So here I was today in the middle of a cow pasture in rural county Waterford.
The unusually calm Atlantic stretching towards infinity in the foreground. The swallows swooping overhead. A small community boot sale, pony rides, locals signing on a makeshift platform amidst bales of hay. The aroma of sausages in the air. Rural Ireland 2019. A place where long held tradition and modernity fuse naturally. A place of craic.
I’m walking around avoiding cowpats. I don’t yet see the diamond in the dust. The offerings; old pub signs, murphy beer mats, milk churns, (not quite right for the geraniums) and peeling statues of the virgin Mary, (now crusty relics, once the possessions of the catholic church). I feel a gentle squeezing on my arm.
A soft auld woman’s voice says ‘Will ye buy this plant girl, ye will never have the want of money if ye have it’.
It would have felt rude to just ignore her and wrestle my arm back. I paid the three euro. It was a monster of a bushy succulent. I was slightly disgusted by the damp dirty pot and the necessity to carry it back across the field, its sheer size making it hard to avoid the cow dung. The surety of having to wash my white sweatshirt, wipe down the car interior and throw away my shoes didn’t impress one bit.
Cutting through my grumpy self-absorption she began again– ‘Ye will now have money ALWAYS’ and then she hunched over and whispered to me, her voice serious:-
‘You know, really, money never made anyone happy at all’. Now I’m listening, she has ear.
‘Listen now while I tell ye’ – she continued – I was definitely listening.
What I’d wish for you, would be good health and to appreciate life, the ups and the downs.
There was no stopping her now.
‘You see – people these days; they are always rushing, rushing; Going around in circles. They don’t enjoy nothing at all. They can’t stop – they can’t lay down when the body is tired. We’ve become machines. There’s no machine better than us humans’. This was not praise.
‘We have money she said but we don’t take care of our bodies and our bodies will fail.
All the money in the world doesn’t help that’.
Sometimes the truth does not come from a retreat, a mindfulness course, or from studying psychology or philosophy. Just occasionally, the real diamonds are found in the dust, for free.
I can’t say whether the take away message is
a) the complexity of her simple words,
b) the fact that chance encounters sometimes make a deep impression or
c) how apparently uneducated, simple souls often hold the profoundest meanings.
Yet, in an increasingly experience rich, spiritually and meaningfully poor orientated world, their gifts are largely unnoticed or unvalued. Now, where shall I put Auld Mary the Money plant)?