Black Birds of Ireland



A ruin surrounded by 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 up the concrete slope which led to the stone castle. A violinist played for coins and bills, her case open for the castle’s guests. With the thick graying clouds above us and the lingering chill, this definitely felt like an Irish Sunday.

We reached the precipice and climbed the wood staircase which leads to a shaky wood door. The gift shop. Empty except for the merchandise; keychains, postcards, and T-Shirts. 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 that circled the ruins. Tombstones and lush green grass filled the space between the wall and the castle. Coldness crept into my coat, I shivered while snapping a picture of an old 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 with the broken walls, and hiding inside tiny stone crevices.

Here I was standing within human history, a stone fragment where soot-covered hands laid a stone on 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 the 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 some birds on a window and we left the Rock of Cashel.