We were in the West of Ireland recently and travelled to the island of Valentia almost at the furthermost point of the Ring of Kerry. The legend has it that Brendan sailed from this coastline:
‘he built a coracle of wattle, covered it with hides tanned in oak bark softened with butter, set up a mast and a sail, and after a prayer upon the shore, embarked in the name of the Trinity. For seven years he voyaged to find the Promised Land of the saints.’
Sometimes, when we looked out over the Atlantic, the grey emptiness, the seas that would move great boulders on the beaches, made this seem impossible. On other days, though, seeing the islands stretching one after another, into the blue distance, it became easy to imagine a group of monks moving with a careless, wondering, serious intent, from one island to another, sailing further and further westward, lured on the by the expectation of just one more island until they reached America itself.