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A Ceilidh Through Time

Author: Jacqueline Boland

I’m spinning and laughing and sweating; it is joy and it is life.

The soaring song of the fiddle thrums in my bones, every breath of the accordion as essential as my own; the tapping of feet and rapping of drums is the echo of my heartbeat as I dance and dance and dance—

Here, time has no bearing. It’s just us, the room, the music and all the ones who came before, connected through a shared moment of culture and jubilance. A long tradition of gathering to share stories and songs that whisper to us now—listen…

Can you hear it? Can you feel it?

Can you hear their sorrow and pain in the lilting singing? Their strength and endurance in the pounding of feet and drums? Can you feel their soul and merriment in the clasp of hands and tangle of limbs?

Every song, every step is a story that I share with the one I love, my family, my friends and complete strangers as we kick and clap and spin. The band spill their very souls into the instruments, pouring the music into our own, a conduit for communication spanning hundreds of years so that nothing will ever be forgotten.

And with our panting breaths and pulsing blood, we keep the stories alive.

A young couple married and full of purest love celebrating with their clan, an enduring light to fight back any darkness. The gathering of families in farewell of their children going off to war, so that they may take this moment with them and think of home. Faerie folk with the grass under their feet tickling their toes, yielding themselves entirely to the magic of the forest and the earth.

“Live,” the music demands. “Live and dance and remember.”

The cascading notes peel back the worries, the insecurity, the nonsense until nothing exists beyond this moment. Just your hand in theirs and the swirling of the dance, as sure and beautiful as the rippling stars in the night sky.

It doesn’t matter where you hail from, it doesn’t matter that you trip over your feet, that your face is flushed and hair damped with sweat. To dance here is to be free. When you take a stranger’s sweat-slick palm and throw each other around, grinning wildly. Or stumble as you weave in and out of bodies, laughing with abandon. Your happiness is theirs, and theirs is yours.

With song and dance, we tell the stories of love and loss and home. We’re reminded that all there exists is love and each other. We squeeze a little bit tighter, hold on a little longer and feel a little bit more. As if every person to revel in the music before or sit around the storyteller left a piece of themselves for you, and you’ll leave a piece of yourself for everyone after.

The music fills me up with all those lives and stories, the floating strings and rolling keys swelling my heart, and I give myself over to it. I promise not to forget the feeling, the joy and the clarity, of existing wholly in this moment.

And when the song comes to its crashing end and I’m released from its thrall, collapsing with heavy breaths and a beaming smile, my bursting heart thuds and every beat says: “I am home, I am home, I am home.”