A short story about traveling to Ireland and visiting the Rock of Cashel. Although I was near a magnificent structure, my attention was distracted by tiny visitors.
A ruined fortress built by dead kings perched on a hill surrounded by a green countryside. I snapped photos of its pointed towers from behind the car window. The heater blasted a musky warmth into the rental car.
We drove up the empty road and parked beside local shops that were painted an assortment of pastel-colors: pink, baby blue, soft yellow. Closed signs leaned against their windows. We walked towards the concrete slope leading to the stone castle passing a violinist playing for coins and bills. Graying clouds above us and a lingering chill, this was definitely an Irish Sunday.
We reached the precipice and climbed the wood staircase which lead to a shaky wood door. The gift shop. Empty except for the merchandise; keychains, postcards, and T-shirt’s. My companion asked the cashier typical tourist questions. Twenty euros purchased our tickets and we exited. Wind blasted our faces, I buttoned my coat.
“I didn’t realize we were so high up!” He said shoving his hands into his coat pocket.
We moseyed along the perimeter following the stone wall encompassing the ruins. Tombstones and lush green grass filled the void between the wall and castle. Coldness crept into my coat, I shivered while snapping a picture of a dilapidated monastery with no roof, it stood far beyond the walls among the several country cottages. A dog barked somewhere. We drew closer to the structure; its roof was gone, its walls in crumbs, its towers piecing the angry clouds.
We circled around admiring the architecture stealing knowledge from the guided walk we didn’t want to pay for; My companion and I were frugal, adventuring wherever our budget allowed us.
I stood among a cluster of tombstones facing a stone wall with rectangular slits that were once windows. Birds perched themselves on the tiny stones protruding from the wall. I clicked my camera.
“Why do you keep taking pictures of the birds?” He asked.
I shrugged giving a girlish answer, “They’re cute,” but truthfully I didn’t know the answer.
Taking my eye away from the viewfinder, I stared at the birds as though they held the answer. There were dozens of them perched on tombstones, along the broken walls, and hiding inside tiny stone crevices.
Here I was standing within human history, a stone fragment where soot covered hands laid stone atop stone building a structure that outlived them. But, like a child, I was mesmerized by fluttering feathers and tiny moist eyes.
I never did lose my childish wonderment towards living things. I stared at their smooth round bodies, their sharp pointed beaks, but why? Be it a dog, a cow, or a sheep trotting along a hillside. I’d watch it with a smile.
A bird stared back at me tilting its head from one side to another as though it were as curious of me as I of it. After a few seconds, it flew away becoming a dark speck against the grey clouds. My mind tingled at thought of flying, wishing I could do the same. To see the earth we share through their eyes.
“Stop taking pictures of the birds!” He said with a laugh, “we’ve got to hit the road!”.
I snapped one last picture of a bird perched within an opening and we left the Rock of Cashel.