November 26 Ennis--dancing


Frosty mornings in Ennis

November 20 Galway--the music

1:06 am

A night of drawing in the warmth of the music at The Crane. Alive people and a night no so biting in wind and rain.  

123&123&123&123 REEL

123123123 JIG

Monroe's set dancing has finally taught me how to lean in when people talk right up close to my cheek and not flinch when they grab me by the arm in their excitement.  This is the perfect town to learn to play Irish tunes because your can find a session every night of the week. Periwinkles and muscles to collect in the bay and Jim from Nimmos for stories about New York in the 80s.

November Galway

I walked along the river today and saw at least twenty people in row boats. It was beautiful with fall greys and tans. The auburn around the water and the grey sky and the heroic people pulling the paddles made a certain kind of picture. There was a tall and narrow ruin along the main highway with a new structure of H beams inside and some thick boards making a second story. It was all open through decay but it looked like a squat. Then I came into a suburb with small grassy plots and bushes. The corners of the houses were painted to show that they were reinforced with quoins, but the paint was really just mimicking the old tradition. Front rooms with a lot of glass are pretty common.  Just before the person goes into the front door they have a small glass room smaller than the average bathroom. If it was sunny these greenhouses could heat the house, but when it is cloudy it seems to play more of a social function, a transition spot to shed layers and get ready for the warmth of the inside. The suburbs remind me of the Berkeley hills because the plots and streets are small enough that it doesn’t feel excessive.

I came onto the Terryland shopping center where empty car retail stores sat next to Asian food restaurants and fitness centers. I walked through a Tescos for about a half an hour trying to bring the blood back into my hands and face. I let the labels be my textbook for the day. Turns out the U.S. exports walnuts, dried cherries, pistachios, pecans, and sweet potatoes for a cheaper price than any country in the EU. EU nations are penalized for importing from non-EU members so it was particularly interesting to see what came from outside. Thailand sent some lemon grass. Costa Rica sent bananas. Brazil sent pineapples and guavas. China sent pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and cranberries. Bolivia sent Brazil nuts ironically. France only sent dried figs and apricots as far as I could tell. Spain and Holland were all over the place: tomatoes, onions, roots veggies, oranges, lemons, apples. Holland with it's short winter days?  Ireland provided its own carrots, potatoes, cooking apples, some pears, onions, potted herb plants, mushrooms, and a few other odds and ends. Ireland is really into cooking apples which are big green apples that are more bitter than desert or eating apples. The cheeses tend to be Irish, French, Dutch, or Spanish. Ireland has a few of its own goat products and a cheese made with sheep milk even.

Millstreet, Cork & Asdee, Kerry

The whole family on the steps of the two-story farm house.  Left to right starting in the back row: Kit, Bridie, John, Maureen, John, Catherine, Tom, Tim, & Theresa

Bridie's sister Theresa has a bookshelf of classic novels that sit behind a glass door in the sitting room in Millstreet. The Great Gatsby and the works of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Gone With the Wind and something by Oscar Wilde and Tolstoy’s great novel and Jane Austen's works and Jane Eyre.

Theresa remembered visiting Bridie for six weeks around the time that Terri was born. She looked after the kids when Bridie went to the hospital. When Bridie stayed with her in Millstreet in '77 they went down to the well. There are a few pictures in her photo album of them with Carol and Peggy on the grass in the background. We drank the water from the well out of mugs that are hanging on a rack outside. Reminded me of something we would have done in Thailand actually. It is the purest water out of 11 local water sources according to the guy who takes samples. We met Denis and his family and hung out with Nicholas for a while. They are both really lively--there are photo albums of Denis holding big fish he caught at the river.  Colm came up to visit from Cork and brought a family tree and a binder following the family line back through parish records.  He drove us up to Listowel to meet up with Peggy as it got dark and to our great surprise...

An Irish farmers thumb

My squat thumb is my true irish inheritance.  I looked down at Colm’s hand at the Horseshoe bar and saw the stubbiest little thumb I’ve ever seen.  I made him produce both thumbs and Lindsey and I looked back and forth at them.  He said they were John Linnane’s thumbs, our great-grandfather (Bridie’s father).  So Lindsey has two farmer thumbs I have just the one…my right thumb being more like my dad’s.  We drank port and brandy to settle our stomachs after the long drive from Millstreet to Listowel.  Colm has looked into the family history extensively and it was amazing to talk with him.  

The week at Tony's was lovely.  We met Maureen's daughters, Bernie and Reeena, for tea one night and visited the house in Urlee where the Linnane's grew up.  Ur (fresh)- lee (water) named for the stream passing through.  Onto to the ferry with me looking like a frail ghost with my flu and onto to Ennis.  A heavenly glass of chicken broth from the kind Will Wheeler and a session led by Swedes and I was heartened enough to travel onto to Galway. 

October 14 Bantry

Bantry is a town of beautiful woman in their 20s working as waitresses.  The smoked salmon was thick and filled me for nearly a full day.  The hills make it spectacular and the cool ocean air gives us good spirits.  Now this is the place to live in Ireland.  The church was less elaborate—the arches up the main axis painted and without the traditional stonework.  We’ve set our bags down in the cemetery and take turns wandering the town.  I’m dreaming of adventures again.  I watched a video of some dancing in Costa Rica and the world opened up again. 

Tractor's Cafe in Bantry offered some wisdom. 

We are addicted to taking tea.  Not tea itself, but the ritual, the warmth, the careful proportioning of tea to milk.  Bridie would have taken sugar.  The ritual of the pint takes me as well—but only with music.  Without music, the room is full of strangers, but with music, the twinkles re-inhabit the eyes and the whole place is a stage set. 

October 12 Askeaton

One of those days when mood swings follow the weather.  The glare of late afternoon sun on wet cobblestone streets is a rival to the glare off an icy mountain slope.  My knees are cold under my skirt as we jostled through Limerick looking for a cafĂ© to keep our appetites appeased.  When we found a place that was open we set in on a tall cup of hot chocolate.  We refilled the French hot chocolate with milk until it was American chocolate milk. 

This morning at Rachel O’Grady’s we picked russet apples and talked to her neighbor.  As we crossed the street she repeated “heel Feather, Feather, heel” to her dog Feather in a flat monotone way until Lindsey and I were dying trying to refrain from laughing.  We went around the back to find an old woman, prematurely aged and waddling with a bad knee.  As we talked her story unfolded.  She had terrible trouble with her knee and was constantly getting calls from the nurse.  I looked at the upward lift of the creases around her eyes and realized that she is someone who had looked her own death in the face very seriously.  After she told her story long enough, she turned the conversation on Rachel’s dying father and cooed her apologies.  “Like, you know” she said like an Irish woman: a short “like, you” and a long “o” in “knooooow”.  Rachel talked to another neighbor about beech and ash trees on passing and it made sense to him because these trees are part of their everyday understanding and vocabulary.  Her house is paneled with Spruce from Norway and Douglas Fir from the farm.  She said her house was insulated with newspaper (professionally assembled newspaper--this isn't exactly a miner's squat).  She had a rack with a pulley to dry clothes above her wood stove and she was strict about keeping the door to the staircase closed to keep the heat from rising.  She had two composting toilets and the bin where the waste accumulates had yet to fill up after two years of use.  I really love how the windows are deep set into the walls in Ireland.  The first time I fell for deep set windows was when I saw pictures of Le Corbusier’s church in Ronchamp, France. 

We filled this tractor with logs--mainly 16-18 year-old ash trees about my height and 2 hands around

St. John's Castle in Limerick next to the Shannon River.  The Shannon moves quite a bit with the tide according to my twice-soaked-boot. 

Sept 23-Oct 8 Ballingarry

September 23, 2012
Our first night at the farm in Ballingarry petrifies us and we think about leaving.  Our host Theresa yells at her kids and has none of the gentleness of Kathleen.  Emily, a 23-year-old history graduate from Minnesota, is here and she seems grand so we will stay. 

The road that takes us from the castle gatelodge (above with new addition shown) to Theresa’s is lined with large trees and climbing vines (below).  It is completely different from the chest-high bushes that line the edges of the dairy’s of Kerry.  We spotted a hurling stick in the gas station down the street. 

October 3, 2012
My back felt strong today as I worked and I didn’t mind my dirty mop of hair as I bent my knees to shovel manure for the garden beds.  Emily, Lindsey, and I are quite the crew.  I’m glad Emily is here for Lindsey because I’m so often in my own thoughts. The weeded beds are in the photo. 

October…a few days later
At the Irish woman’s country association we learned how to make wine from a vibrant middle aged woman with a Napa Valley air to her and, more importantly, we learned that Irish woman do indeed grow beards at a certain point.  I imagine away the fluff of hair they arrange around their faces and see that they look just like elderly men.  Gender seems to me to be something that rises and blossoms during the middle of one’s vitality and quietly disappears as it is no longer needed.  Of course, their hands and words and movements carry their womanhood.  You should have seen them fight to be the one to help serve and clean the dishes.  And the woman they call Bunny sitting next to me snatched up the little sandwiches and cakes to go with her tea.  It was ten o’clock at night and these sharp-eyed women sipped caffeinated tea in their neatly matching suits and made plans for next week’s meeting. 

View from Knock Fierna toward Theresa's farm.  Typical field pattern but with more trees than Kerry.  

 shelter for cows on the knock fierna fairy hill in ballingarry--just a little mortar in center of the thick walls and a thatch roof

October 5, 2012

Walking down the street with 12 sausages in one hand and a wine bottle in the other.  Lindsey has a bag of carrots, some toilet paper, and a bar of dark chocolate.  We keep having to stop so we won’t knock ourselves over with laughter.  Too many folic grocery items and talk of aphrodisiacs will make us succumb to this kind of hilarity.  

October 6, 2012
Caledonia at the Ballingarry pub: “let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time, Caledonia….and if I should become a stranger, it would make me more than sad”.  Then another song: “All the radio said/was another shot dead/and he died with a gun in his hand/but they didn’t say why/billy reed had to die/he died to free Ireland”.  Billy Reed was part of the IRA fighting in Belfast during the English occupation. 

cookies at the gas station--tea time will be tea time