The twilight whispered cooly in his ear as he arrived. At the foot of the pathway up the hill, the gathering shadows seemed welcoming. Oh, what a day it had been! After months of waiting, the annual Beltaine fair at the Hill of Uisneach had been grand - music, revelry and such feasting as could be had, the whole county had been there. He hadn't seen her though, and he wondered if she would be there tonight.
This is May eve, he thought, it has been a year since I've seen her. The last flash of sunlight played across his eyes interrupting his thoughts. Looking around he wondered for a moment where everyone had gone to. Now as his eyes became accustomed to the darkening light, he saw groups of people snaking up the gorse embroidered path in front of him.
Pausing for a moment, he recalled the many trips he'd made up the summit on this very special evening. Beltaine, so different from Samhain at harvest end. Those two festivals were the two greatest celebrations of the year for his people. Samhain is always so dark and cold, he mused, but it heralds the winter and the New Year. Beltaine, ah, this night, the beginning of the summer. A smile stretched across his weathered face.
Joining the pilgrimage up the hillside his foot caught a rock and he very nearly stumbled. Catching himself, he breathed hard and remembered what Fodla used to say about the wee folk on May eve. "Oh, the gentry are about it, they'll be out tonight!" he muttered, and promised himself he'd be more careful. His thoughts slipped, as they did often these days, to Fodla and the many years they'd had together.
Just then a young man and woman came laughing up from behind the group. He stopped to let them pass and wished them well. After all, he had met Fodla on a fine night like this, here on this hill, on May eve.
By the time he joined the crowd on the summit, the two great bonfires were ablaze with life. The wind whipped sparks and smoke heavenward and the intense heat warmed the crowd despite the chilly night air. The crowd formed an undulating spiral as it moved between the two fires, hoping for renewed luck and health in the coming year.
The firelight glinted into his eyes, was she here? Since his boyhood he had seen her on this night - would she still be here for him?
Those present grew silent and he turned to look out beyond the summit. As he squinted in the darkness pairs of bonfires appeared on neighboring hills, on and on, bonfires lit as far as the eye could see, lighting a web of fire out to the coast.
He felt the old familiar stirring in his heart. The atmosphere felt thick and the swirling wind spoke once again to his soul. Turning from the sparkling lights which surrounded the hill he gazed at the bonfire. Deep in the flickering firelight he saw her, and she him. He thought he saw her smile and for an instant, he felt himself at one with her.
The sorrows and joys of his life appeared and receded in his mind, he thought of losing Fodla and the loneliness he had felt since. Looking again into the bonfire he felt the pain burn away, replaced with a quiet sense of peace.
Looking around, he saw the wonder and mystery of the moment reflected in the faces of those standing with him. Young and old, men, women and children, all lost in the reverie of their experience of the goddess of their island, Erui.
The crowd grew boisterous again and many started back down the hill. He walked slowly behind them and in the moonlight he thought he could feel Fodla once more. He wondered about the generations of people who had climbed this mountain before his lifetime, and those that would climb it when he had passed. He thought about what a beautiful evening it was. Welcome summer, welcome Beltaine.