Galway’s Welcome Party

Yarrow

 My first destination within Ireland was Galway.  When I worked there in ’05, Galway really felt like home to me.  But when I returned for a couple weeks in ’07, I felt out of place – like revisiting your old college campus and realizing that most of your acquaintances have cycled out, plus you don’t have a purposeful reason to be there anymore.  This year, though, I was surprised by what made me feel really at home:  The plants.

Plantain!

Every morning I recognized new herbs on the path from my friends’ house into town.  First yarrow, then plantain, then St. John’s wort…  During the Apprentice program at Sage Mountain, these were plants I was too shy to admit I had little idea how to find.  We’d walk by some plantain on an ID walk, and the teacher would casually talk about the parallel veins and healing properties of the plant, figuring we all knew what plantain looked like, since it’s so common.  I nodded and figured I’d look it up later, so it wasn’t until my trip to Ireland that plantain and I were properly “introduced.”  It was so much fun to see these plants – which I’ve been using dried in teas and oils and tinctures – growing live and wild all over the place!


There and Back Again (or, Ireland is More Considerate than Pennsic)

Help!  The Vikings are coming!

I’m back!  I can’t cover the month I just spent in Ireland in one post, so I’ll offer you bits and pieces over the next several blog posts.  For the time being, I’ll say that I had brilliant conversations with people from all over the world, tons of tea, gorgeous walks through breathtaking land (sprinkled with historic and prehistoric sites, not to mention an astounding variety of wildflowers – many medicinal), and a generally rockin’ time.

I’ve become spoiled:  I seem to have these sorts of experiences every time I go to Ireland.  When I’m not there, I enjoy knowing that Ireland is going about its business – experiencing challenges for sure, but going on being an extraordinary place year in and year out.

I’m going to miss Pennsic* this year, but (since I just spent a month traveling) I’m determined not to feel sorry for myself.  I still can’t help but watch the calendar to see when Pennsic starts, and I’m debating whether I could get away with wearing some garb each day in solidarity.  (No debate, really.  Vermont’s a safe haven for hippie skirts and peasant shirts.)  Because Pennsic, unlike Ireland, only exists in the real world for two weeks every year.  Something I’m finding bleeding inconsiderate this summer.

When you’re there, though, that’s part of Pennsic’s charm.  Come July 30th, my consolation will be knowing that Pennsic is going about its business, and that the combined imaginations of all the people there are making it an extraordinary, if ephemeral, place.

*a.k.a. the strange festival where I met my boyfriend.


Catch-Up and a Change of Address

My knight has been on yet another journey, as I have (for a while at least) moved out of the Great Big City and back to the Country.  Following the move,  I celebrated Pine-Scented Festivities, then flew to the Southern Hemisphere to visit Summertime.  Now, for an undisclosed amount of time, I am back in the Country…except when I’m visiting the Great Big City, which still has its appeal (you know who you are…)

And that, my ether-friends, is the Abridged Version.

PS:  You might have noticed that this blog has moved to a new address.  The parent site for this blog, formerly AndTheDonkey.com, has moved to VaguelyBohemian.com.  We bid AndTheDonkey a fond farewell as we send you back into the ether…you were a good URL, but just took too much explaining.


A Knight in Moderation

Several years ago, my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  It was summer – too early for the question – and we were walking down a sunlit street.  “A knight in shining armor,” I said.

Obviously, I wasn’t serious.  As I remember it, I wasn’t even keeping my eye out for romance at the time.  I just thought I was being cute.

Six months later, I unwrapped the lad in the photo.  I loved him, of course:  I’ve always had a thing for miniatures (in moderation), and this fellow is so steadfast.  He’s sits on my windowsill with Ganesh and Happy Buddha, and together they are part of my home-in-a-pocket kit whenever I travel.

Thank goodness, though, that he stays faithfully on that windowsill, and doesn’t butt in too much.  Knights In Shining Armor can save the day, but they can also have some exhaustingly high expectations of themselves and of you.  As my sister said when I unwrapped him, it’s much better to carry your own Knight with you, so you don’t have to go looking for him in other people.


There once was a writerly lass… (a limerick)

There once was a writerly lass
Who thought the big city was class
But discovered that Philly
Taxes freelancers silly
So returned to her free country grass.


Porridge, my Ugly Duckling


On February 1, 2005, I arrived in Ireland with a work permit in hand and a single connection who was gracious enough to meet me in Galway city and show me around. Soon I was situated in a house ten minute’s walk from the City Centre, my connection went home to Limerick, and I set about trying to find a job. But first, I must have breakfast!

I had bought a package of Flahavan’s oats, eager to ‘do as the Romans do’ – plus, I knew porridge is nourishing and hot, and my housemates seemed to think nothing of going a few days without heating oil. Alas, when I heated up the flaked oats and water as the package directed, I created a bland sort of paste. Unappealing as it was, I choked down about two thirds of the bowl.

Next day, I approached breakfast much less eagerly. But my housemate, a student at NUI Galway, opened up her cupboard and recommended I stir in some cinnamon, honey, and sunflower seeds; that made all the difference.

These days, I eat porridge in all weather and for any meal, not just for the sustained energy it gives me, but also because it’s so adaptable. Some days, my porridge is practically a binding agent for fruits and nuts, and some days, it’s a breakfast sundae with yogurt and honey – which goes to show that even a homey sort of breakfast can be a creative endeavor.

(Click here for recipes and ideas.)


Thirst

I am obviously suffering from inadequate exposure to ocean air, which would explain why I’m watching tourism vids about places I’ve already been to and/or lived in.


Midsummer


Every year on St. John’s Eve each village on Inis Mor has a bonfire. Many villages along the west coast of mainland Ireland also celebrate this holiday, and if it’s a clear night you can see the bonfires of Connemara and County Clare across the water. Everyone in the village comes to the bonfire, and celebrations might last the whole night through. Refreshments are passed around, songs sung, and tunes played. These festivities take place within a few nights of midsummer, and are in actuality part of a pre-christian tradition that has survived remarkably well in western Ireland.


Blending into the Landscape


The first fort I visited on my last trip to Inis Mor was Dun Eochla, an almost cozy sort of hilltop fort that is isolated enough that you might not see another visitor during your stay there.

If you look closely along the left side of the photo below (a view from the Dun’s walls), you’ll see another round, apparently stone structure. It’s actually a concrete water reservoir that has been camouflaged with local stones so as to blend into the landscape. Genius!


Reflections

The other day I walked out of the restaurant a few minutes before it opened to fetch my forgotten water bottle from the car. The clouds were all fish scales and mare’s tails across the sky, back lit and painted by the setting sun. I wished I could lie down on the grass and just stare up until darkness fell. I even contemplated, on a whim, putting the keys in the ignition to see if I drove off.

But instead I walked back inside. As I took a last glance up at the sky I noticed the pink, sunset light coloring the building’s usual hue. It reminded me of this shot, taken at sunset at Dun Aengus on Inis Mor last June. So glad I was there!