Settling in to the Landscape

As a New Englander, I was raised in a fairly pristine environment. We have plenty of forests left wild, and fields full of brush and wildflowers. Parts of Ireland, on the other hand, have been divided over generations into small, fenced-off pastures. When I first saw Co. Clare from above, flying into Shannon Airport, I thought it would make me feel claustrophobic. I discovered anything but. The stone walls, constructed with stones from the fields they enclose, are beautiful, and vary in style from region to region. They seem so much more in tune with the landscape than wire or chain link fencing. Also, it’s common practice to hop the fences and walk right through the fields (assuming there’s no bull inside!)

Most older structures are also built of stone. I have a friend in Doolin who likes to point out his house from a distance, because it matches its environment so well. Unfortunately many of the newer houses are much like suburban American dwellings: larger than needed, built with little craftsmanship. They stick out like a sore thumb.

The roads in Ireland, also, seem to impose less on the landscape. The one pictured here is, in effect, one of Ireland’s major highways. Many roads are hardly wider than a bike path. And people drive smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to fit them.

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