Friday, July 31, 2009

Dinner last night at the neighbor's --
we touched on all the grim topics:
serial murderers, corporal punishment, rape,
economic gloom, stomach-pumping, the state of
health care (it's deteriorating over here also),
government corruption. I kept trying to lighten
the mood, but it kept returning to the oppressive
clouds of doom.

But the food! Fantastic! A vegan as well as a meat
lasagna made with bechemel, a salad with "leaves"
and tomatoes grown just out the door, and potatoes --
O! Be! Still! My! Taste-buds! Tiny waxy white
potatoes, again from just out in the garden,
so sweet when buttered, with a sprinkle of sea salt.
They were my undoing. They were all I needed.
I wanted to close myself off for a minute or two
from my friends and just Be One With The Potato.
It was truly one of those unforgettable food moments.

(Have you had moments like this? I'm not talking
sumptuous restaurant experiences but times when
a simple, unexpected bite of something knocks you
off your feet.

Once, after a simple (but painful) procedure
at the doctor's office, I stopped off at a friend's
house. It was past lunchtime, and I was famished.
This friend quickly made up a sandwich for me, but what
made it extraordinary was the jam: homemade pear.
It was simmered gold on bread with peanut butter
AND dairy butter. I can taste it now as I write....)

Friends are coming in tomorrow from Dublin
for the August Bank Holiday. The party continues....

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What mail looks like where it arrives
here in Eire:



I especially love the absence of numbers.
Numbers vex me, often.
(Thank-you, Seán, for this.)

---

Something beautiful and moving:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I woke up early this morning -- 5:30 --
past the worst of this Hibernian plague,
and right away put on my sweatshirt and
walked out into the early glow. No rain,
and the wind had eased to a mere hum.
Pat's sheep across the cove already were
hard at their work of consuming grass, heads
bent to the earth. Gulls lofted in the thermals.
Frogsong -- or crickets? I couldn't tell.
I'd not had coffee yet, nor my daily ration
of oats, or strawberries. And I hadn't
really properly awakened, having strode
straight from the bed to the door.
I recommend this: proceed straight
from a dream to a completely different
landscape, on your feet. Not sleep-walking,
but then not awake-walking either.
A kind of blue limbo, with gauzy cloud-rags
at the edges.

(Except in this case, in the dream I was
an adult in a children's school-play,
and it was showtime and I'd not memorized
my six lines. Neither had I pulled together
a costume. So I solved this problem
by just not showing up for the event.
Sometimes avoidance is very successful.)

Fun with Color



Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Something for all of you enduring
record-high temperatures:

It's hard to imagine 103 degrees in Seattle
while out here in the west of Ireland
the wind howls and shrieks and rattles
everything not nailed completely down
on the house, and then the rain, the rain....
I have to remember that if we drive the four
or so miles into town, the weather will most likely
be comparatively calm, Westport being nestled
in a little bowl, facing away from the Atlantic
from whence cometh all misery. Ahem.
But today I just couldn't bring myself
to get in the car and be jostled on bumpy
roads, look for a parking spot and dodge fellow
tourists on the sidewalks of town. So instead
I sent Paul to get me more cough syrup
(whose name sounds like vomit in the
onomatopoeic sense) and to rustle up
some sudafed or some other such decongestant
for my besieged upper respiratory system.

Meanwhile, I've brewed myself a mug of tea
infused with fresh orange peel and sliced ginger,
and I'll sit here and listen to the gale bellow
just on the other side of the glass.

A question: how is it that all these feather-weighted
birds -- sparrows, green finches, Irish robins -- can stand,
stand in this wind and nibble away at the seed
we've scattered, and not get blasted to smithereens?

---

I marvel at the ability to video-chat with my sons
on Skype. It's far from perfect, but it's damn great!
Yesterday Nelson's face kept reshaping itself
like something from a horror movie. And then he went
all Impressionist on me, all paint-daubed
and wavery, and his voice descended underwater
for a moment, then he froze in a weird twisted grin
and then the connection was lost. Imagine that --
a poor connection -- and for this we pay (not a thing.)
We did, however, manage to conduct a fair amount
of business during our spotty, wiggly, burbly call.
Still hashing out the details with the insurance co.
re: that nasty break-in. But it's moving forward.
It always does, doesn't it?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Some Magic, Perhaps



I'm always in search of a holy well (or two),
and at the tourist office in Dingle
I asked the young woman behind the counter
if there were any to be found on the peninsula.

She said, "Oh, well, yes, there are many, you know.
But they're hard to find."

She highlighted in orange the location of a few
on our map, but warned that they wouldn't be
easy to ferret out. Usually, I've found, wells
are marked with a sign of some sort: no problem!
So we ventured out into the heavy wind
and threat of rain, engaging in my favorite
Irish activity: backroading.
(Or, as Paul puts it: getting lost.)

Map in hand, we turned off the main road
onto a narrow road, and then onto an even
more narrow road rimmed by fuschias eight feet tall
and at the height of bloom, and crocosmia bending
and leaning over our "path."



Nettles and bracken ferns flourishing so lushly
and so tightly packed together that it was impossible
to peer past the roadside into their dark undergrowth.




Periodically a sparkle of sun between charcoal clouds,
and then lashings of rain and then sun again,
in all of maybe two minutes.
And warm -- short-sleeved warmth.

It's easy to imagine how a culture of fairies
and "little people" sprang up in this nearly-tropical
landscape. There seems to exist a dormant magic here,
something hovering just beyond the unfolding
of each fiddle-head fern. A trilling tune, perhaps,
or a jig. I keep my eyes and ears open.

So. Back to the well-search.
We kept arriving at the gravel-end
of someone's driveway, cliffside, Dingle Bay
crashing below us, and no holy well,
not even a sign for a holy well.
Alas!

In the end we settled on the stunning ruin
of Minard Castle -- not what we set out for
but glorious, anyway, in its disrepair!
One can only imagine what tales and secrets
its mossy walls guard....





And the best part: we were the only ones there!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

We drove down to the Dingle Peninsula Friday, a slog
behind tractor after tractor, horses pulling racing gigs,
bicyclers, a massive traffic jam in Limerick due to
a road closure due to a major accident.....what should've
taken three and a half hours took most of the day,
but what a pleasure it was once we left Tralee
and began climbing up the Conor Pass....an extremely
narrow road on the edge of a precarious cliff, with reeling
views unobstructed by trees, and waterfalls. Lucky for us
we were on the inside track, but I was certain several
times that we were going to scrape the side mirror
on the rock face. No! Didn't happen. (Paul is a very
careful driver.)



And then down, quickly, to Dingle-Town, on a small
fishing bay. Charming, brightly-colored storefronts,
kind of an old hippie town with shops selling sarongs
and crystals and incense burners.






A great place to wander, a fantastic place
for eating. Fish and seafood starred on nearly
every menu. The first night I had a whole grilled
sea bass which positively made me swoon.
Dinner #2 was a fish pie made with a roux and court
bouillon, topped with mashed potatoes. Divine.
We've been on a big fish kick lately, which suits me
just fine. And we're obviously in the right place!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Images from Knock

The town of Knock is the site of the Apparition of 1879,
when it was reported that the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph,
and St. John the Evangelist appeared to fifteen people.
Although I haven't been a practicing Catholic for all
of my adult life, I am nonetheless fascinated by
Catholica....





...especially this giant rosary:




I should really be honest here:
my favorite thing about Knock is the shops:
one after another literally overflowing
with knick-knocks, bric-a-brac and
paddy-whackery: ALL THINGS CATHOLIC....







But what really made an impression on me were
these "toys" -- and this is just in one shop....







God help us.




Thursday, July 23, 2009

Liam of the Lettuces

We encountered the owner of this long and lovely patch
of vegetables recently on an after-dinner walk.




I've admired his lush rows of potatoes, lettuces and onions
since my first visit to Carrowholly, four years ago,
and here he was, finally. We chatted for a bit and
he sent us away with two massive heads of lettuce
and a bunch of sweet onions.



You might recall my post a few weeks ago
of three scarecrows: same garden.
The fruits (er, vegetables) of his toils are for sale
at the Thursday market in town. We bought a bag
of "mucky" potatoes last week -- still covered in dirt.



YUM!
Here's the footage of the border collie
herding the "ducks" (they looked a lot
like geese to me, but the handler callled
them ducks) at the Crossmolina Vintage
Show last Sunday up in North Mayo:



Too bad I didn't capture them waddling
up a little ramp and sliding down into
a pool of water. Oh well. Next year.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An unusually high tide tonight -- while awaiting
dinner prepared by our houseguest Mr. Beast,
Paul and I took off on a jaunt around the cove
to see firsthand the high waters,
and what really captured our attention
were the underwater flowers:




And this exotic jelly fish:




The sun was shining -- briefly -- and all the colors
were at their most intense.

Upon our return, I saw that my sheets
had become tangled in the gorse --



And about 30 minutes later, the rains began
once again, and I ran out in the middle of dinner
to untangle the sheets from the line, only for the wind
to tangle them about me during the unpinning:
An Apparition In White.

(And now they are comfortably tumbling
in the luxury of our electric dryer.)

Images from Achill Island




Tuesday, July 21, 2009

View from the car at The Deserted Village, Achill Island.
Crazy, torrential, inescapable rain.
(Waiting for friends as the car steamed up.
Scroll down slowly. And remember,
it really is summer in Ireland.)