I have worn a ring on the little finger of my right hand for the last four years. It is a simple design, of burnished metal with a subtly-inset stone in the centre. On Christmas day it went missing, and I assumed it had come off in Lough Lacken, during the Christmas Day ‘Dip’ that I took part in. The bolder residents of my family’s hometown jump in to one of the many lakes (lough’s) in the area every December 25th. Dip! Oh, what a dreadfully inaccurate title. Dip? More like juddering glacial slap. Jumpers walk along a semi-submerged jetty, throw themselves in to green and velvety waters (sounds more pleasurable than it is), and then hyperventilate. Soporifically warmed by and newly emerged from Mass, the cold of the water (not to mention the rain) crunched the air out of me as I dove in. I know cold water, but this felt savage. I fucking loved it.
I digress. I had assumed that my fingers (and other extremities\appendages) had shrunk as my veins flailed themselves in to panicked vaso-constriction. An hour later, whilst riding the high of an endorphin rush and sitting by an open fire, I saw that my ring was missing. I felt resigned to this. Perhaps the fates had decreed that it should be offered to the Gods, as the Celts cast their finery into hallowed waters centuries ago. As I stared in to the flowing flames and basked, I reflected on the trials and tribulations of this year as it draws to a close. Akin to the dip, I pondered times that I had felt submerged and suffocated by anxiety, only to then become acclimatised and swim to saner shores. My festive plunge made me feel cleansed somehow. Purged, in preparation for a New Year.
The thought stayed with me, and floated through the murkier depths of my brain. Nearing sleep, I thought about how jewellery is made and strengthened. How it is forged within a crucible, subjected to immense heat so that impurities are burned away, becoming strengthened as a result . Had I been through my own crucible of sorts, and emerged transformed in some manner? I never finished that thought. On waking the next morning though, I immediately recalled a familiar symbol. The Celtic triskel which I dearly love. It is the symbol of three elements the Celts held dear: earth, fire and water. Looking at the pale band of my I unadorned finger, I had an idea. It was a long shot. I wondered whether what I sought might have slipped in to the fire as I built it up with turf to warm my water-chilled arms. My thoughts spiralled away like triskel arms, rolling around like an unanswered question.
Mid-morning, my Father in Law found it. It stood proud and dust-flecked in the ashes as he swept the hearth. It was not melted or warped beyond recognition as I feared it might be, but identical in form. Heat and cooling have rendered it charcoal grey and mottled; textured but beautiful, like Cornish lichen. The stone now has a smoky hue, and it is more snug to my skin. I am delighted to have it back in its new form, and delighted that it has endured. It has emerged from the crucible not unscathed but unbroken, and all the better for it. I now love it, and feel it has great symbolism. The crucible of this year has tested me, and I too feel both purged and pummelled, and am perhaps stronger as a result.