It is 5:30AM on July 18th in Dublin when my eyes abruptly widen in my lofty Airbnb bedroom. I am consistently checking the time on my phone to make sure that the day hasn’t drifted past me too quickly. Currently, there is a battle going on between my adrenaline and my jet lag, and so far, my adrenaline is winning (thank god). I am smack dab in the middle of City Center with hundreds of buildings surrounding me and am walking distance to nearly everything in Dublin, including bars, shops, pubs, restaurants, theaters, churches and so on. My sweet Airbnb host, Michael, offers me some delicious breakfast before I head out for my first days’ festivities. I politely decline, as I have absolutely no appetite. I am too excited and nervous about all that will happen in the next few hours. Well, perhaps I should just cut to the chase. I am meeting the beautiful and talented Fionnuala Gill today at 10:30am. My mind is racing with questions that I’d like to ask her. I’ve told myself at least fifty times this week that I simply just need to be myself. However, there have been a few moments where I pause and tell myself that I have to just let whatever happens, happen. I realize that Fionnuala’s voice, charm and spirit move me very deeply, and this fact alone will most likely lead our conversation from introductory to ‘real talk’ within seconds.
I walk the two miles from Railway Street to Kilkenny Design on Nassau Street. Dublin is in the midst of a heatwave, so I walk slowly in order to avoid working up a sweat. There are people crowded all around me. I soon find myself rushing to get into a quiet space so that I have time to calm my nerves. I walk into the cafe and start looking at the delicious pastries on display. I happen to be standing behind a pillar when I notice a woman walking up the stairs. “I think that’s Fionnuala,” I silently tell myself. I tiptoe my way towards her. I take one more deep breath. Our eyes lock.
“Maddie?” Fionnuala says in her charming Irish accent.
I pry my eyes wide open.
“Hi, Fionnuala,” I reply in my high-pitched Maddie voice.
Her firm and long hug instantly calm me down.
“How are you?” Fionnuala asks.
“I’m doing great. How are you?” I asked.
As we make our way into the cafe line to order tea, I nonchalantly glance over at her a couple of times to make sure she is real. I know this sounds absurd, but I truly felt like I was in a dream. I have been anticipating this moment for quite some time, and now the moment has finally arrived. I knowingly blink a few times to test my reality, and yet, each time I open my eyes, nothing has changed. There she is, standing next to me. My adrenaline begins to dissipate, and I feel as though I can breathe again. Fionnuala has a calming aura about her that I’m sure is infectious to everyone she meets. I feel a sense of relief pass over me.
We sit across the table from each other, sip our tea, talk and laugh our way through the beauty of each others company. One thing I noticed about Fionnuala is that whenever she laughed, she would gently and happily throw her head back. It was really beautiful to watch and certainly refreshing. A classy act indeed. She has an infectious laugh that was giggle-inducing. Whenever she laughed, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh myself. There were times during our conversation where there was no verbal communication. During those times, I would glance down at my tea and pray that another question would pop up in my mind to ask her. My bumbling awkwardness presented itself quite plainly at times, but I think Fionnuala understood that meeting her was a big deal for me. In other words, she was very patient with me. Whenever I looked up from my tea, Fionnuala would be looking at me and smiling, silently telling me that everything was okay. It was only after our meeting that I realized this. Another sweet quality that I noticed about Fionnuala was that she was very prim and proper. I think her favorite words are “delighted” and “lovely.” So sweet.
Fionnuala asked me how I found out about her music. I told her that my best friend from school sent me the video to the song “Sleepsong,” a beautiful lullaby from the Norwegian band “Secret Garden,” which Fionnuala was also a part of. She tells me about her life as a singer, a traveler and a mindfulness teacher. She tells me about her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and how it affects her today. She tells me about her childhood and what it was like growing up. Fionnuala has had many unforgettable experiences during her singing career. The most prominent and rewarding experience for her was singing for His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. She sang for the Dalai Lama back in 2011 during his visit to Ireland. She emphasized that she was overcome with emotion in his presence and I certainly don’t blame her for feeling this way. Just having Fionnuala talk about this experience overwhelmed me! She mentioned that the Dalai Lama blessed her by putting his hands over her hands and bowing down. We laughed together, and my heart nearly melted when she told me this.
I consider Fionnuala to be a hidden gem. If you sample her music/mindfulness work, I hope you appreciate it to the core of your being. Her song “Deus Meus,” is one of the most beautifully constructed melodies that I have ever heard. The song is sung in Gaelic and Fionnuala was in a church in New York City when it was recorded. She told me that this was a “once in a lifetime” experience and that it could not be replicated on an album. She was nervous before performing, but trusted herself like never before, and this recording was the result. This song is articulately beautiful, delicately crafted and a gift to those who listen — to those who really listen. Her voice alone is phenomenal and very soothing. See video below.
When we hugged each other goodbye, I held onto her for slightly longer than I did when we greeted each other. It was tough for me to say goodbye. This was a beautiful and sacred moment in my life — a dream come true. One of the last things she said to me before parting ways was, “Let’s keep in touch, Maddie.” Both Fionnuala and I promised each other that we would keep in touch. I walked away with a nearly bursting heart, and when I walked outside into the beaming sunshine, I turned around and blew a kiss at the Kilkenny Design flags and whispered, “thank you.”