My daughter and I made our annual visit to the Church Hill Irish Festival today. Hands down, it’s my favorite street fair of the year to visit, which means we have visited every year that we’ve lived here in Virginia. Before that, we lived in the midst of “Dogtown” in St. Louis where our neighborhood itself was the St. Patrick’s Day party spot, from Ancient Order of Hibernian parades to flowing green beer which would stale-scent the streets for days afterwards. The first parade we attended, I was dressed all in green and wrapped her up looking like a leprechaun in a green knit hat, swaddled in a sling. We had so many green beads festooned upon us that they provided dress up accessories for the whole neighborhood. Richmond is a bit less intense, but still a great time. My spouse could take or leave all this festive frivolity, but the women of the family are undaunted in our annual adventure whether rain, snow, sun, or throngs of visitors should appear.
Today was beautiful, a perfect spring day in the southern mid-Atlantic. Thus, it was “crowds” that presented the daily challenge. Although we began with a bit of parking drama and some related mother-daughter banter (just keeping it real), we hiked our way to the blocked-off streets and found ourselves walking into the Goat’s Milk Soap booth. This is our ritual every year, and we stepped into it like a time machine. Sniffing the scented soap produced it’s healing magic, and soon we left with a bar of honeysuckle imprinted with the image of a goat in the meadow with which we’ll wash our hands all spring. It’s a different scent each year, but equally grounding. We went on to embrace our string of usual fun: celtic jewelry shopping, family crest searching (the “Cassidy” clan), novelty hat wearing and last-but-not-least the eating of the giant spiral fried spud washed down with fresh squeezed lemonade, all to the tune of Irish music and dance.
This year, I recognized the special appearance of St. Brigid who seemed to show up with great regularity in image and name and symbol wherever I happened to look. When my daughter started pointing this out, too, I took it to heart. This saintly figure has been symbolically mothering me a great deal during this transformative year. I got to know St. Brigid a few years ago on All Saints Day when I portrayed her…sheep and all..during our annual “Saints Walk.” I am constantly reminded in her stories that there is abundance when we give freely, serve willingly, and trust openly. It’s in the great letting go that we find freedom to truly live. I bought a small St. Brigid’s cross from one vendor to add to my jewelry collection, and added a blessing medallion from one of the local Roman Catholic Church’s booths before leaving. My daughter took that moment to announce to their priest that I, too, was in the process of becoming a priest, assuming that would be a point of solidarity between us. The look on his face quickly informed her otherwise. I grasped my medal and politely ducked that theological discussion in order to keep the peace; I imagined some loving laughter arising from my patroness as the scene unfolded.
We decided we were ready to leave when the elbow-to-elbow crowds brought more vape-smokers and flask-bearing drinkers than mid-day wanderers. Our time here so quickly becomes nostalgic, without even having to speak it. I see her at age three, wide eyed at bagpipe music; the next year crying because it was time to exit the bouncy-house; in kindergarten jumping up on stage to be taught an Irish dance; on a rainy day in second grade eating spuds beneath an umbrella; growing more independent and aloof as double-digits approached, ducking from booth to booth to keep one arm’s length away. Now, she comes back as we compare earring preferences and look at flowing skirts and dresses we could both wear. She drifts away, circles back, and asks when it’s time to share our annual giant spud. Here, in this cadence, I find my bliss.
This Tree of Life has roots, and leaves, and branches that reach toward the sky.
Arms outstretched, we touch abundance.
Welcoming small points of light.