Monday, October 1, 2012

Week Two - Journey in Fairyland

October 1, 2012

Just east of Aberystwyth/University of Wales, a steam train stops at a reasonably level station - Wales consists of hills that go on forever.  It was only, however, a short walk to Devil's Bridge and Mynach Falls.

 There you will find three bridges.  The first was built by the monks of Strata Florida in Medieval times.  In the early 1700's the second bridge was built and in the Twentieth Century the third, a wider bridge for cars, was completed as the topmost bridge.  One can easily drive or walk across the narrow ravine oblivious to the hidden jewels that lie beneath the triple span.  Corroding iron turnstiles on either side of the road mark the way down.  Don't let the antiquity of the gates fool you.  It's still ₤2 to enter.

There is, of course, the name and the myth, which I will recount in my own words...  

In ancient time an old woman lost her cow on the far side of the river and was bemoaning her loss and how she could reclaim her property when a man appeared and offered a most miraculous proposition.  He would build a sturdy bridge over the torrent during the coming night but she would have to agree that the first living thing to cross would be his.  Wishing her cow back in her possession, the old woman agreed, turned, and journeyed to her home.  As the night wore on, she reconsidered the bargain she had struck; however, her need to reclaim her cow overcame her concerns as to how the man might accomplish all he offered.  The next morning, she rose, wrapped a loaf of bread in her skirt, and accompanied by her dog followed her way back to the river to find a fully completed stone bridge with her cow standing just on the other side.  It was truly amazing.  The woman, however, had not become old by being foolish.  She approached the bridge, unwrapped the loaf and threw it across the expanse.  Her dog joyfully ran to the other side of the bridge to gather his treat and disappeared.  The Devil, for such was the man, stormed and stamped his feet for the dog was the first living thing to cross the bridge and he had lost the woman's soul in spite of his cunning hard work.  It is said that the old woman and all who came after have used the bridge undisturbed, as the Devil, shamed at being outwitted by an old woman, was never seen in these parts again.

Built by medieval monks or the Devil, himself, to peer over the rail of the topmost bridge, the view is daunting.  There are two trails - a long and a short - both treacherous to say the least and one must choose based on how adventurous they feel.  The short trail, pictured here, takes only 10-15 minutes and, wanting to take my time and explore, I chose this one and was greatly rewarded by nearly unbroken solitude and a chance to stop, sit, listen, and write - pages of pent up emotions that softened the bands that bound grief and fear within my heart.  I wandered the trail, sat repeatedly to write, inhaled the green of Wales, the magic, the wonder, the eternal nature of the water as it swirled in the punchbowl and forced its path through the narrow divided cliff faces.  A newly turned autumn leaf floated down and with a soft but audible scritch landed on my open journal.  "Hello, mom," I murmured.  I could feel her joy that I was here in this place; and bittersweet, I knew that part of her joy was the renewed companionship of my father, who recently joined her on the other side of eternity.

Healing was not the only jewel I added to my collection of memories and wonders during my hour on the slate stairs.  The sound of fairies was in the rush of the torrent, the rustle and bite of the Welsh wind in the tree tops, and the sight that met my eyes around a bend in the path forced me to stop.  This was truly an enchanted place.

I had just framed a scene in my iPhone when I very nearly dropped it.  Peeking over the top, I questioned the play of light, a trick to my eyes.  Could I be seeing what I thought I saw?  Buried beneath the varied flora, I saw... what?  You tell me - a sleeping dragon, nose almost touching the iron rail that guarded the path to the falls.  I walked back and forth, peered into the depthless eyes, and finally in wonder touched the outstretched snout in blessing.   

Imagination is a powerful thing.  I had come on the student trip wishing only to see some of Wales, to overcome my fear of travelling alone, and disappointment that my husband could not yet join me as planned.  Instead, I found childlike wonder as I stood between worlds - the beauty of our Father's creation and His gift of imagination.  Until next time, I will continue to follow my path where it leads.

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