Magic, Music and a Woman’s Heart


The two weeks I spent in Ireland were magical. It’s a magical land.

Sunset at Strandhill
Sunset at Strandhill

This picture was taken on the beach of Strandhill, a small area near the city of Sligo, and very close to Queen Medb’s (Maeve) cairn (tomb) on the top of Knocknarea Mountain. Maeve was the warrior Queen of Connacht in Celtic mythology.

On Knocknarea, at the foot of Medb's Cairn
On Knocknarea, at the foot of Medb's Cairn

We climbed to the top of the mountain to see the cairn. The feeling at the top at the foot of this tomb is ancient, powerful and quite mystical.

One of the things I most enjoyed was hearing live traditional Irish music. My paternal grandfather, Thomas McDonnell Sr. was Irish-American. His two grandfathers came from Ireland in the mid-1860’s. One, Bryan McDonnell, embarked from Dublin and the other, Timothy Driscoll, from Cobh.

My grandfather and grandmother raised a musical family. I remember one time we visited them when I was very young. My father’s brothers and sister were there, too, and the whole family came together to sing and play a variety of instruments: guitar, ukelele, banjo, piano. I loved it. It’s one of my strongest and fondest memories of that side of my family.

So when I was in Ireland, I was particularly taken with the live traditional music in places like Dublin, Dingle, Cobh and Glendalouch. In Dingle, we just happened into a pub on a Sunday afternoon as this group of musicians were playing the kind of music I hoped I would hear in Ireland. Listening to this music brought back the wonderful memories of my father’s family, the ‘Irish side’.

The next day, we ducked into a Dingle music shop to find some good Irish music to take home with us. We found the most recent CD by Lumiere, a musical group consisting of two women, Pauline Scanlon and Eilis Kennedy. One song in particular, Fair and Tender Ladies, is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Lo and behold, that night Pauline Scanlon was performing in a Dingle pub. We were lucky to sit and listen to her ethereal voice just fifteen feet away from her.

When I returned home, I found this video of Pauline and Eilis singing Fair and Tender Ladies. Please stop, become still, drop into your heart and listen with your whole being.

I love hearing these two women harmonize and sing of women taking care of their hearts.

The inner realm of a woman’s heart is sacred and wise. I have come to know just how tender and vulnerable this woman’s heart is. I know the pain of trampling through this heart, allowing the dictates of the mind to override the heart’s needs.

During my time in Ireland, over and over again, my heart opened to the beauty, magic and music of this place. Something woke up in my cells. Something ancient. Something earthly. Something I’ve known, yet pushed away. Over time, this new awareness is deepening within. When the time is right, I’ll share what I can put into words, here with you.

And, you?

What might it take to sit down with your heart, to hear what it’s needing, to tenderly begin to inquire?

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16 Replies to “Magic, Music and a Woman’s Heart”

  1. “During my time in Ireland, over and over again, my heart opened to the beauty, magic and music of this place. Something woke up in my cells. Something ancient. Something earthly. Something Iโ€™ve known, yet pushed away. Over time, this new awareness is deepening within.”

    I got the same thing with Hawai’i. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d love to visit Ireland too because it’s also the land of much of my ancestry, and I do feel a connection to the mythology and culture.

    1. Fantastic, Meg. What part of Hawaii? I was in Maui and Hana last summer, and Hana lit up my cells in an ancient, yet sort-of-different kind of way. I wonder what you’ll experience in Ireland. Keep me posted. It’s lovely to have you here.

  2. I don’t quite know if I’ve ever had the experience of being in a place that so clearly called to me, where my soul somehow belongs in a way different from anywhere else (although I have heard of both Hawaii and Ireland being that kind of place for other people too.) Maybe I just haven’t found my place like that yet. But I do think there’s a quality of attention I can sometimes remember cultivate, where any place can be that. “Take off your shoes, for the ground you stand on is holy.” Any ground. All ground.

    I will say that the land I physically stand on (or sit, under a tree at the moment, in the gardens of my synagogue, on Yom Kippur afternoon), the dry limestone land of Central Texas, does speak to my soul. And, although I’ve never been to Israel, I do know that it’s a very similar landscape, the same limestone bones, the land’s memories of ancient mother seas. And I love that.

  3. Karen,
    What you have written here is so lovely. Yes, “โ€œTake off your shoes, for the ground you stand on is holy.โ€ Any ground. All ground.” This is so true. I’ve been quite curious about the way different places hold different energies. When I was in India, it touched me in a profoundly different way than any other place. And, so with Hawaii and Ireland. All three have been in a cellular way, whereas Italy and other regions of Europe didn’t affect me on that level. When I returned home to the US from India, I felt a coldness, a kind of steel-like quality. That’s the only way I can describe it. I’ve heard others speak of a quality of experience in Israel that is profoundly touching.
    What you write of Yom Kippur, Texas and Israel is beautiful. Your words speak to me…
    Thank you for coming to visit and sharing your wisdom here.
    Blessings to you,

    1. Lean, When you learn it, will you video yourself so we can put your version here, on Unabashedly Female? Thanks again for all of your help in directing me on my travels in Ireland. Blessings.

  4. for such a long time, i have known the effect music has on me, my body, my spirit. but instead of just owning that, i delved into the science behind it – the why. that was my way of justifying, of not feeling less than. it’s true: music touches something in our brain causing a traceable, articulatable effect, but shoot. enough, already. i don’t need to know “why”, i just need to know “that”.

  5. Hey Julie, sorry I forgot to come back over and check this for responses again ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve been to O’ahu, the big island, and Kaua’i now. Each trip has been its own form of ecstasy. ๐Ÿ™‚ If I got going, I’d probably be here all night writing about them. But what you said, and what Karen said (we were just having a lengthy phone call a few minutes ago actually, hehe), just this feeling of holy ground, like something really biological and visceral and energetic in both me and the ‘aina (land), like pheromones almost, were having a communication and a bond. We interacted through those trips in ways that were almost obscenely overt, for someone who had spent so long in that “steel land” you spoke of. Here, I was used to feeling a little something on the breeze, and there I had a (what I learned later was rather unusual) following of honu, Hawaiian sea turtles, around various beaches. The waves were whispering to me, come out, come out, sway with us and never return. Sitting on the pahoehoe, brand new land, with a slow river of glass-crackling lava 15 ft in front, the moon above, and the ocean and surf to the right .. if Tutu Pele had walked out that very moment it wouldn’t have surprised us. You hear people there say stuff like “we just new it was time to leave” and it doesn’t make as much sense here. There, it’s an everyday thing. When she tells you it’s time to go, you just know it, and you go. It’s not so unusual.

    Heck, need I say more than that contractors will seriously hire kahuna and other spiritual practitioners to come ask permission to move the rocks and such? I can only dream of people here giving the land such respect.

    After the first time I don’t think I ever entirely left, again. That was in 2006 and I still occasionally get a serious longing, like there’s a piece of me there. To put a lame end to this comment, it was a really profound experience. ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Meg, What you’ve written here is so beautiful… “something really biological and visceral and energetic in both me and the โ€˜aina (land), like pheromones almost, were having a communication and a bond.” And things showing up in such an overt way…ways in which I know I don’t quite grasp as they are happening, because I’ve spent most of my life in this ‘steel land’ where I feel cut off from this connection.
    Thank you for sharing these rich and provocative words, describing this profound experience. I take it you and Karen are good friends. How lucky are we to have you both visiting here.

  7. We work together, actually! ^_^ That’s where we became friends. She pointed me here and I’ve enjoyed reading. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you again for your warm welcome!

    I grew up in the steel land, and actually started out life as a pretty strict skeptic/rationalist atheist. Then there were some early and obvious spiritual experiences that I couldn’t ignore. It came and went for me, and eventually it developed into more, but I am still rather dense sometimes. That’s when whoever or whatever it is pulls out what I like to call the clue-by-4. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I’m a firm believer in the idea that the world speaks to us if we would only listen, and that many wild and wonderful experiences are out there if we would invite them into our lives. I’ve spent the last several years trying to do that more actively, and it’s led me to some very strange places.. but I can never say my life is boring again ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. You work together. Wow. What a treat for both of you!
    I love it…. the clue-by-4. Isn’t it amazing how dense we can be, even after the obvious ways we are hit over the head?
    Yes, I see that, too. That we are always being ‘spoken to’ if only we would learn to be quiet, stand still and be astonished…(mary oliver).
    I really like how you write about this. Your words are filled with great wisdom and a feeling of knowing that flows through them.

  9. Hi Julie,
    When Kevin and I were in Ireland it was one of the “life moments”, soaking in the tradition, history and land, but it was the music that pulls us in, from the countryside visit to the lyrics in some of the great bars in Dublin, a truely wonderful experience. Although we didn’t have time to visit family then, we will look forward to meeting up with some next time as Kevin has a long list of Irish relatives- we will have to look up some! Amanda has it on her list for us to visit Ireland next summer when she finishes college. Thank you for sharing this beautiful music and your experiences!

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