The descent down the rocky island cliff and into the cave was even faster this time, and in no time at all, Flyn was standing at the door of St. Brendan. He suddenly wondered what he was doing here. Could this really be an ancient, mystical portal that would whisk him away, as Dr. O’Malley had suggested? Would this portal take him “to the stars” as the Latin phrase in the Navigatio had suggested? And would Flyn be able to get back home again? There was only one way to find out.
Flyn stepped into the stone portal and took a deep breath. He faced the cold hard stone of the back of the doorway. His heart was pounding in his chest. He closed his eyes tightly, took a deep breath and held it.
Flyn tossed the rope over the bollard and secured the boat using a bowline knot. He moved quickly, as he knew at any moment Mrs. Gregerson would be at the edge of the ferry waiting to be helped off. Flyn hadn’t met her before today. Yet already he knew that she was going to require a lot of his time and effort.
Suddenly she was ready to disembark – waving and singing a jolly “yoo-hoo!” towards Flyn as she appeared at the edge of the boat. He finished tying the knot and ran back to assist her – offering his outstretched arm and helping her from the boat to the dock with the concern of a caring young man straight from the Boy Scout handbook.
Mrs. Gregerson stepped over the small gap between the ferry and the dock and they began to walk along the pier. “I don’t move quite like I used to,” Mrs. Gregerson disclosed – as if it were news that growing older came with byproducts such as slow legs. “When I was your age I could outrun anyone…even the boys!” she proclaimed. “But that was before I put on a few years…and a few pounds!” she exclaimed. As if embarrassed at what she had said, she added “Oh, my goodness!” with a half-concealed laugh.
Flyn listened with feigned interest, but he couldn’t help wondering how long it would take to escort Mrs. Gregerson to his father’s waiting jeep. This was the last pass of the day for the ferry between the island and the mainland, and Flyn wanted more than anything to finish his work for the day and return home to relax.
“It’s chilly,” Mrs. Gregerson winced as she shivered. “I hope I packed enough warm clothing. I had no idea it was going to be this cool and windy here. Oh, that sea breeze…”
Her voice trailed off – at least in Flyn’s mind. Perhaps she was still talking, but it was mostly to herself anyway. He knew he still had to get her bags, and the trip to the jeep was taking longer than anticipated. Mrs. Gregerson shuffled along the pier, holding Flyn’s arm as she continued to talk the entire way, gesturing with her hands the whole time. The other half a dozen passengers breezed by like cars passing in the fast lane – unable or unwilling to wait behind Flyn and Mrs. Gregerson as they plodded along the pier.
Flyn wondered about the last passenger aboard the ferry. His name was Dr. O’Malley, and he seemed somewhat intriguing to Flyn. Although Flyn didn’t know much about him, he appeared well-spoken, educated, and perhaps a little bit eccentric. He was an older gentleman, walked with a cane, carried very little baggage, and one of the cases he carried appeared to be full of paints. At least that is what Flyn assumed would be in it, judging from the paint splotches that were scattered about the outside of the leather and cloth tapestry case.
At Port Clyde, when Dr. O’Malley boarded the ferry, Flyn had commented about Dr. O’Malley’s hat. “This,” Dr. O’Malley announced loudly in a slight British accent, “is no ordinary hat. This is a traveling hat from the finest haberdashery in London!”
Flyn thought maybe he had heard the word haberdashery before. But he was sure he had never been to one. And while rolling his eyes as any teenager would, he debated in his mind the notion that Dr. O’Malley seemed vaguely interesting – maybe even entertaining. At least he might add some color to an otherwise dull and ordinary summer, thought Flyn.
Interrupting his thoughts about Dr. O’Malley was the man himself, suddenly at Flyn’s side. “Is this the way to San Jose?” he questioned, gesturing ahead on the path. Flyn wasn’t sure how to answer that question, and before he could even try, Dr. O’Malley spoke again – only this time he gestured towards Mrs. Gregerson.
“Are you going to keep this fine maiden’s charms to yourself, young man, or are you going to allow me to have this dance?” Mrs. Gregerson giggled airily and Dr. O’Malley extended his bent arm for her to take. Flyn moved aside as Mrs. Gregerson let go of his arm and took Dr. O’Malley’s arm instead. She giggled again. Flyn was somewhat relieved at this stroke of luck. He shook his head at the sight of the two meandering down the dock, and turned back towards the ferry to retrieve Mrs. Gregerson’s bags.
While Flyn moved away from them, the two continued slowly walking along the pier, talking and laughing the entire way until they reached the waiting jeep of Flyn’s father. Just as they reached the vehicle, Flyn caught up to them and tossed their bags behind the seat in the open vehicle, then turned back and half-chuckled at the sight of two old people acting like teenagers, sharing stories as if they were on a first date. By the time the jeep had pulled away they had become fast friends.
With the assistance of Dr. O’Malley, Mrs. Gregerson climbed into the back of the jeep and settled in. After Dr. O’Malley had climbed into the front passenger seat, Flyn closed the door with a sigh of relief.
“What’s your name, young man?” queried Dr. O’Malley, leaning his arm and head slightly out of the open window of the vehicle.
“Flyn, sir,” he responded. “Flyn Dawson.”
“Well, Flyn Dawson,” Dr. O’Malley ventured. “Aren’t you coming with us? You know you’ll be missing out on a riotous joyride with this lovely lady and me.”
Dr. O’Malley chuckled and Mrs. Gregerson giggled at this remark. Flyn couldn’t conceal a noticeable eye roll, as he turned away from them and turned instead to his father, who was now standing next to the Jeep.
“Can I go now, please?” he begged his father.
“Of course you can,” his father replied. He patted Flyn on the back, circled around the jeep, and began to climb into the driver’s seat. Flyn followed him. “Thanks for your help today,” Flyn’s dad continued. “Don’t forget I need you to pick up that manifold from the hardware store on your way home. I’ll be home soon with some dinner for both of us.”
How can I forget, thought Flyn…and he was off running. He turned back to see Dr. O’Malley waive as his father pulled the jeep and it’s passengers away from the dock. Flyn waved back. The sun was beginning its descent in the west and an orange glow presided over the island and the water. Their journey, which would take less than ten minutes, would take them to the only hotel on Monhegan Island – the Island Inn – where they would spend the entire summer relaxing, getting to know the other guests, and leisurely enjoying the scenery and atmosphere of the beautiful island and ocean.
Monhegan Island is the only home Flyn had ever known. It is a small, rocky island about ten miles off the coast of Maine. It is only a square mile in size, and about 100 people live there during the off-season. Flyn knew them all, of course. The island is only accessible by boat, and Flyn’s father, Max Dawson, runs the Monhegan Island ferry, which shuttles passengers, tourists, and supplies back-and-forth to the mainland three times a day.
Although the rocky cliffs, blue water, and green vegetation made the island a beautiful spot, Flyn wondered what the visitors and artists saw here. People would often marvel at the loveliness of the island and paint or write about what they saw. Rather than magnificence, Flyn only saw a great fortress, surrounded by water, which kept him from other, more exciting worlds.
- - - - - - -
Flyn is 17 years old and in many ways a lot like any other teenage boy. He has a fair complexion, and bright green eyes. His full head of brown hair had just a little wave in it. His father was always saying that his hair was too long, but Flyn ignored it and refused to cut it too short. Flyn is an average height, and had an average build. He isn’t as clever as some of the smart kids at school, but he isn’t brainless either. He can hold his own on the basketball court with the other boys, but he isn’t what you might call ‘athletic.’ Although he often wished he were extraordinary, in his mind, he was simply … “ordinary.”
Flyn is handsome like his father, and outgoing like his mother. At least that is what his father told him. He’d often heard his father say, “You can talk to anyone – just like your mother could.” They didn’t talk about his mother often. And when they did, it was usually brief.
Flyn’s father was a kind, gentle man. He was quiet, yet exuded confidence and strength that some men can only wish for. He was tall and strong. He would do anything to help anyone, which he often did when helping the many guests who visited the island each year. His role as both mother and father to Flyn was a difficult one – and he did this arduous task as best he could with what he had. He was proud of Flyn and loved Flyn, even if he didn’t say so very often.
Each summer, Flyn worked for his father and helped keep the ferry running smooth and all the passengers happy. Ultimately, if he keeps the guests happy, he keeps his father happy. Flyn also earns money – mostly tips – working for the tourists and artists who visit the island to write, paint, and photograph the island scenery. He would do any odds-and-end job to help the people who come to Monhegan Island – deliver food, run errands, or take them on a tour of the island in his father’s jeep or, more likely, on foot or on his bicycle.
This summer, Flyn wondered if Mrs. Gregerson will need him to take her to the mainland to buy warm clothes. He wondered if Dr. O’Malley would need help setting up his paints or finding the right view to capture. Whatever the need, Flyn would be there to help either of them – or any of the guests. His father would expect it, after all.
After stopping at the hardware store for the part as his father requested, Flyn ran straight home to the small, tidy wooden frame house that Flyn and his father called home. Flyn was greeted at the door by his five-year-old black lab, Baxter. He hadn’t seen Baxter all day, and he was greeted like Baxter hadn’t seen him in years. That made Flyn happy. “Good boy,” he cooed, while kicking off his shoes and taking off his sweatshirt and hanging it on a hook just inside the door. He flopped on the couch, got comfortable, and began playing Wartime on his smartphone as Baxter snuggled at his feet. Within moments, Flyn’s mind was far away from Monhegan Island and all his cares.
A few hours later, Max Dawson arrived home with clam chowder and fresh bread. Well, it had been fresh that morning, but the brisk island air had hardened the bread considerably. Flyn and Max didn’t care. Working on the ferry and escorting tourists and visitors around had made them tired and hungry – and they rarely had time to stop for lunch. Soon, the food had been consumed and all three – the boy, his dad, and his dog – were fast asleep, resting peacefully for a short time before the alarm clock would rudely awaken them at 5:00 AM for another day of working the ferry and keeping guests happy.
Max wanted Flyn to check on the guests at the inn each morning – to find out how they were enjoying their stay and to ask if they needed anything at all. Flyn knew the owners of the Island Inn like they were family, and they were happy to have one more helping hand in dealing with the demands of the guests. It was the next day at the inn that Flyn ran into Dr. O’Malley again.
“Greetings to you,” Dr. O’Malley bellowed from across the lobby when Flyn came through the front doors of the inn. “I suppose you want to know why I am in such a good mood on this glorious morning?” Flyn hadn’t wondered – but he wondered now. Which didn’t really matter, as Dr. O’Malley proceeded to tell him anyway without waiting for a reply.
“I am told,” he declared, hooking Flyn’s arm in his as they began to walk slowly towards the doors, “that there are no cliffs as magnificent as those on this fair isle. That the trees and vegetation are the most verdant green possible. And that the ocean is as clear and blue and beautiful as the eyes of Bette Davis. Is this true, my good man?”
Flyn had no idea who Bette Davis was. But he had learned how to handle the older generation when things like this came up.
“The sights here are pretty awesome,” replied Flyn.
“Awesome?” queried Dr. O’Malley. “Then I must see the whole island! I must take in these grand and awesome cliffs, smell the awesome greenery and the salt of the sea, and listen to the mighty water as it pounds the rocks of this awesome island.”
Flyn thought Dr. O’Malley had taken the use of the word “awesome” a little too far. He paused to let Dr. O’Malley’s sarcasm fall flat to the floor. Then he changed the subject.
“Are you going to paint the scenery of the island?” asked Flyn.
“Not today,” replied Dr. O’Malley. “You are a very observant boy. You saw my satchel of paint, I gather?”
“Well, I shall paint tomorrow. Today, I want to breathe it all in.” Dr. O’Malley took in an exaggerated breath as he flung his arms open wide to open the double doors of the inn as the pair were released into the fresh sea air of the crisp morning.
And so Flyn proceeded to drive Dr. O’Malley in his father’s jeep anyplace that was accessible by car on the island. Dr. O’Malley wanted to get an overall grasp of the beautiful scenery. So Flyn first took him to the lighthouse, which Dr. O’Malley summed up in the word, “Splendid.” Then he took him to see the harbor seals and birds near Pebble Beach. “Fantastic!” concluded Dr. O’Malley enthusiastically.
They then drove to a high spot on the island where he could see the sea and the cliffs across a small inlet. This scene was summed up in the word, “Awesome!” to which Flyn rolled his eyes once again. At this, Dr. O’Malley let out a raucous laugh.
Dr. O’Malley seemed to enjoy everything he saw, often commenting, “Yes, this is beautiful” to anyone and no one, to Flyn and to himself. Yes, Flyn thought, he is a bit eccentric. And yet, very likable company. Flyn smiled.
Before the day was through, Flyn and Dr. O’Malley had traversed the drivable parts of the island, taking in the scenery, deciding on spots where Dr. O’Malley would sit while painting, or writing, or whatever he felt like on any particular day.
While spending this time together, Flyn found that Dr. O’Malley was a retired liberal arts professor who knew a lot about literature, history, and art. He frequently referred in conversation to poets such as Keats and Yeats, painters such as Monet and Seurat – almost in an off-hand manner – as if he expected Flyn to know who these people were. Flyn was determined to look them up online when he got home later. In the meantime, he nodded as if he knew exactly what Dr. O’Malley was talking about.
As they surveyed the scenery from the cliff high above the small inlet of water called Christmas Cove, Dr. O’Malley began to ask questions of Flyn about the island and its history. He asked who the first inhabitants of the island were – which Flyn didn’t really know. Native Americans, he assumed. “What’s down in those caves?” asked Dr. O’Malley, pointing down to an area where the cliffs opened up and swallowed the sea water.
Flyn knew of some ancient petroglyphs inside the caves – they were a source of mystery and periodic discussion by inhabitants on the island. But he wasn’t sure if this would interest Dr. O’Malley or not. So he simply offered, “Just rocks and bats and things.” After a pause, he added, “The caves fill up to your waist at high tide.”
“Hmmmm,” mustered Dr. O’Malley as he continued to gaze down at the cove of water and the mysterious opening to the dark cave.
Flyn decided to continue. “There are some petroglyphs,” Flyn stated. “But no one knows what they mean or who left them there.”
“Petroglyphs?” questioned Dr. O’Malley excitedly. “That sounds interesting. Let’s see them!” he exclaimed. Then looking at the sun, added, “Tomorrow, of course. It’s getting late.” He suddenly lunged towards the jeep, and just as suddenly as they began, Flyn and Dr. O’Malley were headed back to the inn – bouncing along the bumpy dirt road in Flyn’s father’s jeep as they ended their day of sightseeing and returned home.
As they drove back to town and the inn, the sun began to set – creating a beautiful pink aura in the western sky, offset by clouds that looked as if they had been drawn by chalk on a giant salmon-colored canvas. The water of the ocean began to shimmer and sparkle in the evening light, and birds took flight in small groups to find places to settle in for the night. At the magnificent sight of it all, Flyn remembered for a few fleeting moments how beautiful a sight Monhegan Island could be.
- - - - - - -
Flyn awoke early to pick up Dr. O’Malley at the inn and visit the petroglyphs in the cave at Christmas Cove. Most people on the island knew about the petroglyphs, but no one really seemed to know what they said, who made them, or when they were carved. Flyn and a group of kids went there on a dare one night and built a fire in the cave and told ghost stories. Flyn was pretty scared that night in the dark of the cave – although he wouldn’t have told anyone that he was frightened. But he suspected that some of the other kids were scared too.
Flyn remembered that the petroglyphs were pretty far inside the cave – so even in the daylight, it was bound to be a little bit dark in there. Flyn had his smartphone which had a flashlight available so that they could navigate their way through the dark cave. Flyn didn’t want Dr. O’Malley to slip on any of the rocks inside the cave. He didn’t want to have to carry him back to the inn himself!
Flyn was a few minutes late arriving at the inn this morning and Dr. O’Malley seemed to be agitated about that. He charged out of the inn wearing a straw hat and brandishing a tall walking stick. “The sands of time wait for no one, my boy,” he spoke sharply, enunciating each word as if it were sage advice to be savored. “We should have been there by now!”
Flyn felt bad for being late, but he could only murmur a half-apology. He helped Dr. O’Malley into the jeep, even though he hardly needed it, and then took off for Christmas Cove as fast as he could.
Flyn drove quickly along the unpaved, dirt roads of the island.
“This isn’t an aircraft, my boy,” Dr. O’Malley pointed out after Flyn took a sharp turn followed by a bump in the road at high speed. “There’s no need to fly.”
Is there no pleasing this guy? thought Flyn. Maybe he’d prefer to walk?
As if knowing Flyn’s thoughts, Dr. O’Malley lifted his cane and spoke again. “I brought my shillelagh, Tess, just in case we hike a fair amount.” Apparently, a shillelagh was a walking stick, and the walking stick’s name was Tess. Flyn laughed to himself at the thought of naming an inanimate object like a walking stick. “Tessie’s been all around the world: Asia, Europe, South America, Australia,” Dr. O’Malley continued. “I almost lost her in a tussle in Rangoon. But Tess would have none of it.” Dr. O’Malley nodded with satisfaction at the memory.
Flyn tried to imagine Dr. O’Malley in any kind of tussle, but his thoughts were interrupted by a large hole in the road that caused Flyn and Dr. O’Malley to bounce up out of the seats of the jeep. Dr. O’Malley shot Flyn a stern look. “I change my previous assertion,” he said. “This isn’t an aircraft; it must be a rocket ship!”
Flyn laughed at Dr. O’Malley’s comment as they pulled up to the edge of the cliff that overlooked Christmas Cove. As they climbed out of the jeep, Dr. O’Malley remarked at how beautiful the view was in the morning light. Flyn, seeing the scenery through a tourist’s eyes, realized it really was a beautiful sight. The Atlantic Ocean stretched as far as the eye could see in one direction; the brown cliffs dotted with the green vegetation of the United States mainland loomed in the other direction. And 150 feet below their feet, the waves of the mighty Atlantic Ocean crashed against the rocky cliffs of Monhegan Island.
Flyn wondered how Tess would be able to help Dr. O’Malley down the precarious pile of rocks that led down to the water. He’d probably be carrying Dr. O’Malley before long, he thought. He turned to begin helping Dr. O’Malley, only to find that he was already 20 feet down the rocky path towards the cove – whistling a merry tune to match his gait.
Flyn chuckled, and then quickly took off after Dr. O’Malley – scrambling down the trail as quickly as he could.
The hike down the cliff to the water took about half of an hour. At some point, the sand path peppered with rocks ended and Flyn and Dr. O’Malley were clambering on ancient volcanic rocks towards the cave at Christmas Cove. Flyn moved quickly, repeatedly slipping all over the place as he leapt from rock to rock. At one point, he almost fell into the water, but handily caught himself just in time. He looked over at Dr. O’Malley, who never seemed to slip once – but unwaveringly stepped from rock to rock with determination and precision.
Finally at the giant mouth of the cave, Dr. O’Malley turned back to see what was keeping Flyn. “I’m not getting any younger, my boy,” he bellowed. “Let’s explore this cave!”
Flyn rushed to catch up with Dr. O’Malley, and in the process slipped on a wet, mossy rock. He fell down with a loud splash into a pool of water about a foot deep. Dr. O’Malley tilted his head back as he looked towards the sky and let out a loud, boisterous laugh which echoed against the rocks of the cove. He came back towards Flyn, still laughing at his fall. “You looked like Jerry Lewis when you fell,” he sang. “Have you thought about getting into comedy?”
Flyn didn’t know who Jerry Lewis was, but he felt sheepish about falling. Dr. O’Malley reached the spot where Flyn sat in the water. “You won’t drown by falling in water,” he assured Flyn. “But you’ll drown by staying there!” He stretched out his cane towards Flyn. Flyn grabbed it with both hands and Dr. O’Malley tugged heartily. The water splashed loudly again as Flyn came out of it in one protracted lunge.
“Thanks,” Flyn muttered, more embarrassed than anything. His pants, now completely wet, were like a heavy, wet badge of humiliation. His backside ached – but certainly no more than his ego. He was supposed to be young and agile, but had fallen into the water. Yet Dr. O’Malley, who was at least four times his age, hadn’t even slipped once.
“Don’t worry,” Dr. O’Malley assured him. “Your pants will dry in the hot sun today.” They both gazed at the unforgiving clear blue sky and the dazzling sun. Then they both turned towards the opening of the cave. It loomed above them in the mid-morning sun. “To Oz!” roared Dr. O’Malley. Flyn didn’t know what that meant, but he followed the eager and enthusiastic Dr. O’Malley into the cave.
The petroglyphs were inside the cave about 100 feet. They were carved on a grand, flat wall that curved slightly. The strange vertical markings had been engraved into the rock centuries before – man-made strangers in an otherwise natural environment. Flyn had seen them before, but this time they looked even more mysterious and ominous to him. To Flyn, they looked like an incomprehensible series of slashes and dashes that couldn’t possibly make sense to anyone.
“They’re magnificent!” Dr. O’Malley exclaimed. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it. What a glorious specimen.”
Flyn wondered if he and Dr. O’Malley were looking at the same markings. Magnificent was not the word Flyn was thinking. Crazy, or strange, yes. But magnificent and glorious?
“What’s so special about these?” Flyn asked.
Dr. O’Malley turned as if startled. “There are very few like it in the entire world. I believe it’s an ancient Irish alphabet called Ogham, used between the sixth and eighth centuries. You just don’t see this every day, no…” His voice trailed off as he excitedly examined the markings with wonder.
Irish alphabet? Is he crazy? Flyn wondered. This is Monhegan Island. When would ancient Irish people have been here? This is America. You know…discovered by Columbus in 1492.
Dr. O’Malley seemed to read his thoughts. “In 1983, a Harvard marine biologist discovered petroglyphs like this in West Virginia,” he relayed. And then, for emphasis, “West Virginia” he repeated, “of all places. People have wondered how the Irish got there.”
“How did they get there,” Flyn inquired excitedly, then downplaying it by adding, “I mean, that seems kind of strange.”
Dr. O’Malley’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “Would you like to hear a story? I mean, a really great story?” He paused. “The kind of story that after you hear it, you might wonder why seemingly no one knows it?”
Flyn nodded eagerly.
Dr. O’Malley continued. “This is the story of an Irish explorer named St. Brendan the Navigator.”
“In the 6th century AD,” Dr. O’Malley began, “St. Brendan the Navigator of Ireland came to America.” He paused and waited for the significance of what he had just said to sink in. “He came to America,” he repeated, “and petroglyphs like this carved in Ogham script prove that he – or someone Irish – was here fifteen hundred years ago.”
Flyn didn’t know whether to chuckle or gasp. He certainly wanted to know more. “So Columbus didn’t really discover America?” he asked incredulously.
“Nobody discovered America, my boy!” Dr. O’Malley cried impatiently. “People were here already, for Pete’s sake.” He smiled. “But St. Brendan and his men were the first Europeans to lay eyes on the great land of America – and apparently,” he added as he gazed around, “this beautiful island, too.”
He continued the story. “St. Brendan and his crew sailed from Ireland in 530 AD. They were looking for what they referred to as the ‘blessed land promised to the Saints.’ He and 14 other monks sailed in boats made of a wood frame covered with ox skin and waterproofed with tar. This type of boat is referred to as a ‘curragh.’ From Ireland to Iceland, Iceland to Greenland, and eventually Greenland to Newfoundland they sailed. And then, to America they arrived. And, it appears, they landed here, on Monhegan Island.”
“If this story is true,” Flyn ventured, “then why didn’t I learn it in school? Why isn’t it in all of the history books?”
“Some people don’t believe it,” Dr. O’Malley replied matter-of-factly. “It is rather astonishing. A group of monks, not seasoned sailors. Small wooden boats covered with animal skin, not the giant sea craft we generally associate with explorers. And they sailed across the ocean almost a thousand years before Columbus. It can seem far-fetched. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Just because something isn’t probable doesn’t make it impossible.”
Flyn was intrigued, but doubtful nonetheless. “What evidence is there of this trip you’re talking about?” he asked.
“Just look at these drawings. You can’t repute these, can you? These are evidence that someone who knew the Ogham script has been here.”
Flyn nodded. “True.”
“And there are also the petroglyphs in West Virginia and Kentucky as additional evidence,” he continued. “But one of the most important pieces of evidence is that St. Brendan himself wrote a book. “It is called, ‘Navigatio Sancti Brendani’ – ‘The Voyage of St. Brendan.’ The Navigatio is a record of the harrowing tale of St. Brendan’s journey to the American continent, where he finally discovered the ‘blessed land promised to the Saints.’”
And now,” Dr. O’Malley paused, “you are standing where St. Brendan once stood. This is hallowed ground, my boy.”
There was a pause, almost in reverence for the idea. Then Dr. O’Malley resumed the story.
“St. Brendan believed his journey to be guided by the hand of God. His journey took seven years. Remember, he didn’t have coordinates or a map, or the luxury of GPS like we have today,” Dr. O’Malley said, gesturing at the smartphone that he knew Flyn had in his pocket. “And when he finally reached his legendary destination, it was larger and greener and wilder than anything anyone had ever known before. In his book, St. Brendan writes that the land was too bafflingly large to be crossed in even 40 days of walking, its rivers too wide to forge, its plentiful land loaded with precious stones, and its impenetrable forests laden with delicious fruits. Truly a land of abundance. What is described in the Navigatio could only be America.”
“So what happened to St. Brendan?” Flyn inquired.
“St. Brendan’s crew remained in America for a time. Now this is where the tale is taken over by Native American legend. While the Navigatio tells of St. Brendan’s triumphant return to Ireland after his visit to America, Native American lore tells the other half of the story. The ancient story goes that rather than cross the terrifying Atlantic Ocean once again to return to Ireland, some of St. Brendan’s fellow voyagers wanted to remain in the new land. There was a clash between the monks, and seven of the monks decided to stay, while seven chose to return to Ireland with St. Brendan.”
Flyn tried to imagine a clash between monks. His mind raced, but he came up with nothing.
Dr. O’Malley continued anyway, interrupting Flyn’s thoughts: “St. Brendan and seven of the monks filled their boats with jewels and fruit, and returned to Ireland to report their victory of discovering the blessed land of promise. They were hailed as heroes in Ireland – yet St. Brendan and his remarkable discovery were almost forgotten within a few years after his death. No other Europeans were able to enjoy the bounteous blessings of America, as St. Brendan had hoped, for almost a thousand years.”
“However, before Columbus made his epic trip, he referred to St. Brendan’s Navigatio for guidance. He even made a trip to Ireland to find out more about St. Brendan and his voyage. Columbus used a map to help guide his own voyage – a map that contained a large island on it. The island was marked on the map as ‘St. Brendan’s Island.’ But you and I know this island as America.”
Flyn was astonished at the story. “What happened to the monks that stayed here?” he asked.
“The remaining monks in America prospered in the new land of bounty. They soon shed their Christian ways and beliefs – a faith which had only recently been acquired through the missionary efforts of St. Patrick in Ireland. They returned to Druidism, and began to explore magic once again. As they began to intermingle and socialize with the Native Americans in the new land, some of them paired off with Native American women. As the years passed, they had children and families, and their colony began to increase in number.”
“After a period of time, these monks longed to return to Ireland. But rather than face the grueling task of crossing the treacherous ocean once again in small boats, they decided to build a magic portal to get back home to Ireland. Native American lore speaks of a gate or doorway that they entered through to return home to Ireland.”
Flyn’s eyes got larger.
Dr. O’Malley continued. “Legend says the monks and their families walked through the portal and were never seen again. There is no record that they returned to Ireland. But where they went, nobody knows. The legend refers to this mystical portal as the ‘Door of St. Brendan.’” Dr. O’Malley sighed. “But it has never been located.”
“The ‘Door of St. Brendan?’” Flyn questioned. “Sounds a little bit like a fairytale. Where is it supposed to be?”