I’ve a layover to occupy here at the Philadelphia airport. My system in a bit of a shock as to how tremendously noisy it is here back in the States – volume on all things up to 11. Dublin, even its bustling, modern, state-of-the-art airport, pales in comparison to the noise of my home country and I am deeply grateful for sound-cancelling technology and the escape route of this blog space on my little device to help pass the time here. These and some guacamole and a spot of wine (oh, avocados, how I have missed them!).
I find it hard to believe a trip I have so longed for, a trip years in the making really, is actually done and dusted. In a way, I feel I’ve been away forever and a day (and my family and dogs likely would agree) and yet, as good trips often do, it all went by too fast for my liking. I found moments when I wished to split myself into many pieces so as to take it all in properly. One bit might step back in to the shadows and draw and paint it all, quiet as a church mouse there in the corner, forgotten. Another bit of me might not be so shy when the tunes begin and would dive in with full confidence. Still another me might sit in coversation with the lads from the village, soaking up their vernacular and storied ways (while painterly me takes careful notes on just what tweed each particular waistcoat consists of). There is simply too much to take in.
Sketcher me does get a few things at least begun on paper, early in the trip, between raindrops one day and bus schedules the next. These I shall eventually finish and post, but for now, frustrated with the paper in my book, they rest, awaiting proper studio attention once I get home.
My journey to Blackrock, Louth, ever so charming and lovely is over far too soon for my liking and I must make my way west into unfamiliar territory. Green, rural, beautiful. Navigating buses, trains, and the like, I eventually make it into Listowel where friends old and new await my arrival. I am to participate in the inaugural Listowel Visual Arts Week, not as a teacher this time, but as a student! This is a welcome breather to me after a week of intense facillitation in New Mexico. My first evening is spent enjoying a Pecha Kucha presentation by artists in town as instructors, as well as some locals who seem to represent the very depth of creativity to be found in Listowel and surrounds.
The presentation ends and I am shuttled off to a pub called John B. Keane’s which is the center of all things for the rest of my time in town. John B. Keane was an author and playwright known for shaping the local flavor into the compelling stories they surely are, for those with ears to hear and I was captivated by the spirit of the place, as well as by the songs and tunes to be had there throughout the week.
Days shift into days and soon it is the weekend when I attend a workshop put on by my multi-talented friend Lillie Morris who hails from Augusta, Georgia.
Lillie works in mixed media and paper collage and the following two days result in a great deal of work by all involved.
The work I myself produce is very much in keeping with Lillie’s iconic style, and yet, my own voice shines through as well. The sign of a good teacher I do believe.
These days are over before we know it and suddenly time feels crunched. So much we want to accomplish and yet the week is flying by. Lillie has been traveling to Listowel for many a long year and is greeted and treated like family there. I am welcomed into this fold like a long lost cousin and our lovely hosts whisk us off to County Clare for a peek at the iconic Cliffs of Moher and perhaps a tune or two in Ennis. We both, Lillie and I, are also on the prowl for a place to teach in future. This may happen in tandem as our work might fit nicely together, but we are both open to any and all possibilities. Time will tell.
Our trip to Clare begins auspicously with a blessing from a raven himself. (Though likely he just wants a snack from the tourists on the ferry from Kerry to Clare.)
Either way, he is a handsome fella indeed.
Cliffs of Moher do not disappoint, though I could do with fewer fellow tourists along the way. All seem to be taking full advantage of the weather, which we hear tell is the longest sunny/dry spell since the fateful summer of 1976.
Ennis as well is lovely beyond belief and we enjoy tunes with friends of Lillie’s from over the years, tucked away in a local pub called Michael Fawl’s. Unlike the mic’d up splendor of the session for the masses up the street, ours is in the back room, keeping ourselves to ourselves and it is indeed lovely in pacing, tune selection and over all company.
Ennis is, alas, merely an overnight adventure but we take in what we can, finding history and color and music along the way.
We even manage to meet a man who, along with his lovely wife Natasha run a retreat space geared toward artists so we head off to take a look. It seems promising and we plan to keep in touch.
Soon we board our ferry back to Kerry and arriving on its shores feels like coming home.
Though to be fair, the shores of Clare are spectacular as well.
Home we go to Hannie’s House. A place that is truly a step back into time and family.
A place where turf is still harvested and burned as fuel on cooler nights…
There is nothing like the smell of peat on the breeze to welcome one home to the cottage, is there not?
Listowel continues to open its arms our way, with new-to-me paths being introduced by Dan, Mike, Lillie, Diane, Noreen, Sean, Michelle et al. I marvel at it all.
One day we drive just outside of town to a smaller seaside town called Ballybunion. Along the way are many very Irish things to see. Thatched cottages, turf being footed to dry, and a number of cows.
After lunch we head for the beach as I am keen to swim.
The day is filled with the collection of many sensory impressions- colors, light, stories ancient and recent, and of course, as much time as possible bobbing in the waves. My Selkie nature shines through a bit on this day to be sure.
Alas the next day sees the end of time in Listowel and I once again traverse this green country to line up nearer to where I began this Irish adventure, Dublin. Goodbyes are sad but I have a feeling I’ll be back quite soon. And of course Lillie and I will soon be in our own version of Brigadoon at the Swannanoa Gathering sooner than later. I am deeply grateful for my new friendships and inspirations found in Listowel.
Swords sees me tucked into a little hotel, up the street from a nice castle.
And just like that the trip is over. My flight from Philly to Cincy is near to boarding so I shall post this now…… But know there is always more to share soon..
With deep gratitude.