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Superstitions and Writing

By Rachel Rueckert

“You mean we have kiss it upside down?” I said as I stood in line, shoulder to shoulder, with fellow strangers seeking to be blessed with the “gift of gab” by kissing the infamous Blarney Stone. I cocked my head and looked at the suckers high above me, trembling as they folded their awkward bodies backward to plant their own kiss on the Blarney Stone like Spiderman at the lip of the towering fortress.

“I’m afraid so,” said the older man from England in front of me. “Hope you don’t mind germs. Are you afraid of heights? There will be someone there to hold you so you don’t fall.”

This is insane, I thought. The legend was foggy: millions of pilgrims had come for over 200 years to kiss the stone to obtain the gift of eloquence from a slab of rock dating back to 1314, a stone once believed to hold the prophetic powers to determine Scottish royal succession. The tourist brochure says that “its powers are unquestioned.” But I’m a skeptic.

Here at the mouth of the Blarney Castle, I have a choice: I can stand in line for an additional two hours to participate in this gimmick, or I can go back to my hotel in Cork. It’s not too late to make it to the Butter Museum before they close…

I chose to go into the castle.

Why?

Perhaps to say I had done it—this was my first time in Ireland, after all, and for my first writing retreat to boot. But that reason is hollow and insufficient. I am no longer at the stage of life where the accumulation of deeds holds so much evidence of proof that I have lived. Perhaps more embarrassing but more honest to admit is that, when it comes to my writing, I am not above entertaining superstitions. I believe I cannot write without silence, without being alone, without lighting a candle, without my favorite pen, etc.

After the two-hour slog through the tourist traffic, I made it to the top of the Blarney Castle and inched towards the stone. I squirmed into the appropriate position onto my back, gripped the iron handlebars, arched, then pecked the gritty blackened spot on the slab. A camera flashed. The man working the kissing station pulled me up and ushered the next visitor forward.

I wiped my lips on the collar of my shirt, trying not to think of the millions of mouths before mine. Then I ran my tongue along my lips, recoiling at the taste of unfamiliar salt. I quickly exited the castle, passing the opportunity to buy a portrait of me kissing the stone. The proof wouldn’t be in the picture, but in the writing.

Crazy? Maybe. But sometimes, crazy is what is exactly what writing feels like.

During my writing retreat at Anam Cara in the lush, seaside village of Eyries, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote like a dam had burst in my mind. I wrote like a dog was chasing me. I wrote like my days left on Earth were numbered. I wrote like I had finally woken up from a deep sleep. I wrote like I’d never written before. And I never have written like that again since. Writing is like that sometimes—we are never quite sure what will come out, but we show up to the desk and hope. The product of hope and work for me can be inexplicable, surprising, baffling, even magical.

So no, I’m not too proud to admit that I might believe in a bit of writing magic, of life’s ability to awe, even in the seemingly obvious clichés. I will still light candles, still crave solitude, still cultivate silence in my writing practice, still seek silly talismans. But perhaps most importantly, I will still say yes to what others may bypass or dismiss. If you asked me to kiss the Blarney Stone again for good measure, I’d be back in line again.

About Rachel Rueckert

Rachel Rueckert is a Utah-born, Boston-based writer and international curriculum director. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia, where she is working on her first memoir about marriage and travel.

1 thought on “Superstitions and Writing”

  1. I love the way you've shared this experience, and your words have reawakened a desire to put fingertips to keyboard, so thank you for that. (You've also provided me with ample reason not to seek to kiss that famous stone!)

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