John Little

"John Little lives in Scottsdale with his wife, Lori, and is a  former city manager of Scottsdale"

St. Patrick’s Day is approaching and once again I am reminded of conversations I used to have with the last real leprechaun, my father, Jack, who called his favorite haunts “thin places.”

Regretfully, I never asked where these places were or about the circumstances in which he experienced them. But he spoke of them as if they were somehow sacred, and to him, they were. Being of Irish ancestry, they usually involved a golf course, a bleacher seat at a ballgame, a piano bar, or later in his all too abbreviated life, alone with his thoughts in an empty church.

Later I learned “thin places” were part of a Celtic tradition which describes magical places where heaven and earth are separated by a mere whisper of wind. These are places where the spiritual and corporeal are virtually indistinguishable, where one can feel the lustrous blending of dreams and reality.  

Within these “thin places” people experience the limitlessness of their imaginations and perhaps find tranquility amid the chaos of everyday life.

According to Celtic lore, “thin places” also generate amazing energy. They are rich sources of creativity, insight and knowledge. Within these places the Irish have discovered many gifts: music, poetry, literature and, mercifully, the recipe for Guinness.

So where, in Scottsdale, is it likely we can find our “thin places?”  

In the solitude of an early morning trek to the summit of Sunrise Peak? Amidst the festivities and bustle of holiday shopping in Fashion Square? Transfixed by the roiling clouds of an approaching monsoon storm? Savoring a generous pour of wine on a sun drenched patio downtown, Vivaldi on your headphones? Meandering through the greenbelt collecting friendly smiles along the way?

These are some of my “thin places” where heaven and earth seemingly occupy the same space.  

I recently came across a travel blog by Mandie Burgoyne while planning our next trip to the Emerald Isle.

She wrote, “Truth abides in thin places; naked, raw, hard to face truth. Yet we also find the comfort, safety and strength to face that in those same mystical spaces. Thin places captivate our imagination, yet diminish our existence. We become very small, yet we gain connection and become part of something larger than we can perceive.”

Becoming part of something larger means recognizing your value and your role in this community. It is not about speaking loudly, being first in line or winning anything.

It is instead about revealing both our potential individual greatness as well as recognizing our essential individual insignificance within that larger community. It is about unbridling the power of our collective aspirations.

It is about listening to each other carefully and earnestly. It is about respecting, preserving and protecting all of our “thin places” – wherever they may be.

And so, sometime in the early afternoon on March 17 you will find me in a “Thin Place” remembering my dad and the lessons he shared about happiness, connectedness and love. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Sláinte.

-John Little lives in Scottsdale with his wife, Lori, and is a  former city manager of Scottsdale