I was a young adult preparing to visit Ireland when my great aunt Eileen shared this picture with me. Aunt Eileen had inherited the photo of her grandmother, Mary Tuohy Griffin, from Scarriff, County Clare, Ireland.
Eileen had visited her grandmother Griffin in 1915 with her family (including her older brothers Tommy and Jack). The family’s strange pilgrimage took them from South Africa to England and Ireland and then, eventually, to Oklahoma in the United States. (Their unintended immigration is too long a story for this post. I tell Grandpa’s story in my book.)
I grew up hearing the stories from my Grandpa Tom about those days in Ireland. About how he and his twin brother rode in the baskets the donkeys carried as they walked back and forth to the peat bogs. How they were each given a kid goat which they fed by letting them suckle any momma goat they could find. How they threw rocks down people’s chimneys and basically got into trouble like ten-year-old boys will do.
When I went to Ireland those years ago (before digital photography!), I traveled to County Clare to the little town of Scarriff. I asked at the post office for people who might have known of the Griffins and their farm north of town. I discovered a cousin of my grandpa’s, the chemist in town, who drove me out to the property. I stood and rested my eyes on the land, the sky, the fields, and I knew I was home.
Today I leave for a pilgrimage to this land of beauty, of music and poets and prayers. I travel with a group of other pilgrims from The Upper Room’s Academy for Spiritual Formation. I pray that we may be fully present, eyes and ears and hearts wide open to the blessings of each moment. That we step forward in trust that we will find the paths where the Spirit leads us. Traveling mercies for all who journey this day.