Friday, June 4, 2010

No Sign Will be Given Except the Sign of Jonah; Consider it Done.

The morning of May 28th I felt a bit like “Anna from Boston” in the movie Leap Year. Anna puts everything she has on the line and returns to Ireland only to have Declan walk away from her offer and close the door behind him. She rushes out of his pub to the shorn cliffs and is seen staring out across the ocean with tears in her eyes. Anna looks exactly as I might have felt if I hadn’t followed the details and threads woven through the movie. The tagline given to its preview is, “When life surprises you. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith.”

I wasn’t looking for or even considering another story in the days after posting my blog, “The Point of No Return.” I was waiting to see what would happen. But Leap Year found its way into my home accompanied by an invitation to watch it. My interest was piqued as rings were exchanged, with one given and one taken. And in short time, the legacy of the emerald ring in The Story of the Grail, which has ties to Ireland, was again beckoning me to follow.

The old codgers in the movie, who are always quoting superstitions, can’t agree on whether it’s bad luck to start a journey on a Friday, or a Saturday, or a Tuesday, and neither on a Sunday or when there’s a full moon. I made note of all the days they mentioned . . . just out of curiosity.

Given the movie’s name and general synopsis, Leap Year would have been perfect for a true leap year, with a release date hovering around February 29th. Simple observation confirms 2010 isn’t a leap year according to any calendar . . . not by the Gregorian calendar or the Hebrew calendar which includes a more complicated leap year cycle of 19 years. But there's a whole lot more to this story than what meets the eye.

Interestingly, the Hebrew calendar is based on astronomical events: a day begins at sundown; each month begins with a new moon; and the New Year arrives with the seventh month. Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the New Year, never falls on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday to ensure that Yom Kippur never directly precedes or follows Shabbat, nor does it fall on a Saturday because it would interfere with the holiday observances. Since holidays fall on the same “date” each year, the Hebrew calendar is routinely adjusted with “days” or an extra month to align what’s happening on earth with the heavens above.

There is no doubt in my mind that the spectral genius is again working behind the scenes. And very likely without the knowledge of Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont—the writers—or other persons whose creative skills were used to bring this movie to life. What’s happening is reminiscent of the scene in The Phantom of the Opera when Christine Daaé sings, “I am the mask you wear” and the Phantom responds, “It’s me they hear.” Only this time, the performance arrives without the duet.

Leap Year bears the signature of the ghost, an imprint of strategies that has maintained a presence throughout the gemstone collection. Just as Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump mysteriously included details belonging to novels decades before they were published—an oddity that someone could attribute to a long lasting conspiracy if they wanted to—Leap Year is also woven with details that hadn’t happened before it arrived in theaters. But the particular details I’m referring to are something for which no group of human beings could be capable of bringing about.

An Imaginary Tale Whose Details Find Their Way Into Reality

Anna is a young woman who anticipates a marriage proposal that doesn’t materialize. She’s reminded of an old Irish folklore tradition—and family myth—that says a woman can propose to a man on the 29th of February. Spurred by the moment, Anna packs her bags and follows her boyfriend Jeremy from Boston to Dublin, Ireland where he’s attending a cardiology conference that happens to be scheduled over leap day.

In the course of Anna’s travels, her trans-Atlantic flight encounters turbulence. The flight is diverted to an airport in Wales as the Dublin airport is closed by a threat of nature. Later in the movie, a hailstorm pelts her with hail the size of golf balls.

In the real world, during the weeks that followed the movie's arrival to the gemstone, flight 935 departed London’s Heathrow Airport on May 25th bound for Los Angeles International Airport, but experienced severe turbulence over the Atlantic and was diverted to Montreal. In mid May the Dublin airport and several others in the region were again closed due to the ash cloud produced by the volcano Eyjafjallajokull. A “hailstorm from hell” ravaged Oklahoma City on May 16th, 2010 with hail some witnesses claimed ranged in size from golf balls to bowling balls.

However, it's the big events that aren’t named or specifically described in Leap Year that are of interest; they’re simulated with subtle details. On her first night in Dingle, Anna attempts to reach an electrical outlet behind her bed. She rocks the frame and it slides across the floor, ramming an armoire that tumbles forward and spills its contents. After a brief pause, the curtain rod fails, the drapes drop, a lamp falls, and an empty wine bottle shatters on the floor.

The first big jolt created by the collision of the furniture causes a small amount of dust to fall from the ceiling in the pub below. The smaller incident brought on by the falling drapes and breaking bottle gives the appearance that the pub’s entire ceiling is about to come down on the patrons. When Anna plugs her BlackBerry into the socket, sparks fly and a fuse is blown. Moments later, a view from the outside shows a much larger flare rising above a building and the entire area is darkened. Declan accuses Anna of frying the entire village. The following morning Anna hires Declan to drive her from Dingle to Dublin. They begin their journey on February 27th. An incident triggers Declan to stop halfway up a hill; when Anna leans against the front end of the car to clean cow poo off her shoes, the vehicle begins to roll backward, stopping only when it careens off the edge of the road and lands with a big splash in a pond.

In the real world the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti occurred four days after Leap Year premiered in theaters and produced apocalyptic type damage. The 8.8 earthquake in Chile was far less destructive and occurred February 27th, the same date that Anna and Declan begin their journey to Dublin. The eruption of Eyjafjallajokull that began in April created a crisis in air transportation, causing travelers to rely on ferry schedules. On May 27th (the day I suggested Cumbre Vieja would erupt, triggering a tsunami across the Atlantic) the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala erupted, frying “some 800” homes in a nearby village; a 7.2 earthquake rocked Vanuatu and a regional tsunami warning was issued in the South Pacific. The details of the day also tied events to The Phantom of the Opera as President Obama referred to the barrels and barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico as an “unparalleled disaster” and told coastal residents, “you are not alone.” Just like Christine Daaé sang to the Phantom.

Common Threads With Other Stories

The incident related to Declan’s car sliding down a hill and falling into a pond with a big splash—reminiscent of the chandelier the Phantom cuts loose that crashes to the stage of the opera—is the only mishap depicted in the movie that hasn’t yet happened in reality.

Leap Year employs details to create metaphors which are used like ancient parables, a savvy way to engage the imagination of the audience to maneuver around difficult subject matter. But there’s more here than lessons to be learned. Something very personal is being communicated, with a confidence that only comes from one able to see the world from a mighty high observation point. The movie lays down the law, leaving little room for interpretation. Just like God provided Moses with the Ten Commandments after the incident that involved holding the waters back so many years ago.

The cover of the DVD claims Leap Year is “Delightfully Funny.” Then, there is the other side that portends a message that is deadly serious. “We’re praying that one day we’ll be able to have a son and heir to keep the family name going.” With the flip of a coin Declan buoyantly states, “Heads I win; tails you lose.”

In the midst of a shower, Anna realizes the terms of the coin flip and comes storming out towards Declan, who smiles and says, “You finally got that, did you? Good for you.”

I mentioned earlier that Leap Year displays familiar strategies that have been present throughout the gemstone collection. It’s like the last offspring in a long line of family members who’ve each contributed a piece of DNA, but mostly it’s the child that would result if Forrest Gump commingled with The Story of the Grail as it provides another map telling where the story goes from here, interwoven with threads that lead to stories in the Bible.

Many of the threads in previous discussions that took us to The Story of the Grail stopped at the Wondrous Palace where Gawain has been made lord after surviving a sit upon the Wondrous Bed. Gawain’s adventures account for less than half of the medieval tale. The story about the grail actually begins with a boy, raised as an only child in the forest, who encounters a group of knights—something he’d never seen before—and decides he wants to become a knight himself. While Mother helps him pack to go in search of King Arthur, she gives him advice he would do well to follow. Among her shreds of wisdom, she tells him:

Dear son, I’ll say another thing:
on roads or at an inn, it’s wrong
to be with someone very long
without first asking him his name.
When all is said and done, they claim
that by the name you know the man.

In the early part of The Story of the Grail, the boy remembers what his mother taught. If he finds he’s with someone very long, he asks them for their name. But more than 3,570 lines of the story pass before anyone reciprocates leaving the audience to contemplate who he is. All we have to rely on is our own careful observation of intangible qualities provided through conversation and conduct in order to identify his character.

As the youth continues on his journey, a detail given in one scene follows him into the next scene. For instance, when the youth comes upon a maiden in a tent, he recites the rules his mother gave him in the forest. When he meets a charcoal burner on the path, he cares not a penny for what the man has to say, just as he cared not a whit about the maiden’s words in the tent. When he arrives at Gornemant’s castle he is wearing the Red Knight’s armor that he had acquired at King Arthur’s gate and retells the story of how he retrieved them. Finally a maiden sitting beneath an oak tree asks the all important question. “Not knowing his real name at all, he guessed his name was Perceval of Wales and said so …”

Signature Strategies of the Master Storyteller

As an aside, within The Story of the Grail events or actions that are repeated three times indicate an approaching turning point in the story. Words or phrases repeated three times that name something that needs to be accomplished or corrected—such as discovering who is served by the grail or answering the question of why the lance at the Fisher King’s manor house always has a drop of blood forming at its tip—always pertain to a person and must be remedied before the story is considered finished. No promises could be left unfulfilled; no destiny unmet. Words or phrases that are repeated twice—and not three times—reveal the path of God. And there’s a very fine line between the path of God and characters in the story; actually the two appear inseparable. God can be “seen” in the choices that are presented, while the individual is required to make their own decision . . . and then they’re held accountable in like measure to their intent and actions.

At the end of my blog “The Point of No Return,” I included a line from The Story of the Grail: “God is all goodness and your Saviour.”

In the movie Leap Year, Declan calls Anna ‘Bob’: “Suits me Bob!” He does it more than once. She throws back “And what is this ‘Bob’ thing?”

Raising questions and leaving them unanswered is a ploy of the genius at work. It’s the way He identifies something the audience should pay heed to. And in this case, the payoff comes with looking up the meaning of names.

The meaning of the name Declan is “one full of goodness.”

Declan is God personified in the story. Each of the gemstone stories has a character who is God incognito.

In Leap Year the meaning behind all of the characters’ names adds depth and impacts the message the story conveys:

Anna is a Hebrew name meaning “Grace”
Jeremy (Anna’s boyfriend) is a Hebrew name meaning “God will raise up; God will set free”
Edith (manager of The Davenport) is English and means “Prosperous in war”
Libby (Anna’s friend) has roots in Hebrew, Greek, and English. Regardless of the source it means “My God is a vow”
Jack Brady (Anna’s dad) is Hebrew and means “God is gracious”
*The only meaning I could find for the surname Brady refers to the television family The Brady Bunch, accompanied by the remark that it was a large blended family.
Charlie (realtor) can be German, English, or French and means “Free man”
Seamus (1 of 3 patrons of the bar who are always providing their opinion) is both Hebrew and Gaelic: the name means “the supplanter.” One who replaces one thing with another via strategy.
Joe (2nd of the 3) is Hebrew, meaning “He will enlarge”
Donal (3rd of the 3) is Gaelic and brings with it “World Rule”
Bob (Declan's nickname for Anna) Germanic, means "Bright fame."
Eoghan (bartender at Tom’s Bar) is Gaelic, meaning “Born from the yew tree, youth”
Frank (station master in Tipperary) has multiple meanings depending on its source: Germanic implies “javelin”; Latin, “free”; and English, “honest”
Eileen (Frank’s wife – runs the B&B) is English or Gaelic and means “pleasant”
Stefano (Italian guest at the B&B) is Greek and means “Crown”
Kaleigh (Declan’s former fiancé) is Gaelic; she is the “keeper of the keys”
Ryan (Declan’s former partner who ran away with Kaleigh) is both Gaelic and English and means “Little King”
Tom (Tom is the repo man. Unrelated, Big Tom’s bar is where the thieves are spotted) in Aramaic it means “Twin,” in Hebrew it means “Honesty or innocence”
Alex (a cook at the Caragh) is Greek and means “Defending men”

Beryl is one of the ground agents at the airport in Wales who Anna attempts to convince of the importance that she reach Dublin in time for leap day. The name Beryl means “blue-green.” It is a gemstone named in four verses in the Bible.
  • In Exodus 28:17 and 39:10, beryl is placed on the first row of the breastpiece for making decisions that Moses and Aaron are instructed to build.

  • In Revelation 21:20, beryl decorates the 8th foundation of the city walls that surround New Jerusalem.

  • In Ezekiel 28:13, the LORD rails against the King of Tyre who was once the model of perfection: “You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every precious stone adorned you, ruby, topaz, emerald, chrysolite, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. ” (Note: This is also the verse that I discovered while searching for the meaning behind the emerald ring and determined it was actually the basis for the grail at the Fisher King’s manor house.)
A Story Within a Story Within a Story...
Leap Year begins with an anthology of moments showing a day in the life of Anna. She meets a client, interviews for an apartment, waits at a bar for her father, expands on an answer in the interview, is fitted for a dress, checks the clock at the bar where she’s still waiting, etc. The activities are not precisely in sequence, giving the perception that everything is happening simultaneously.

Likewise, when Anna arrives in Dingle and wanders into the Caragh—the inn owned by Declan—the patrons in the bar take notice and try to guess where she’s from. “Australian” “South African.” Anna sets them straight, “Actually, she’s American. Anna from Boston. I just need someone to tell me how to get to Dublin from here. Is there a bus maybe or something?”

The men quibble about the year when bus and train service to Dublin ended. In truth, if public transportation doesn’t exist, it doesn’t matter when it stopped. The onus is placed on things that have happened, should happen, or didn’t happen . . . regardless of the year.

What isn’t obvious in casual observation is that like the various moments from scenes in the introduction, the movie itself is comprised of multiple stories seamlessly woven together and being played out simultaneously. Most of them are introduced with words intended to strike a chord of familiarity with the audience.

Anna’s entrance in the Caragh occurs just as the moral of a story is being told: “You can take a man out of a fish, but you can’t take the fish out of the water.”

The first part of this statement brings to mind the image of Jonah sitting in the belly of a fish. In the story that’s come down through the ages, the LORD calls upon Jonah to proclaim judgment against the town of Nineveh because the people’s wickedness had come before Him:

Jonah wants no part in the task and decides to flee from the LORD instead. He travels to Joppa, where he boards a ship bound for Tarshish, a city in the opposite direction. While at sea, a violent storm forms and tosses the ship about. The sailors cry out, each to their own god, but nothing calms the sea. The captain discovers Jonah asleep below deck and wakes him, asking him to pray to his god, so that they might not all perish. The sailors decide to cast lots to determine who is responsible for the storm and the lot falls on Jonah. Jonah had previously told them he was running from the LORD. When he answers their questions telling them he is Hebrew and worships the LORD, the God of heaven, who created the land and the sea, they become terrified. Their terror is met by waves that grow stronger and rougher. They then ask Jonah what needs to be done to correct the situation and calm the waters. He tells them, “Throw me into the sea, and it will become calm.” At first, the sailors couldn’t bear the thought of doing such a thing knowing that Jonah would meet certain death. But the sea grows wilder than ever. They pray to Jonah’s LORD asking that they not be held accountable for what they’re about to do. Then they toss him overboard . . . and suddenly the raging sea grows calm. Unbeknownst to the sailors, the LORD has his own plan for Jonah. He provides a great fish to arrive precisely when and where Jonah is tossed into the raging waters. The fish swallows him and for three days and three nights Jonah is inside the fish’s belly. During this time he prays to the LORD, repenting his disobedience and asking for mercy. The LORD then speaks to the fish, bringing it to dry land where it then vomits out Jonah. After he is saved, Jonah is again asked to prophecy against Nineveh because of their wickedness. This time he agrees to do as the LORD asks. When he arrives in the city he proclaims, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The people believe the LORD’s word and turn from their evil ways. When the time comes, the LORD has compassion for them and decides not to bring about the destruction he had threatened. Given all that he had personally been through, Jonah isn’t happy by this turn in events. He asserts that since the LORD is merciful, it was inevitable that He would turn from the threatened calamities. Jonah leaves the city and builds himself a shelter and waits to see whether or not the city will be destroyed. The LORD causes a plant to grow over Jonah’s shelter providing shade for him. But then the LORD causes a worm to bite the plant’s root and it withers. Jonah is left to suffer in the heat and full exposure to the sun. This time he begs the LORD to take him out of the world. The LORD says to him, “The good is what you are angry at! And you are upset about this little plant. Something for which you have not worked nor helped in making it grow. It grew overnight and died the next day. Should I not be more concerned about Nineveh, this enormous city? There are more than one hundred twenty thousand people in it who do not know right from wrong, as well as many animals.”

It’s a Hebrew tradition to read Jonah’s story aloud every year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in its original Hebrew language and in entirety. Those present are reminded that when Jonah was praying inside the great fish he named the 13 traits that belonged to the LORD. However when he reached the last one, he replaced “Truthful” with “… and who is willing to forgive the bad.”

When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees to produce a miraculous sign, he responded, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them—and now, something greater than Jonah is here!”

Jonah's Story, Told in a New Setting

In the movie Leap Year, Jonah’s story takes hold in the barbs that are exchanged between Anna and Declan shortly after their first meeting. Just before the Renault slides backwards down the hill and crashes into the pond with a big splash, Anna and Declan encounter a herd of cows that are blocking the road. Declan sits on the side of the road eating an apple while Anna gets in the middle of them, “Hi, cows. Look, I have spent the past 24 hours in every level of hell, and I'm not going to let your black and white asses drag me any further, so if you know what’s good for you, you’ll move.”

Towards the end of the first day of their journey they finally begin to work through their differences in a garden behind the Bed & Breakfast in Tipperary. Declan shows compassion for Anna. Anna later shows mercy for Declan. The second day of their travels is highlighted by a wedding ceremony and reception that they crash.

Anna unintentionally spoils the bride’s big day. She deals with it by leaving the celebration and getting drunk on the shore of a lake. When Declan joins her and suggests they continue on their journey, she stands up and vomits on his shoes.

When they finally arrive in Dublin, Declan tells Anna about his mother’s Claddagh ring and the girl who ran off with it. Claddagh rings hold symbolic meaning both in the way they're worn and how they're given. The hands, heart, and crown are said to correspond to the qualities of love, friendship, and loyalty. When exchanged in marriage, the ring is often given with the words, “With this crown, I give my loyalty. With these hands, I offer my service. With this heart, I give you mine."

Anna: Well you’re here now. You should find her and get it back.”
Declan: I don’t know.
Anna: It’s your mother’s ring.
Declan: Anyway, I thought it was your ring we were meant to be worrying about. Diddly-eye.
Anna: Oh, yeah. Right. Well, I’m glad to see you’re finally on board.
Declan: It has nothing to do with me. I’m just the old bag carrier around here. Why should I care?
Anna: So you don’t?
Declan: Would it make a difference?

On that first night in Dingle, shortly after Jonah’s story was told by Declan, another story was introduced.

Ezekiel and the Art of Digesting the Words of a Story

After realizing she wouldn’t find transportation so late in the day, Anna arranges to take a room at the Caragh. Declan shows her upstairs. As he turns to head back downstairs, Anna announces that she’s hungry and had noticed a menu in the bar. Declan quickly tells her the kitchen is closed, but then reconsiders and says he’ll make her a “hang sandwich.”

Anna calls out, “What’s a hang? Hang is a verb. It’s not a sandwich.”

Actually, a hang sandwich is the same as a ham sandwich. But for the purposes of this story, a hang sandwich refers to the one who was hanged. As Perceval was told in The Story of the Grail, “Christ, for thirty shillings pay was hung upon a cross that day.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the LORD provided a person with something to eat in order to digest words or ideas that must be communicated to others. Usually, as in the case of Ezekiel, the small scroll he was told to put on his tongue and eat, tasted like honey . . . not like pork. But then it isn’t about what goes into the mouth that matters, it’s what comes out of it.

In the morning, a rooster crows in Dingle.

Anna comes out of the Caragh with her luggage just as Declan drives up in a small, old, red Renault 4. She insults his vehicle multiple times. Declan shakes his head and talks to himself, “Don’t listen to her. She knows not what she says.”

Before a rooster crows again, Anna will have denied Declan three times:
  • After Anna rests against the front end of Declan’s car to clean her shoes and it begins its long backward roll into the pond, Declan tells her she’ll have to pay to have it towed out. She glares at him, “Like hell. You’ll have to kill me before I pay you a dime.”

  • Without a vehicle, they have no choice but to walk for a distance. When Declan notices a blue van approaching, he tells Anna, “I wouldn’t get in there if I were you.” Her response: “And I care about your opinion because …” The driver asks her if she needs a ride and then offers to help her with her suitcase. The moment her back is turned, the thieves drive away with her Louis Vuitton luggage. Declan keeps walking. Anna trails behind. When she finally comes upon Big Tom’s bar, Declan is there waiting for her. He tells her that as soon as he finishes his beer, “I’ll call a tow truck for us.” She glares and snaps, “There is no us.”

  • When they finally arrive at a train station they have a 2 ½ hour wait before the train departs for Dublin. Declan opts to walk up a hill to Ballycarbery Castle across the way. Anna originally says she’s going to stay close to the station, but something changes her mind. They are still at the top of the castle when the train whistle is heard in the distance. Anna begins to run. The clouds open up and it begins pouring rain. She stumbles and falls . . . and rolls, and tumbles down the hill, landing face down in a puddle of mud. Declan comes to her aid. She raises her head toward his face, “I hate you.”
Anna’s feelings of hatred negate the few pleasant moments they shared when they came within the walls surrounding Ballycarbery. Anna was impressed that it was a real castle and inquired, “So what’s the story with this place?” Declan obliges her request:

“Well, hundreds of years ago, there was a beautiful girl called Grainne. Now, she was promised in marriage to this fella called Fionn, who was kind of a cranky old warlord, old enough to be her father, old enough to be her grandfather, and therefore she wasn't in love with him. Anyway, on the night of their betrothal, whom does she meet but a handsome young warrior, Diarmuid. They fell madly in love at first sight, but what could she do? Well, she slips a sleeping potion in everyone's drinks, and the pair of them run off together across the Shannon. Fionn wakes and there's Grainne gone. Well, he goes mental. Takes his army and heads off in hot pursuit. But it was the people, you know, the people in the villages of Ireland, they took pity on Diarmuid and Grainne. They hid them in forests and in their barns and castles, where they'd sleep one night and then they'd move on. Sleep was all they did, 'cause Diarmuid, good man that he was, was suffering the old guilt about two-timing Fionn and out of respect for him, didn't, you know, take it any further. And then they came to this castle and this view. And 'tis said, you know, that, unable to resist such beauty, that here, in this place, they . . . . They consummated their love."

Anna is engaged with the story up until the point Declan mentions they consummated their love.

Anna: “Oh, my God. You’re hitting on me.”
Declan: “I’m what?”
Anna: “I’m the young woman on the eve of her engagement that can’t resist the handsome stranger? Oh, come on.
Declan: “I’m what?”
Anna: “You didn’t honestly think that was going to work did you?”
Declan: “Don’t flatter yourself darling. The story’s true, but it sure as shite ain’t about you.”

Actually, the story IS about Anna. And Declan plays a role, but it isn’t as the handsome young warrior named Diarmuid. The journey that Anna is in the midst of . . . traveling with Declan through villages in Ireland on their way to Dublin is a story she shares with Anna from the Bible.

Anna was a Hebrew prophetess who was at the temple in Jerusalem when Mary and Joseph arrived with the baby Jesus forty days after his birth, to present him to the LORD according to the Law of Moses. Both she and Simeon recognized the baby as the Anointed One, the Messiah that the prophets of old had written of. Simeon prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus. Anna offered a prayer and praise to the LORD and spoke to everyone about Jesus’ role in the redemption of Israel.

Both are considered the last prophets of the Old Testament and have been made saints by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates their feast in February, following the celebration of “The Meeting of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ” which is also sometimes called “La Fête de la Chandeleur.”

The Christian feast is an adaptation of a festival known as Imbolc, belonging to the Gaelic year. In Ireland it is also known as Lá Fhéile Bríde. Imbolc comes from the Old Irish word i mbolg which means "in the belly" referring to the pregnancy of ewes. It is a festival of the hearth and home, a celebration of the lengthening of days and the early signs of spring. There are hearthfires, special foods, candles, and the watching for omens. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun in the coming months. The old tradition includes being on the lookout for serpents or badgers to come out of their den. (Wikpedia)

Anna's Story

The story of Anna is inclusive of all the smaller stories. It begins in Boston when Anna’s friend Libby crashes in on a dress fitting to announce that she saw Jeremy walking out of DePrisco’s carrying “that little red bag.”

Supposedly there is only one reason people go into DePrisco’s and that's to buy engagement rings.

Jeremy specializes in matters of the heart, but he’s not particularly adept at romance. When the marriage proposal doesn’t materialize during the “very special dinner” he’s arranged before leaving for Dublin, Anna decides to follow him and pull a Grandma Jane by popping the question herself.

When Anna first arrives in Dingle and discovers there isn't a bus or a train to deliver her to Dublin, she inquires about taxi service. And of course Declan is not only the bartender of the pub, he’s the innkeeper, kitchen cook, and village taxi driver. He’s also quick to inform her that Dublin is a city of chancers and cheats and backstabbing snakes. He wouldn’t drive her to Dublin if she paid him €500. But then something happens that changes his mind.

Like Ballycarbery, every city has a story. And as we’ve seen in recent months, the spectral genius working behind the scenes, the Master Storyteller himself, is particularly fond of using places with a connection to the arts.

Boston is the home of the fictional character Hester Prynne, the leading lady of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter. A story about a woman who is required to wear “a rag of scarlet cloth” on the breast of her dress, in the shape of the letter A—for adultery—as a symbol of her shame and sin for everyone to see. Hester had an affair with Arthur Dimmesdale, an eloquent minister who privately brands his own chest with the letter A.

Dublin is where Handel’s Messiah premiered in the year 1742. Handel is famous for word painting, a technique in which the melody mimics the literal meaning of the lyrics. Charles Jennens wrote the libretto, or text, for Messiah, gathering much of the material from the Old Testament and drawing heavily from the book of Isaiah. Additional sources include Matthew, Luke, John, Hebrews, Romans, Job, First Corinthians, and Revelation. Jennens conceived Messiah as an oratio in three parts which he describes as follows:

  • “Part One: The prophesy and realization of God's plan to redeem mankind by the coming of the Messiah. 
  • Part Two: The accomplishment of redemption by the sacrifice of Jesus, mankind's rejection of God's offer, and mankind's utter defeat when trying to oppose the power of the Almighty. 
  • Part Three: A Hymn of Thanksgiving for the final overthrow of Death.”

It's been said that one day an assistant entered Handel's room after trying to get his attention for several minutes with no response. He found Handel in tears. When the assistant asked what was wrong, Handel held up the score to the “Hallelujah” chorus and said, "I thought I saw the face of God." (Wikipedia)

Finding Meaning in the Journey and the Places It Travels Through

It was never meant to be that Anna from Boston would fly like a bird in a plane to reach her destination. Getting there is half the story. Everyone she meets, everything that happens, brings meaning. Storms not only slow her down, in some instances they prevent her from passing through certain locals.

After her original flight was diverted to Wales, Anna hired a boatman to ferry her to Cork but rough seas force them to go to Dingle instead. And good thing because in reality anyone familiar with Cork would tell you it has a reputation for rebelliousness that goes back hundreds of years. It’s even nicknamed “The Rebel County.”

Dingle on the other hand, is a quaint town on the Atlantic coast, situated on a natural harbor. It thrives on fishing, agriculture, and tourism. However it wasn’t too long ago that tourists might have had a difficult time finding their way to it. In 2005 it was announced that anglicized place names—like Dingle—would no longer be included on signposts and that only the Irish language names would appear. The English language version of the town’s name was officially dropped and replaced with the Irish name An Daingean. After trying to get their point across without success that nobody could find their way there, the locals took matters into their own hands, spray-painting “Dingle” on any sign for the town that didn’t include it.

Along the N24 route between Limerick and Waterford City, is a place called Tipperary. In Irish, the name means “The Well of the Arra” in reference to the river which flows through it. There have been many songs which pay tribute to the place, among them John Alden Carpenter’s song The Home Road which includes the lyric “For the long, long road to Tipperary is the road that leads me home.”

But it isn’t just the places, people, or events that bring meaning to Anna’s journey. It’s the sounds and sights as well. In particular, it's the cows.

The herd of cows they encounter that are blocking the road might be viewed as sacred cows—though not of the Hindu variety. In a metaphorical sense the cows represent something unreasonably immune from criticism. And the proof for this assumption is provided by the story.

After Anna falls down the hill outside Ballycarbery castle and they miss the train to Dublin, the station master takes them to his home, “the best little B&B in Tipperary.” As they’re freshening up following a day of mishaps, Eileen visits their room to make sure all is well and shares the news that they’ll be having tripe for dinner.


"A family recipe."

“Nothing like a bit of cow’s stomach on a rainy day.”

Anna merely needs to ask if Declan heard what Eileen said and he volunteers, “Right, tripe. I was thinking, Mrs. O’Docherty, why don’t you let me cook?”

Anna, who as far as we know has had nothing to eat except the “hang sandwich” that Declan prepared the night before, convincingly says he’s a wonderful cook. "He’s a chef."

We need to remember that words have multiple meanings. Cow’s stomach may well be a great dish for certain days, but with Declan in the kitchen one can be certain that nobody is going to be served words that are false or have little merit.

Anna and Declan go outside to gather vegetables from the garden. Anna opens up about her life while she was growing up in an effort to explain why she tries to control situations. Declan apologizes as if he’s personally responsible. “A father’s someone you should be able to rely on, you know?”

While Declan goes after a chicken in the coop, he verifies that Anna isn't one of "those vegetarians." When he grabs a bird, he brings it out and stands in front of her as he breaks its neck. “Coq au vin?”

Anna returns to the kitchen in disgust while Declan shakes his head and softly says, “Give me strength.”

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Declan follows Anna into the kitchen, “Don’t start telling me that you’ve never had chicken stew before.” “I’m wondering where it is that you think chickens come from.”

The meal they prepare is well received. Actually, it’s “magnificent.” Following dinner, Frank breaks out a bottle of liquor that was a wedding present 44 years prior. He gives Eileen a kiss of appreciation. Stephano, one of the Italian guests, interjects “That’s what it takes to be married for 44 years. The kiss. Always kiss like it’s the first time and the last time.“ Stephano and his wife share a “grand” kiss. Frank pressures Declan into kissing Anna: “Show us old ones how it’s done.”

Declan hesitates.

In order to fully appreciate this moment, we need to consider all of the components that have already come to our attention, plus a few new insights. “Anna from Boston” has been given a hang sandwich to digest and is traveling to Dublin, where Messiah premiered.

In the story, Declan is God personified. He’s also the old warlord in pursuit of his intended Bride. And while he may not have a high opinion of Jeremy, he does have great respect for Anna. The words spoken by Stephano and Frank in quick succession would certainly strike a chord in Declan’s mind. The first, the last, it’s done . . . I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. It is done.

The challenge presented by the kiss is that Anna must make her own decision concerning what’s at stake. And I suspect that God personified, Love in its purest, might be a pretty good kisser even if he’s never kissed a woman before. Consider the emotions that come with the moment when lips first touch.

But the real problem is that the true character of a person is discerned by careful observation of the intangible qualities present in their conversation and conduct. And all the words that Jesus spoke came from the Father in heaven, who told him what to say and what to teach. Like the duet shared by Christine Daaé and the Phantom, "Your/My spirit and my/your voice in one combined."

When words and conduct are considered, there’s a very fine line that separates the man Jesus from God the Father. Anna must be able to distinguish between the two.

Jesus performed miracles and taught in parables. When he healed a man he gained a follower, when he told a parable he did so to ignite the imagination—to spark the mind. His genetic makeup was such that when his actions touched the physical dimensions of life, they likewise produced a spiritual repercussion. But there was nothing about his genetic makeup that distinguished him from other human beings. More importantly, the intent of his life was to show what everyone else was capable of achieving.

Just as Anna and Declan act out the story of Jonah in the movie Leap Year, the story of Jesus retells the Creation story and takes it to the final redemption; he represents the beginning and the end.

  • In Genesis, man was made in the image of God and then formed with the substance of earth. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the seed of a young woman. He was one part spirit and one part flesh . . . as we all are.
  • Adam and Eve were told if they ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would experience death. When they ate the fruit they essentially agreed to die. Jesus came to earth to die. Our own death is the only thing we know is certain to happen during our time on earth.

But there's more to each story. Nachash, the Hebrew name belonging to the serpent of the Garden, told Eve “You will surely not die.” Jesus had one true message to deliver: life everlasting. Only the flesh dies. The soul on the other hand—our personal story—is intricately woven with the spirit and lives on and on.

Like the name of the village Dingle, the name Nachash is important. It's serves as a guidepost to help us find our way back home. For the larger population, the serpent's name was lost in translation while the knowledge that words in the Hebrew Bible gained meaning and authentication via a code translating words to number known as Gematria fell to the wayside. In order to fully appreciate the role of the serpent "Nachash," one had to understand the role of the "Messiah" as both words have the numeric value 358. Their roles are similar in nature. They were both messengers of God.

Another Apple

In the morning that follows dinner at the B&B in Tipperary, the rooster crows for the second time. Anna learns the train doesn’t run on Sunday and Eileen already left with the car to go to Mass in Dublin and do some shopping. Declan takes note of the missed opportunity and eats a second apple.

Anna packs her bags and sets out walking to the nearest town where she can catch the next available bus. Declan trails behind, making sure she takes the right turns along the way. As they’re walking on a country lane, hailstones begin to fall and they run to the nearest building which happens to be a church. Anna bursts backwards through the doors, laughing loudly while saying, “Jesus Christ!” When she turns, she sees the pews are filled with guests and a wedding is in progress. Without a moment's thought, she appends her words with “Is Lord,” to avoid judgment and please the crowd.

The priest invites them to take a seat and witness the ceremony. They end up staying for the reception. Priorities switch as Declan urges they get back on the road, but Anna insists she isn’t going to walk any further in the shoes she’s wearing and chooses to wait for the priest who has offered to drive them to the bus station.

Old wounds and recent hostilities rise to the surface, but eventually it’s the wounds that bring them closer. Anna informs Declan that she’s onto him. She tells him, “You’re a beast.” She attributes all his growling and beasty behavior to the pain he’s in, as if he has a thorn in his beasty paw. Like a lion.

Like the lion in Aesop’s fable who was moaning and groaning in the forest when an escaped slave came upon him:

At first Androcles was fearful, but when he realized the lion didn’t pursue him when he tried to run away, he turned back and approached it. As he came nearer, the lion held out his paw which was badly swollen and bloody. Androcles could see that a huge thorn was pressed deep in the paw, causing the lion’s pain, so he grabbed hold of it and pulled it out. Then he bound up the paw. Soon the lion was able to rise and licked the hand of Androcles like a dog. Then the lion took Androcles to his cave and every day would bring him meat so he could live. But one day both of them were captured. Androcles was sentenced to be thrown to the lion, after the lion had been kept without food for several days. The Emperor and all his Court came to see the spectacle. Androcles was led to the center of the arena. Soon the lion was let loose and bound across the dirt, roaring fiercely, rushing towards his victim. But as the lion came near he recognized his friend and fawned upon him, licking his hand like a friendly dog. The Emperor was quite surprised and summoned Androcles to him. Androcles told him the whole story, whereupon the slave was pardoned and freed and the lion was returned to his native forest.

The traditional moral of the story is: Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.

But there’s a reason this particular fable was included by the spectral genius working behind the scenes. He's in pain. He's really, really in pain. And we're the only ones that can take the pain away.

For the second time, Anna tries to comfort Declan. But she gets sick in the midst of it. As Declan lifts her in his arms she expresses concern for "Louis," her luggage that’s been hauled along the entire time. Declan promises to come back for it as he carries her on toward the final leg of their journey.

When they finally arrive in Dublin, Anna comments on what a beautiful city it is and how she hasn’t seen one backstabbing snake. Declan responds, “Yeah, well, its’ the chancers and cheats that you have to watch out for.”

Redefining the Serpent

The "snake" that was sent out of the Garden with Adam and Eve, to crawl on his belly, has always been with us. He strikes at our heels as we're rushing out the door and suddenly remember we've forgotten something. Sometimes we swipe at his head. The serpent of the story is Intuition. Nobody regrets following intuition, but many will tell you the outcome wasn't what they hoped for after acknowledging they ignored it.

When they stop over a bridge and talk, Anna intuitively knows that Kaleigh, the girl in a photo she’d seen in Dingle, is there in the city. She just as quickly comprehends that the other person in the photo—besides Declan—is the one that Kaleigh ran off with.

While in Dublin, two birds are killed with one stone: Jeremy proposes to Anna and Declan calls Kaleigh to arrange a meeting with her.

Anna returns to Boston with Jeremy.

Endings That Transform Into New Beginnings

Business at the Caragh is hopping when Declan is compelled to leave the kitchen to deal with a customer’s complaint about the chicken being dry. He says, “Alex you’re in charge. Don’t blow anything up.”

Alex is the thread that delivers us to the Prologue of The Story of the Grail. In the original tale it’s a reference to Alexander the Great, who Chrétien says is surpassed in greatness by Philip, Count of Flanders. Philip is the man credited with providing Chrétien de Troyes “the book” which was put to rhyme. Alexander on the other hand, had two great impulses: to do great things but only as long as he was assured fame and glory for having done them.

As Leap Year is drawing to a close, Seamus and Joe are standing on a path outside the Caragh. Joe looks across the way and comments, “Would you look at that! On a Sunday, no less.”

Sunday is apparently good luck for some things, among them ending a journey.

Joe: Aye, and dig a well.
Seamus: Idiot! Do they look like they’re digging a well?
Joe: You know what I’m talking about.
Seamus: I never know what you’re talking about.

In reality, May 27th wasn’t a Sunday. But it was a night marked by a full moon. For the second time in the history of this blog, while I was busy researching details, one came of its own accord to my inbox and magically aligned what was happening in the story with the heavens above. Lynda Hill’s newsletter on the Sabian Symbols that correspond to this Full Moon describes love knocking at the door and an old-fashioned well: the degree of the full Moon on May 27th is “Sagittarius 7, Cupid Knocking at the Door of the Human Heart. The degree is one of opening the heart to universal love and allowing an open and honest exchange between you and others. Love is asking to be let in. Finding the “key” to open the door can lead to big realizations about the self and others. The degree of the Sun at this full Moon is Gemini 7: An Old-Fashioned Well with the Purest and Coldest of Waters. The degree shows a reliable, sustainable, and refreshing supply of the essence of all life—water. Wells symbolize sources of nourishment, the quenching of thirst, and can also show inner wisdom, and the depth of people, emotionally and spiritually.” Click to read the full write-up Full Moon

After 825 years . . . four novels and six movies, the audience has been delivered to the opening pages of The Story of the Grail. That’s some kind of miracle.

Eleanor of Aquitaine would be humbled. All that she suffered by the willful intent of others has been avenged. And who would dare argue with the knight who rose to her defense. The only incident of Eleanor’s life for which she may feel a tinge of guilt and be carrying around as baggage, is a comment she once made about her first husband Louis VII. She complained that she thought she had married a king but instead apparently married a monk as Louis gave more attention to God than he did to her.

Nineveh was given 40 days to correct their evil and corrupt ways. As an aside, details belonging to the gemstone are woven through the movie 2012 beginning with Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and a watch offered in trade. The movie builds its case by connecting the details of what's been happening and uses a map to guide a group of people hoping to be part of the future of humanity; a future that holds literature and art in high esteem. In the film, Charlie says, "Well, something like this could only originate in Hollywood."

Given the options available it's a brilliant strategy to tap Hollywood's creativity. And the big screen offers a neutral venue with a vast audience--a time-progressed version of a minstrel delivering the original story from the streets of Troyes in 1185.

Something has to give. And the reality of the situation is truth doesn't come in versions. Time is of the essence.