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BLOG – This year’s Ireland

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As you may know from my previous post or from seeing me then not seeing me then seeing me again on the streets, I recently returned from my yearly trip to Ireland. Here is an illustrated, partial reflection of my visit that I feel the need to get out there before returning properly to gad about Yellow Springs. Click on a photo to see a bigger one. All photos by me unless otherwise noted.

photo by Lee Johnson

My friend Paul says Ireland is not all like this—the town, Clones, built around the church on a hill to dominate the land for miles. (It’s the highest diamond, or town center, in Ireland I’ve been told.) He grew up in the suburbs. From here I can see both spires, one Catholic, one Protestant, one on either side of the town, barely a mile from the capital-B border.

Someone told me that the land here looked so northern to them, lines of pines bordering green fields. That his association with that landscape was to imagine the bloodshed, the battles, the British soldiers storming through those trees…

photo by Lee Johnson

As an outsider I look at this land and see what I want, unsoiled by anything other than an intellectual awareness of its history. I think it’s tragic to see this beauty and think of war. But without one, could there be another? Is it because of one that we have the other? The oldest question in the book.

On two occasions I was in a group that was chased by cows. One was on the grounds of a dilapidated castle in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The other was in a field in County Galway. These photos were taken once I knew we were safe, over the fence or stone wall, with them still staring us down.

There’s not a soul around as far as I can see, and I can see very far. Kept walking till the beaten path became considerably less beaten. A crumbling stone wall covering a massive scrap heap, an abandoned barn just behind. Sectioned off, forgotten; rural decay. Rural Irish decay; history commingling so easily with recent past and present. The time lapse becomes blurry.

As it turns out, it was not so abandoned. I was there barely an hour before someone drove by and recognized me from a photo on Facebook with a mutual friend who’s a local. “Is your name Vanessa?” Clones is worse than Yellow Springs…

The evenings are chilly but they say it’s warm. Swimming with new friends in limestoney Lough Buinne, near Kinvara, in County Clare. The mud in the water nothing I’d ever felt before, the water warmer than the air—not saying a whole lot. It never got deep and I could always see the bottom, clay-colored; it threatened to suck me down with every foot-fall, with every foot-rise releasing cloudy mud into the water making it temporarily opaque.

The Kinvara farmers market in County Galway is my new favorite, I do believe. In addition to the vendors, the music, cafe and prepared foods (“tea, coffee, & other nice things”), and tables and chairs made it almost fair-like. Granted, money-exchange for goods was first but it wasn’t last, or maybe it was also last but not middle. Very communal—“Got an Irish coffee there?” one man said as he passed and tapped my cup of lemon-ginger tea. “Ha I wish.”

traipsing through fields of cows and nettles
over shaky stone walls and variously-sized hills
even the dogs thought it was too much for a minute there


5 Responses to “BLOG – This year’s Ireland”

  1. Susan Gartner says:

    I’m back from being out of town and just catching up on all the news I missed. Thanks for posting the lovely photos. I like the part where the local stops and asks you, “Is your name Vanessa?” You must have been very touched. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way for this site to play your favorite Irish music as we’re reading your blog?

  2. Vanessa Query says:

    Thanks all for your comments. Here’s to getting music at our farmers markets, wouldn’t that be lovely…

  3. Kathryn Hitchcock says:

    Lovely to see the photos and read of your yearly trip, Vanessa. I am a Celtic music fan. Great music in this case appears directly linked to centuries of war and famine, natural and unnatural, that brought the Irish to these shores. Another one of those ideas that may never be settled. Is suffering necessary for great art?

  4. Libby Rudolf says:

    Beautiful pictures and it makes me want music at our Farmers Market too…I’ve read books on how the Irish saved civilization yet have been crushed thru-out history…going to Ellis Isl to see my grandads’ name from 1911 when he came over. How many Irish are in Y.S.?

  5. Corrine Bayraktaroglu says:

    I always LOVE reading about your trip to Ireland. eek,I’ve been chased by cows before, NOT funny, but kind of is. I had to sit in a tree for an hour once until the farmer came.
    Beautiful scenery. Hard to imagine the horrors inflicted on it, and for centuries too.

    Sounds like you had a super time.

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