The first time I visited Tybee Island was when I was in college and I really didn't get the flavor of it then. I was there with a bunch of college friends and all we cared about was the fact that there was a beach. And girls. And food. Hey, it was college. I had the opportunity to rediscover a whole new (to me) Tybee much later.
I forgot all about islands as I tried to make a place for myself in the so-called “real world.” It was what I was raised to do and if I didn't do that, then I had failed. I went to school. Then I went to graduate school. I got a job working for a major religious denomination as part of my search to answer the “call” to whatever it was I was created to do. There's nothing wrong with any of that and I'm glad for the learning and growing experiences I had in the process. It took years for me to discover or admit that there was more to life.
It began with the call of an island.
I first truly encountered Ireland through music. I heard the ancient and the traditional music of the Emerald Isle and it spoke to me. It told me of green hills and valleys as old as time. It spoke of spirituality and humanity blended and inseparable. I'd never been there, yet it spoke of home. Once I found a book of Wyoming County, West Virginia history, the place my great-grandfather called home. It mentioned our family and that we were of “Irish descent.” I'm not sure exactly what that means, but there you are. There are Wesley's in Ireland and perhaps there is a very old connection to them. I like to think so.
When I visited Ireland, I did a lot of the touristy things – walking through cathedrals and shopping districts and going to shows. I also spent some time trying to open my mind and soul to what the island might be saying to me. I sat in the silence of Glendalough, the site of a former monastery, and listened. I looked at the ancient tombstones, worn to the thickness of half an inch, chipped and ragged around the edges, any names long ago worn away by wind and rain. Ireland spoke and I listened.
It seems that there is more to life than I had experienced and it was time that I knew it. I may never go again (I would in a heartbeat if I could afford it), but now I understand more fully that I am part of the Great Connection – spirit of humanity and spirit of the divine meeting in the harmony what it means to be alive. The song is forever. Ireland is ancient and eternally young and I love her.
Sadly, I had to come back to where everyday life waited. It was too easy to become immersed in paying bills and taking care of mundane things. It was too easy to let the lessons and spirit of Ireland become memories to be visited instead of life to be lived. I had left the island and was in the doldrums of the space in between, where the lack of breeze or current leaves you foundering.
Not too long ago, I reconnected with some incredible friends from the old days of college. We arranged to meet at Micheal's house on Tybee Island and see what happened. A lot happened, including the rediscovery of relationships that had been lacking in my life and had left an empty place where they once lived. Now they are back. It was magical and it still is.
In subsequent visits, I've met more of the folks of Tybee and gotten a small glimpse of what it means to be part of that place. It's a different pace and relaxed attitude, but it's more than that. On Tybee there is a community that loves its members. They take care of one another and lift one another up. They forgive one another when it's necessary and move on. They celebrate life and living. It's epic and intimate at the same time.
Then there are the spaces in between – the uncertainty and lack of direction. It's like the trough between the waves. There air in the troughs is stifling. No breeze, no current to move me forward or carry me back to the island. The doldrums.
There is no way around the doldrums. One can only wait for the wind to change and the ocean to decide to move. Then we can find our way to the shores we long for, be they sandy beaches or green hills. It'll happen. When? In it's own time and in it's own way.
I love the islands I've been to. Whether or not I spend extended time there, they continue to teach me lessons about life and especially about myself. I've still got a lot to learn, but the islands are patient. They will always be there. The winds will blow and the currents will move.
I'm just waiting to go with them.