On December 21 last year (the winter solstice), I was lucky enough to attend Soulspace in Dublin that my good friends Gerry Hussey and Miriam Kerins Hussey were running. Towards the end of this very special experience, everyone held a small tea light candle in the palm of their hand with the flame symbolising the light and energy of our soul. As the emotive music of Snow Patrol’s “run” played in the background, we were asked to consider what is it that ignites our soul, that makes us feel truly alive and how we could bring more of this into our lives.
In that moment, my connection to nature and a sense of adventure is what came up. Initially the feeling alone was the starting point. As I let this feeling simmer, what emerged was simply that I wanted to be out on the water rowing again. I also imagined putting a crew together to row across the Irish Sea. I’m not sure where this came from, but when I reflect on it now, nature and a sense of adventure are part of who I am. In a way I suppose they are part of my soul.
Within the hour, I had spoken to Eamonn Kavanagh in Arklow rowing club, where I had previously trained and he said I was always welcome to come down and row with them. By January I was back on the water and within a few months I put the idea to Eamonn of putting together a crew to row across the Irish Sea. Through Gerry, we had about 8 people who were interested in doing the crossing. One small snag, with the exception of myself, none had ever rowed before. However, the seed had been planted and with that, a new adventure had begun.
We started to go down to Arklow to train with the club under the patient guidance of Eamonn, his brother Peter, Vanessa and other members of the club who welcomed us with open arms. Eamonn and Peter Kavanagh were the first Irish people to ever row across the Atlantic Ocean in 1997. I was lucky enough to be trained and mentored by them before I crossed the Atlantic in 2006. Their maritime knowledge is beyond vast and they are 2 men I consider to be some of the finest and the toughest people I know.
Weather permitting, a little under 2 weeks from now, our crew of 12 will embark on a crossing from Arklow to Fishguard. We will be rowing a 6 person Cornish pilot gig and will alternate the crew every hour or so. For me, the 60-mile crossing which will take us anywhere from 15 to 20 hours, is not just about rowing. Rather it has been about the journey of getting ready to do this, reconnecting with a part of myself and the fun and craic we’ve had together over the past few months. Embracing what it feels like to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones and what I am personally learning from this. When the time comes to depart, the potential of seasickness will push us even further beyond our comfort zone. With a little luck we won’t get sick, but I know I spent the first 2 days of my Atlantic crossing getting seasick so this could happen.
The act of being out in nature and trying to navigate the elements feeds my soul. Going beyond my comfort zone examines my character and I guess what I’ve found over the years is that this experience beyond the comfort zone is where I often learn some of the most valuable lessons which help me make the most of the precious time I have in this life.
December 2018 was a very special time for my wife Colette and myself. This wasn’t just down to attending Soulspace. This was when we found out that our first child would be a baby boy. On April 26 of this year we welcomed our first baby (Noah) into the world. Last weekend, we had Noah’s Christening. As part of the celebration, we asked all our family to write out a wish they have for Noah. During the service, they all put their wishes into a little box that we will one day share with the little man. I wrote a letter to Noah that attempted to articulate the wishes that Colette and I have for him as he begins his own life journey. The heart of our wish for Noah is that he embraces the essence of his soul and that he walks his own path in life whatever that might look like and wherever it may take him. By wishing this for Noah, I also want to do my best to live this way myself. I think it will help me be a better Dad which in turn will hopefully have a positive impact on our little fella.
The 3 questions that I explored last year at Soulspace have positively impacted my life. Perhaps you might like to take some time to also consider them:
- What is it that feeds your soul?
- How could you bring more of this into your life?
- What impact could this have on your life and the lives of those around you?
If you have an appetite to explore this in more detail, I would highly recommend that you go along to Soulspace on September 15 in Claregalway Castle in Galway. More information can be found at www.soulspace.ie