Yesterday I hopped on a tour bus (the first one I’ve taken since I arrived in Europe over three months ago) that took me west across the coast of Ireland, to the legendary Giant’s Causeway.
A hundred superlatives spring to mind, but they all fail to encapsulate the beauty and mystery of this place.
One of the people on my bus remarked how she was a bit uncomfortable with how cold it was; she had a point, because the wind made my cheeks and fingers go numb. But to truly appreciate this far-flung rock that springs out of the earth, you don’t want to see it on a sunny day.
You want to see it when the wind is whipped into a frenzy beneath darkened skies, and the blackened coastline is punctuated with the spray of waves slamming themselves into the rocks.
You want the hair on the back of your neck to stand up because the edge of the cliff you’re skirting drops right into the maelstrom of whitewater below, and no insurance policy in the world can help you if you slip.
You want the clothes on your back to literally be ripped off by the vicious wind that claws at you as you climb up to the top, and feel Nature’s hand commanding you to look back into the abyss.
Two other people on my bus, a Canadian named Rob and a Dane named Laura, accompanied me around the other side of the rocks—most people linger around the main area, but we trudged up the narrow cliff trail together, buffeted by gale-force wind.
Because of the amphitheater-like contour of the terrain, there are certain spots on the cliff that magnify the sound of the waves below, and catch the full brunt of the wind. Walk a few steps forward, or go back one or two, and you can hardly hear the waves. Rob wondered aloud what it must have been like here in the days before science could explain these mysterious acoustic affects; indeed, before it could explain the fascinating geology that created the legion of hexagon-shaped stones that jut out of the sea.
Thousands of years ago, someone wandered into this empty landscape, perhaps a shepherd looking after his flock, maybe a priestess drawn by the shriek of the wind hurtling off the cliff. They were illiterate and we are not, but no amount of technology or knowledge will ever let people escape the feeling that when they are here, they are in the presence of something gigantic.
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