence.
STAY – Stand in that place and look at Go and Ambivalence.
AMBIVALENCE – Stand in that place and look at Go and Stay.

She did this, at first in a jerky kind of way, almost marching between points, scowling the whole time. But soon her face softened. The movements between became a dance of sorts. Eventually jerky eased into flow as her frown softened into a smile. It was a joy to witness, reminding me of my own monkey mind when I’m dwelling in ambivalence. We are not caught or held hostage by any of the 3 points. So why not bring them together? Invite ambivalence into the dance. Do this with curiosity and wonder, letting go of any outcome.

We purposely didn’t process what happened. I wanted her to embrace the dynamics of the experience. To integrate what just happened. No one spiral holds the power. It is the three spirals together that hold the power which will ultimately lead to an informed decision.
A few months later she did leave the relationship. She believes the Triple Spiral exercise helped her come to that conclusion. Both parties flourished after the breakup. “Why didn’t I leave sooner?” she wondered. Haven’t we all asked that question, whether about a relationship, a job or a move?

So today, on the New Moon, I ask–Why didn’t she leave sooner? Why didn’t you leave sooner? Why didn’t I leave sooner? Perhaps because we find an odd comfort in ambivalence, “…simultaneous conflicting feelings,” because it’s known. By making a decision, stepping out of ambivalence, we make ourselves vulnerable. And remember this. We cannot flourish without being vulnerable. Love, of the other and/or self, requires vulnerability. What supports us is being rooted in our Truth, and living from that place of knowing. We all know what we want and don’t want. What step are you willing to take today?
Check out this short YouTube video of one of my favorite songs from childhood. Do you see the three trees, and how lassie and laddie roamed? Crazy!!!

Did You Ever See a Lassie? | Song for Kids by Little Fox

Spring Cleaning

March 12, 2017

“It’s time for a spring cleaning of your thoughts, it’s time to stop to just existing it’s time to start living.” ― Steve Maraboli,  Speaker, bestselling Author, and Behavioral Scientist

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Years ago in a metaphysics class, we were studying the scientific principle that “nature abhors a vacuum.” It is also a spiritual principle. If we want something new in our life, we must make space. When we create the open space, we must be vigilant about what we fill it with. Because it will get filled, either by more of the same, or something gloriously new.

In the spring, our class assignment was to clean out a closet, a junk drawer, a messy glove compartment, or whatever area in our life where there was serious clutter. This sounded silly to me, but I was willing to do it.

The assignment arrived at a time when I desperately wanted to be released from my long-time job producing a live morning television talk show, while longing to write and produce documentaries. I had taken a summer off to write and produce a documentary on child sexual abuse. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, including an Emmy Award nomination. Bitten by the documentary bug, I begged and pleaded with my bosses to allow me to work on documentaries full time. I created a proposal that demonstrated why this would benefit the television station, and not just me personally. Still, my bosses said no. I was growing despondent. Doing the cleaning out ritual couldn’t hurt.

I chose the closet of my guest bedroom. It was small, and had a built-in chest of drawers. It was my expanded version of a one junk drawer. All drawers were stuffed to the gills with stuff. Random clothes were hanging on the rack, while a waist high pile of junky items cluttered the floor. It took a good half day to complete this project. I took a load of stuff to Goodwill, and put much of the other stuff in my garage for a future garage sale.

Once the closet was emptied, I then cleaned it–sweeping, dusting, and wiping it down. In its empty and clean state, the closet looked huge. My voice echoed in the emptiness. Throughout the rest of the weekend I would step into the cleansed closet from time to time, wanting to feel the good vibes. As Sunday evening approached, I remembered that I would likely face again a rejection regarding my desire to be a full-time documentary producer. In utter despair, I stepped into the closet and closed the door. There I stood, alone, in the dark, in a totally empty closet. I said aloud, “Okay, Universe. I’ve done my part. Now you do yours. Provide!”

I went to bed that night and slept very well. At the very least, I had cleansed my negative thinking. Early Monday morning, arriving at work at 6:30am, the first person I saw in the Channel 2 hallways was another early morning producer. He knew of my desire to leave the morning talk show grind for wider pastures in the world of documentaries. His eyes brightened when he saw me. He walked fast towards me and said, “Have you heard? Channel 8 has an opening for a documentary writer/producer?”

Ah, the Universe had provided, I inwardly chuckled. Not only did I eventually get the job at Channel 8, I also enjoyed the satisfaction of a clean closet. Note that this guest room would eventually be a bedroom for my young step-kids, with the closet drawers filled with their clothes and toys. An even bigger dream had manifested!

The Void

February 27, 2017

“Worry not if you are in darkness and the void sucks you in further. This is not the place we go to die. It’s where we are born and our stories begin.” ― Kamand Kojouri, writer/poet

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

As Easter approaches (April 16), I am reminded of a Sunday mass in the little Irish village of Ballyvaughan.  I heard the priest remind his flock that Easter is not a day, it is a season. Whether or not we choose to celebrate Easter through Christian practices and traditions, we are dwelling in a resonate field that recognizes renewal. By definition, renew means to “restore to freshness or vigor.” By the laws of nature, to renew, something must first die. To die means that something must enter The Void. The trick is to not get lost in The Void.

My first conscious encounter with The Void took place twenty-some years ago when I resigned from a long-term job to pursue a new vocation. A minister friend encouraged me to take time off between the jobs. “You need to spend some time in The Void before jumping into the new,” she said, and recommended I read the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges. The author’s last name was perfect, as he demonstrated how to cross the bridge from the past, showed us how to not get stuck in The Void, before we successfully landed on the other side of the bridge. Sounds simple, but for most of us The Void is something to be avoided. But, as Bridges said, it can be a rich time of self- reflection and personal growth.

This academic year was the first time since 2006 that I have not offered my nine-month women’s program. I felt the need for a break. Not because it wasn’t fulfilling work, but because I wanted to step back and re-evaluate. I purposely entered The Void, knowing it would be uncomfortable at times but also a time to renew. The big move last summer from the city to the country was part of that process. In order to renew, I had to withdraw. To do that, I had to take the risk of shaking the spiritual container that holds the body of my work. I knew that some of the events and ceremonies I have traditionally offered would go away. My mind often spun thoughts of concern that my work was done. Maybe I’ve gone as far as I can go. Maybe I’ve fulfilled my sacred contract for this lifetime. Maybe I should retire and fade into the mists. Maybe, maybe, maybe. What if? I don’t know. Maybe. Ugh.

Remembering the relevance of The Void, when I had those thoughts I immediately shifted my thinking and intentions. That’s the key to crossing the bridge. To engage with The Void. To look it fully in the face. To dance with it. To sing to it. To pray into it. But don’t forget to name the necessary feelings that arise as a result of engaging with The Void. Then, remembering the idiom “nature abhors a vacuum,” we imbue The Void with something positive and regenerative.

All too often we find The Void to be so uncomfortable that we drift or run back to what was familiar and predictable. Misery and inertia return. Conversely, that discomfort can also push us to leap into new territory before we’re ready. Fear takes the lead. But remember this. The Void can be our friend. Out of my current Void came a surge of excitement when a past mentoring client reminded me of one of our sessions. “That changed my life,” she said. Our eyes locked as she continued. “You should really be offering your groups again.” In that moment I realized how much I had missed facilitating women’s circles. “I agree,” was my hearty reply. My time in The Void was well spent.

Stay tuned for news about my next Anam Cara Journey women’s circle!


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

It was the morning after the November 8th election. I wanted to stay in bed with the warm blankets over my head. I recall saying something similar to a therapist years ago when I was going through a rough spell. “Then do it,” she advised. “Put a blanket over your head and just be with it.” And so I did, and continue to do so when the going gets rough, and, as the daily news reveals, when the rough gets going. The key is to stay awake while I’m taking refuge under my blankies. I can almost year Rumi whisper, “Don’t go back to sleep!” That is both an invitation and a challenge.

It’s no secret that I am a news hound and not because I worked in broadcasting. It’s because I have an insatiable sense of curiosity. (Some say it’s because I’m Irish and therefore I’m nosey.) A news story is an invitation for me to learn, to understand, to figure out how an executive order impacts my life and the world around me. The challenge is to stay neutral. I often tell my mentoring clients—“Put on your archetypal detective hat and explore.”  Because the news since January 20th has been mostly shocking and depressing, I occasionally invite myself to retreat and hide under the blankies. It is there that I nurse my wounded spirit. I don’t stay there, but I do go there—unapologetically. Feelings make me human.

My dear mother, now departed nearly 19 years, had a habit of saying to me me, “You don’t feel that way,” or, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” I know she was trying to protect me, but in this case her intentions took me down a hellish road of confusion. It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I was finally able to identify a real feeling. Now, in my mid-60s, and after this bizarre election, my feelings have been all over the map. At times I feel discouraged. Sometimes I shake my head and mutter WTF under my breath. Other times I step outside and take several deep, cleansing breath. I remember that joy is also a feeling, and I’m entitled to it. So where do we find our joy in the midst of so much chaos? For me, I turn to Nature.

“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.”
Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American Lawyer

In the Northern Hemisphere we are teetering between winter and spring. What was cold and grey is in the process of becoming warm and green. Could this be similar to my perceived need to hide under the blankies? Because I’m not quite ready to say spring has sprung? By that I mean I’m not quite ready for the rebirth of our country under new leadership. Under the covers this morning, while I lingered in bed before rising, a meditation from years ago came to mind.

An old crone wagged her finger in my face and said, “You’re trying to give birth quietly and cleanly. Birth is noisy and messy. Now get on with it.” Today I think she would add, “And don’t go back to sleep!”


Most People

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives
a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” – Oscar Wilde

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Back in the late 1970s, I was a twenty-something year old promotions assistant at KATU-TV, the ABC affiliate in Portland, Oregon. At a programming meeting, I mustered up the gumption to contribute to the visioning dialogue. I began with, “Most people…”  After I stated my claim, the general manager turned on me. “What is your source to back up the claim?” I was mortified, and can still feel a mild twinge of residual angst as I type this. He was right. In truth, I was stating an opinion, not a fact. What do I know about most people?

Last week, on Facebook, I read a poem titled “Most People.” It triggered the memory of the TV meeting many decades ago. Jay Simser is a long-time friend from my youth in Ames, Iowa. (Our mothers were in Eastern Star together. We’re sure they’re marching around in their fancy gowns Heaven!) Jay has given me permission to share his poem.

Ask yourself, do I want to be like most people, or be more like myself? I know where I stand. Do you?

Most People by Jay Simser, Retired Educator
Ames, Iowa

Most people sing just one song
give just one speech,
have just one conversation –
usually with themselves.

Most people dance
just one dance,
walk just one walk
Go to just one place – many times.

Most Rock Stars give the same concert
over and over.
Most comedians tell the same joke –
although sometimes with different punch lines.

Most Authors who write just one book
can do it many times.

Most politicians have just one idea –
usually someone else’s.
If you change your audience no one knows you are boring!

Some people however
Sing several songs,
Dance many dances,
Walk in different worlds.

Some people have endless conversations with many people.

Some people never listen
but others always do.

Some people stand out and stand up.

They are original, diverse, endlessly fascinating shining stars.

Jay Cole Simser
April 25, 2005

The Edge

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


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

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 and made the turn in the air. We should be prepared to grasp the new trapeze. Do we want to go there? Probably not. Do we have to go there? Yes, if we are to live a conscious life of purpose. That is edge upon which I am hovering as 2016 comes to a close and I prepare to move into yet another New Year.

One of the world’s most brilliant edges is at Dun Aonghasa, 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 Aonghasa, 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 with 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 Aonghasa. 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 Aonghasa 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 Aonghasa 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.

Reflecting on my three treks to Dun Aonghasa, I recall the mixed feelings of caution with a dab of dread.  But, in truth, it is excitement I felt. Today I have the knowing and the know-how, and now the confidence to bring the two together. That’s the edge upon which I’m dwelling as 2016 comes to a close. As 2017 arrives, will I just watch, or hesitantly participate, or be an active participant? I get to choose, and so do you!

Christians and Pagans – Can we be friends?

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles;
but today it means getting along with people.” — Mahatma Gandhi


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

One December day, many years ago, I got a phone call from my mom. She was having a theological dilemma. I could hear it in her voice. Very tentatively, and precisely, she asked, “So, if you don’t believe in Jesus, then should I not get you a Christmas present?” She was dead serious. I was flabbergasted and couldn’t wait to dive into another juicy spiritual dialogue with the woman who gave birth to me.
Previously I had explained to her that I don’t believe that Jesus is my savior. I believe he was a master teacher. A profound role model. A way shower. A few days after this conversation she phoned me with news. “I was telling my bus driver today, a very nice young Christian woman, about your beliefs. She told me I should get down on my knees and pray for you because you are a sinner.” Which led me to tell Mom that I don’t believe I am a sinner. I was born of Original Love. I make mistakes and miss the mark. When I get the learning, I strive to make amends and move on.

“So are you Christian?” she eventually asked. Out of my mouth came these words. “I’m outside the box of Christianity, but inside the circle of God.” That was our moment of connection. “Got it!” she shouted. Religion no longer mattered between us. Spirituality took its place. The Christ Consciousness guided many more dialogues between us during her dying process. I miss the depth of that sharing and exploring, and yet remembering it inspires me to re-visit the meaning of Christmas. Am I Christian or Pagan, or does it matter?

Singer/songwriter Dar Williams says it beautifully in her clever holiday tune, The Christians and the Pagans.

Dar Williams – THE CHRISTIANS and THE PAGANS – live in concert from Teaneck, NJ

If the Christians and the Pagans can sit together at the table, “…finding faith and common ground the best way they are able,” then we too can find common ground—if we look for it. That’s my intention this holiday season. To savor all of the many sights and sounds of the Winter Solstice and Christmas. Pagans celebrate the birth of the SUN. Christians celebrate the birth of the SON. We are all one, and, goddess knows, we’re all in this together.

My Close Encounter with Botox

“Some people are walking around with full use of their bodies
and they’re more paralyzed than I am.”  — Christopher Reeve


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

It was about this time 12 years ago when I had a mutual birthday lunch with a younger friend. I recall saying that I was okay with aging, except now my crow’s feet are falling and they can’t get up. She suggested Botox. I laughed until she pushed aside her bangs and showed me a remarkably un-lined forehead and no frown marks between her eyebrows. Yep, she was getting Botox and had for quite some time. My first question was the cost. It was a mere $150. That’s when I decided to do it but keep it a secret, even from my husband.

The procedure wasn’t that difficult. Tiny little zaps here and there, with the promise of looking much younger than my 53-year old self. Feeling smug, and ever so youthful, I arrived at the front desk of the clinic to pay. “That will be $450,” the receptionist said. How could that be when my friend only paid $150? That’s when it dawned on me—because she was 14 years younger she needed fewer injections. Adding $450 to my credit card in early December was sobering. “What have I done?” I thought. The question faded as women friends began to remark on my youthful appearance.

You look so relaxed…
Did you just return from vacation?
Are you doing a new skincare product?
Have you replaced your old makeup for new?

I loved the questions. But even more I loved my answer. “It’s Botox!” Every single woman leaned in for a closer look, followed by my first question, “How much did it cost?”

It was fun for the first week or two, but after that, not so much. I could not move my usually expressive eyebrows. My eyelids created a landslide, almost obscuring my usually lush eyelashes. Worst of all, it felt like someone was constantly grabbing and squeezing both eyebrows. Constantly!!!! When I returned for a follow up appointment, this is what I was told.
“Oh, no worries. That’s just your paralyzed muscles trying to talk to your awake muscles. It will go away in a few months and then you’ll return for more.” Once again I wondered, “What have I done?” It didn’t take me long to answer that question. But first, understand that I have no judgment around you or anyone else who chooses Botox. If it makes you feel better, and you can afford it, then go for it.

The learning that emerged for me was around how I was feeling about aging. This as opposed to how aging was making me look. At 53 I realized I had entered what Irish writer John O’Donohue called the “autumn of my life.” The dead and useless aspects of my life were encouraging me to let go, just as a massive maple tree sheds her multi-colored leaves in autumn. Do you think the maple tree thinks, “Oh No! I’m losing my leaves! I’ll look awful! I’m old! I’m going to die soon!”

Therein lies the invitation to love and embrace my aliveness, at whatever age. I will soon turn 66. I intend to do so with gusto. I can’t twerk my bum, but I can my eyebrows. My husband still likes it when I coyly bat my eyelashes. Today I declare, I am awake, and so is my face. But, dang, those crow’s feet continue to fall and can’t get up. I wonder if there’s an alarm for seniors when our crow’s feet finally hit the floor.
My Favorite Things-Senior Words
Bill Horn Show

She Who Stands Alone

“What we’re about, at this time, is being midwives for the New Paradigm, even as we are also being hospice workers for the Old.”  James O’Dea, Irish-born activist, author and educator


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

This time last week I was giddy with excitement knowing that our next president would be a woman. I remembered that when my mother was born, her mother couldn’t vote. I rejoiced that this year my 18 year old grandniece would vote for the first time. On her ballot was a woman’s name. My grandniece had choice, and she chose Hillary Clinton. The polls said Clinton was ahead. The punsters agreed. Even astrologers and psychics predicted her win. But it wasn’t to be.

By midnight Tuesday my giddy high had fizzled. Wednesday morning I awoke with a nasty emotional hangover. It was clear by evening that I was sinking into depression, a place I hadn’t visited in a long time. And yet there I was. Moping. Sighing. Roaming the house in my bathrobe, weeping, and eating anything that had sugar in it. I perked up a little on Thursday after a gentle walk through our new neighborhood. The tides finally turned on Thursday night. That’s when it struck me. Hillary was not my mommy or my savior.

You see, someone did grab my pxxxy. I was 10 and he was 13. I’ve done lots of therapy over the years because of that incident, and too many others to mention. All were passed off as “boys being boys.” You know, locker room behavior. I stared at the TV on Thursday night looking at the face of our male president-elect. Suddenly he was my perpetrator. Of course I’ve been depressed. My world is no longer safe. America is no longer safe. Women are in grave danger. Sobbing now, in a fetal position on the floor, I cried out loud, “Hillary, why didn’t you save us?”

In that moment the sobs subsided. A stillness came about me. I had projected onto Hillary Clinton my need to have a strong woman protect me. My mother certainly didn’t when I was molested as a child. I wanted Hillary to be my mother, the mother and grandmother of my country. Everything would be fine. All girls and women would be safe. War would stop. Peace would be the norm. Grandiose thinking, I know, but it’s what I thought at an unconscious level.

Suddenly I felt the presence of a powerful archetype: She Who Stands Alone. This is the story of her arrival.

At the closing ceremony of one of my Ireland tours – a group that had named itself the Sisters of the Traveling Moonbeams – I bestowed upon each woman a title of authentic power. Many were Celtic goddesses; some, named after Celtic trees and symbols. It was a natural process except for one woman who was five years my senior. There was no one word for her. When the time came for me to address her, I stood before her and looked deeply into her eyes. I then asked her to stand, to feel her feet on the earth and imagine roots shooting out from them deep into Mother Earth. I named her, “She Who Stands Alone.”  She blinked and then froze for a moment, as this wasn’t what she expected to hear. She was recently divorced, having buried a previous husband, and was living alone for the first time in her life. She was afraid of being alone. Yet I saw in her a power in her aloneness. “Remember,” I said for all to hear, “because you can stand alone does not mean that you are alone or that you are lonely. It means that you rely first on your own inner wisdom and power. It is there that only you can safely and joyfully stand alone, and then join your light with others.”

A few months later, we reconnected. This woman had embraced the archetype of She Who Stands Alone and was beginning to build her authentic life at the tender age of sixty-two. Her new life became viable when she discovered her own roots rather than relying on the roots of another. She painted the inside of her house and hired a landscaper to help her create a garden filled with beauty and peace – a garden of her choosing. She began to take singing lessons and started painting. She decided to retire early. She has since traveled to Amsterdam, Vietnam, Africa and Australia. She stood alone, and a whole new world opened to her.

This is where I stand today. Renewed, resurrected, reborn. Hillary Clinton cannot make me or our country safe. We have to do that together. It begins by accessing, integrating and expressing our authentic power.

Watch and listen, for She Who Stands Alone is alive, awake and aware, and she’s looking for you!

What Do You Love?

Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.” Natalie Goldberg, American Author


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

It was on the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death, October 26, 1998, that I first visited Newgrange in Ireland. It is a 5,100+ year old ritual site in the lush Boyne Valley north of Dublin. At first enthralled by the triple spirals etched into ancient rocks, I became enchanted we entered the central chamber. It was there that an ancestral love found me. Mother love, universal love, the type of love that opens your heart and guides you in the right direction.

kathleen-releasing-hairUpon exiting the tomb, I was able to joyfully release the lock of Mom’s hair that I had held in my hand at her funeral one year before. I could hear her cackle as I lifted my arm and gave her spirit to the Irish winds. It seemed as if a chapter in my life had closed, with another chapter beginning. 

A few days later, my husband and I found ourselves staying in Doolin, a popular village for music lovers located in Co. Clare on the west coast of Ireland. The weather was dismal and nasty, accompanied by gale force winds, so we considered this the pub portion of our visit to Ireland. One particularly dark and blustery night, we were in a Doolin pub seated at a table chatting with a screenwriter from LA and his very-Irish father. Doug went to the bar for our drinks. I noticed him engaged in conversation with a black-haired man who had one elbow precariously perched on the bar. Soon they both approached our table. The Irishman extended his arm across our friernds in order to shake my hand. “Yer husband told me of the lock of ye dear Mudder’s hair, and how you threw it to the wind today at Newgrange. Oh, (thumping his chest) that was a fine thing you did! A fine, fine thing!”

I said a polite “You’re welcome,” which was his invitation to join us. He very ceremoniously pulled out a chair, plopped his bottom down, and planted both elbows on our table. After a moment of silence, and out of respect, I introduced myself. In return, I couldn’t make out his first name, but understood his surname to be something close to MacInerney. It came out of his mouth the way the cartoon character Sylvester the Cat would, “sufferin’ succotash.”

It soon became apparent that Mr. MacInerney had been into his cups a bit, which prompted him to rave on about my noble tribute to my dearly departed “Mudder.” Occasionally we locked eyes. Mine wide open in innocence and intrigue, his red and bleary from wind and drink. Eye contact was Mr. MacInerney’s cue to continue his tribute to me, this time with tears. A sad, sloppy drunk he was now. Somehow he went from the love of mothers to the love of Ireland, and inevitably his hatred of the “feckin’ British.” I recall thinking what a funny little word that was, feckin’. I was about to write it in my journal alongside other Irish words and phrases, when my husband gave me a soft kick under the table and raised eyebrow. Oh My God, I thought, feckin’ means…. !!! I put my notebook down and tried to avoid eye contact with Mr. MacInerney.

His raving of my tribute to my mother now turned to raging at the British government. Until we locked eyes again. His tears would flow, his body weave. With fist to chest he’d sputter, “Oh, yer Mudder!” The next wave of conversation took him back to his anger and rage at the British, often with fist pounding on our table. I could tell that we were all feeling annoyed and wanted to get rid of Mr. MacInerney. With the next round of eye contact, I stopped him before he could speak or beat his chest.

Mr. MacInerney,” I said slowly, looking deeply into his eyes. “What do you love? What is it you truly love?” He was, at last, speechless. I went on to say, “You’re telling us what you hate. I’m wondering, what it is you love?”

After a long silence, Mr. MacInerney reeled a bit in a drunken stupor, while new soft tears began to flow. “I-re-land,” he said, in three distinct syllables. “Tis Ireland that I love.” With that, I stood up and gestured for him to stand. He followed my lead. “Then love Ireland,” I responded, slowly and deliberately. With one hand on his shoulder and the other on his other elbow, I began to point him away from our table. “Then love Ireland,” I proclaimed. “Love her with all your being. For my Mudder and your Mudder, and all Mudders. Go now. Do it for Ireland, for that is what you love.”

With a nudge to his back, he took a step, smiled over his shoulder, gave me a wave, and staggered back to the bar. The people at our table were speechless over what they had just observed. “How did you do that,” they asked? My reply, “It was simple. I asked him what he loved and guided him in that direction.”

Thanks to Mom, Newgrange and Mr. MacInerney, I have returned to Ireland sixteen times. How could that be? It’s because I’m doing what I love and love what I am doing. My love for Ireland brings me home, to myself, whether here in Oregon or standing on Ireland’s western shores.

What is it you love?


Feast Your Eyes on Ireland’s Wild Western Shores!

Song for Ireland: Dick Gaughan 5:09