Montana is a day and a half swirl of horses galloping in the mountain mist towards me. Just before I leave, a young cowboy with Fly-Agra in his hands tells me, “If you wanna catch a trout, you’d best go fly fishin’ on a full moon night.” From Montana I fly straight back to Dublin. I am in the air longer than I am on any part of earth. A butterfly in a cloud atlas. Don’t worry, I do not dissipate.
What follows is the remainder of my existence on the Emerald Isle. I’ll write it in short, perhaps, confusing spurts. Time doesn’t matter. You can ask questions later.
There was the city itself, Dublin. It means Black Pool. It was founded by Vikings and is full of spirits, cobblestone streets, folk music, Celtic symbols, rain, antiques, art, sun, bars, people, and horse drawn carriages owned by a family-run drug gang- imagine teenagers in hoodies, high on cocaine, whipping horses while talking sideways slang “cool your tits.”
I lay my body down inside Strongbow’s stone casket in the crypt of Christ Church, and dress up like a fairy peasant, and put my head into a pillory that makes me panic. I drink a Guinness beer with my face on it’s foam and learn about Tapeworm Murphy and Jelly belly. I meet the three rappers of Kneecap. I hug the phallic Stone of Destiny on the Hill of Tara – where high kings would go to marry the earth goddess and they could not be king unless the stone roared when they touched it. When I touch the stone the clear sky pisses rain, I don’t know what that means. I see many people rubbing the bronze breasts of a fishmonger named Molly Malone. They tell me it’s for good luck, so I do the same….
In Dublin’s fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”
“Alive, alive, oh,
Alive, alive, oh,”
Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”.
I marvel at museums filled with ancient relics of life that have been pickled into preservation by peat bogs. Nothing much but sundews and frogs live down in the peat bogs, peat bogs, peat bogs, oh; where the acid runs high and the oxygen runs low, only the dead survive in the peat bogs, peat bogs, oh. The bogs are like time capsules frothing with old stuff; a canoe the size of an elephant, warrior weapons, birch and rosewood fish traps, and bodies.
Yes. I said bodies. I see bog bodies older than rocks with hair, teeth, fingers, and a pile of melted-looking skin on top- imagine a deflated balloon animal or anything else that might have kept it’s shape but lost it’s air. All of the bog bodies were murdered, stabbed or bludgeoned, and at least one was in line to be a king, archeologists surmised this because his nipples were cut off and “sucking a king’s nipples was a gesture of submission in ancient Ireland.” This is real, I’m not making it up!
Dublin was brief, but colorful. I spend most of my days earth sailing in the back of Diarm’s van on Achill island. Again. I can say that so far I do not prefer van life to boat life, but I do like the new taste of adventure it provides. I paraglide more, and kiteboard more, and surf the waves of the Wild Atlantic on a broken borrowed board. I freeze and I thaw. I fall into a forest of leprechauns, and loose my way among the secret-stealing shapeshifters of Ireland called the Púca. I help fly a massive manta ray kite for a circus of fire-breathing witches at the height of Equinox. I take a traditional seaweed bath and turn into a sea monster mermaid, green-faced with strands of sea vegetables dangling from my head.
We are mostly on Achill preparing for a kite boarding festival hosted by Pure Magic, for which I become slave labor; down and dirty shoveling gravel, hanging disco balls, wheel-barrowing busted porcelain toilets to dumps, painting signs yellow.
Just before the event, camper vans and kitesurfers descend onto the island and mayhem ensues. The days are filled with water sports; people pretzeling themselves all over the air in grand displays of acrobatics. Right out the gate, a kid breaks his leg doing tricks in a 40 knot blow. A teenaged machine named Mad Max rides with the precision of a robot and everyone “oohs” and “ahhs.” My favorite moment is when all the pros dress up like astronauts and aliens and American Indians with wigs and headdresses and everything. There must be 15 of them, shooting themselves into the clouds and grabbing pizza slices, mid-flight, from the hands of people standing on a floating platform. At one point the world champion kites to the top of our van then birds himself over the audience and back into the lake.
It’s a beautiful thing to witness people doing something so well. A part of me is crushed, no not crushed, envious that I have never in my life been that good at anything. I think that I just think this thought in my head, but the thought is so strong that I say it out loud- “I have never in my life been that good at anything!” My friend Sky turns to me and says, “You’re like a Swiss Army knife! It’s better to be decent at many things than only really good at one thing.” I don’t know if I agree, at life I would much rather be a pro than a well-rounded amateur.
After the sun set rips the space between clouds into cherry stripes, the festival moves to an old manor called The Valley House that was once the scene of an attempted murder by arson. The trees are all lit up with color, and there is a large yellow rubber ducky and cat-sized butterflies hiding in the forest. The night does sparkle and I am wearing a crown of fresh picked purple clover flowers that I made.
The stages surrounding the house pump with rock bands and Irish bands and DJs and drum circles and fire dancers. I do Irish jigs which involve throwing your straight legs up as high as you can while your hands stay plastered to your side. I see a woman twirl in a dress made of flames. I see a loon-eyed storytelling musical genius named Aindrias de Staic. He’s on that sweet edge of insanity, one note away from being as mad a bag of spiders. His stories are pure poetry set into motion by his fiddle and his stings stir his audience into a wild and uncontrollable fever.
By the end of the festival Aindrias flies away with the fairies and everybody else turns into goldfish and swim slow in bowls of jello.
MALAHIDE CASTLE & SHEELA NA GIG
In the 1600s it was forbidden to kill a white butterfly in Ireland because it was believed to be the soul of a dead child. Right now there is a butterfly on my finger. I found it near a castle outside of Dublin. Malahide Castle.
A lady in a white dress haunts the joint. People say she crawled out of a painting that once hung on the castle walls, now she floats all around the castle like a trapped ghost butterfly. I can feel her presence on my chicken skin.
What do you think the lady in white is looking for? A lost Love, a lost shoe, a lost horse named Midnight, a new canvas, a new dress, a new body, a new ribbon for her hair, birds, fruits, flowers?
Anyway, I did not come to the castle looking for butterflies or ghosts, I came to the castle looking for a Sheela Na Gig. There are two Sheela’s on the castle abbey wall, which is inside the castle cemetery, which is locked. And I get in big trouble by security when I climb over the cemetery wall, which results in me loosing my shoe, just so I can get a closer glimpse of the Sheelas.
Do you know what a Sheela is? She’s a fertility symbol found on churches and castles and baptismal wells around these parts. She dates back to the 12th century, is made of stone and has a bald skull-head- imagine an alien- and she’s always squatting down spread eagle with her hands holding her flower wide open for the whole world to wonder- imagine an alien porno.
Some say, like a butterfly, Sheela represents life, death, and rebirth. Others say she was made to deter people from lustful desires. Nobody knows for certain, but I’ve become obsessed with them and now wear a silver Sheela necklace around my neck. Anyway, I’ve found some Sheela’s in the wild. One was way down a country road, on the west side of Ireland, inside of a well where St. Patrick used to baptize people.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. But cheers to life, death, and rebirth, and may you always have a warm chrysalis to carry you through your metamorphosis, and may you land inside a seascape made of emerald and myths, and may that landing be ever so soft.
5 Replies to “LIKE A BUTTERFLY”
Your life is as colorful and magical as a butterfly 🦋 fluttering from flower to flower. xoxo,
It’s like you’re riding along on a magic carpet, Olivia! Your life is such a beautiful tapestry! I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland — I’ve got Irish roots and have felt the pull to go there for so long!
“A part of me is crushed, no not crushed, envious that I have never in my life been that good at anything. . . . ” Ah but you are! Your writing is impressive and I’m wondering if you have an agent?
i’m sure they got it all wrong… if you organized BURNING WOMAN it would be waaayyyyy better than whatever that other burning thing is. love the new gray. each strand is a story already told.
The story of Dublin your experiences is priceless. I grew up there and my parents were both born in Howth.
It brought back such wonderful, colourful memories and I’m grateful.
Thank you so much.