I'm in a lighthearted mood. It has been garnished by being involved in two very different clan rallies we should all organize more often than we do.

The Dutch one I told ye about already in wife Annet’s Gelderland district beside the German border was hugely enjoyable. The MacConnell rally of my direct clan in Edinburgh was so rousingly Irish and musical and soul-warming that ye will have to wait until next week for my report from Edinburgh. Until my old mind and body recover fully!

Did ye know that smiling 24 hours a day, singing and relishing time with siblings seldom met up with nowadays is so joyous and supercharged that the sensation is almost beyond words? An article on IrishCentral recently made the point that clan rallies are truly special events for all of us. I echo that point strongly with all the energy I’ve retained after an exhaustingly unique autumn.

More on that later from Bonnie Scotland. That’s a promise.

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Meanwhile, for the craic of it, a yarn about the mysteries of life I hope ye will enjoy as much as I did. I don’t clearly recall which of my brothers Cathal (who lives in Edinburgh) or Mickie, who resides in Kerry, reminded me of it because, as ye regulars know well, I live in Killaloe in Clare on the shores of one of the nation’s two famous Lough Dergs but anyway, totally true, one of them jogged my memory about a young Irish American, born in Chicago, who arrived in Ireland 30 years ago and more.

He had been commanded by his Monaghan-born mother before he left Chicago not to return without visiting Lough Derg. He promised her he would indeed, especially since she was largely funding his Irish trip I suppose, and dammit, if he did not take himself off to the Donegal Lough Derg associated with fasting, barefoot prayer, and Catholic penitence rather than to the Lough Derg beside my Clare doorstep which is famous for boating and merrymaking in the linked heritage towns of Killaloe and Ballina on the other end of the bridge across the Shannon into Tipperary.

The young Chicago lad cursed and swore when he discovered his error in Donegal’s Pettigo but, because he had made his promise to his mother, he took off his shoes and, quite incredibly under the circumstances, subjected himself to the three extremely tough days of the penitential Catholic capital of that era.

Black tea instead of pints of Guinness! Barefoot over sharp stones around the onetime cells of the ancient monks. And no sleep at all, nothing but endless prayers and pain on that first night.

I was sent there myself as a youth by my mother and I can vouch for the fact that this was penance indeed.

But life is a lottery beyond easy understanding. On his second day of suffering did he not first meet with the lovely young Sligo girl. They fell in love at first sight.
They were married in Chicago the following fall and, always happy and fulfilled together, they recently celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in the company of two sons and two daughters and toddling grandchildren! That, according to the story from one of my brothers in Edinburgh (who knows the couple well) was a clan rally organized by the gods above.

I think now it was Cathal who told me the yarn, and it was he who met them a decade and more ago on one of his musical tours across the U.S. with his celebrated Irish music companions The Boys of the Lough. Incidentally, he is still playing and singing away as well as ever, even at three or four o’clock on a misty Edinburgh morning at our rally. 

Soaring far away from that occasion, again in a lighthearted mood, I hope ye are all aware by now that we Irish will soon have our own green moon away out on the far edge of space. I’m sober this minute, but ye can check the accuracy of that statement yourselves here and now.

As I understand it, American astrologers have discovered that the planet Saturn -- of which I know little -- is surrounded by no less than 20 previously unknown moons. They have decided that at least one of these currently nameless moons will shortly be baptized with a Celtic name through global competition on the internet.
At last, accordingly, as our current planet Earth begins to enter a smoggy and toxic era, with its climactic future under threat, maybe our escape route will lead us to a pristine planet named, perhaps, Cathleen or Roisin or Deirdre, the latter Christian name being that of the Monaghan mother whose command created the special clan rally we were talking about above.

If I survive the current clan pressures and gatherings, and if it becomes feasible and necessary, I’m inclined towards booking a seat or two on the first rocket to the Green Moon and, because the gods are good, maybe I will live long enough in this dimension of our realities to become the grizzled elder at a MacConnell clan rally away up there.

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