Ireland: Thursday, August 1
I haven’t posted since Tuesday and it hasn’t been because I’ve been out adventuring, I have been writing most of the time in my Meadowfield office. Tuesday afternoon I did break away to have lunch with Mary Hawkes-Greene from the Burren College of Art. Mary drove over to Meadowfield at about half past noon to collect me and then drove us to Burren Fine Wine and Food just off the road to Lisdoonvarna as you drive out of Ballyvaughan. Mary and I hadn’t seen each other in at least two years and I was looking forward to getting caught up. I had visited the Burren Fine Wine and Food once before several years ago when Robert Wainwright brought my student group there after a field excursion. I remember buying a very nice bottle of wine.
When Mary and I entered we were warmly greeted by owner, Cathleen Connele and told we could sit anywhere. We chose a table in the corner near a window. The meal was very nice and it was wonderful to be in a relaxing place and to talk with Mary again. I told Mary that this visit (sans students) has made me realize how rich my experiences have been with students here in the Burren. I’m certainly enjoying my stay this three weeks but I’m not having the experience of sharing the history and culture of the Burren with interested minds, and I miss that.
After Mary brought me back to Meadowfield I continued my writing until Breada’s B&B guests started arriving for the evening. I cleared my stuff out of her dining room and moved it back to my upstairs room in order to make room for Breada’s morning breakfast service. The first guest to arrive was a young man named Jacop who was from Germany. Jacop was a Laser Technician and in Ireland for several days on business. Later a couple from France arrived, as did a couple from the U.S. and a couple from Belgium.
I made a sandwich for my dinner then spent the evening in conversation with Jacop, Breada and the couple from Belgium. We talked about education, politics and economics. They all questioned why a segment of the U.S. population is against our country having national health care.
Wednesday morning, after my breakfast of coffee and toast I worked on my writing again. I was expecting Anne Korff to visit in the afternoon to do some iPad work and look at photos of some of the places I had visited when in Cyprus in February. I worked on my writing until Anne arrived around 2:30 or so. Breada kindly gave us tea for our little meeting and after our time working on iPad stuff and discussing Cyprus Anne suggested that we consider planning another walking tour.
MORE TO COME . . .
Ireland: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
I spent the majority of the day yesterday writing in my Meadowfield office. The front window of my make-shift office looks out on the field across the road and Cappanawalla Mountain. A refreshing and fragrant breeze comes in the open window.
Later Monday evening I accompanied Breada and her friend, Michael to Greenes Pub for music and the 70th birthday celebration of Sean Tyrrell. Since my last visit to Ballyvaughan in 2011, Greene’s has added an extensive Beer Garden behind their Pub. It is really very nice, with its own bar and many tables and chairs. The music sessions are now held there.
The place was full of people, I think everyone from Ballyvaughan was in attendance. I recognized many people I have met over my many visits to Ballyvaughan. Heavy h’orderves were being served and later we all received a piece of Sean’s birthday cake.
When we walked into the Beer Garden Sean was singing “Sweet Ballyvaughan” and as we walked through the crowd to find our table I heard many people softly singing the words to the song –as was I. Besides celebrating Sean’s 70th birthday this evening was a celebration of 27 years of Sean Tyrrell’s Wednesday night sessions at Green’s Pub. Tonight Sean was accompanied by Fergus Feely, and a rather new fellow (at least to me) on the fiddle, Liam Lewis. There were also guest musicians and singers that stepped up to play and sing with Sean –the well known Chris Droney played his concertina and Marion Linnane sang “The Bold Fenian Men“.
There was a CD for sale to commemorate this occasion which I purchased. The following was printed inside the CD cover:
“For those of us lucky enough to have crossed the threshold of Greene’s in the mid eighties this CD will spark many magical memories. Without ever knowing it we were part of something unique, devoid of commercial aspiration but far beyond that there was a generosity of spirit. A pub, the same as any other building, is only made of bricks and mortar but it was Geraldine and Marie who set Greene’s apart. Close your eyes and you will hear Pakie Vaughan shout “love your eyes” followed by Marie promptly putting him in his place. Martin Carey in the corner with a twinkle in his eye and Beanie holding court with The Donegal Artist. You could hear a pin drop while the singer sang his song overseen by Marion, the fountain of musical knowledge, sitting quietly by the back door.”
I don’t remember meeting ever meeting Geraldine and she has passed away now but I recognized her in a photo of her that hung in Greene’s Pub several years ago. I do know Marie Clancy, Martin Carey, Marion Linnane and Beanie. I’ve enjoyed so many music session’s at Greene’s over the years and when Marie is present it is true you can year a pin drop when the singer sings his song for she strongly shushes everyone who is being unknowingly rude by trying to continue a conversation when the song starts.
Ireland: Sunday, July 28, 2013
This last Saturday, July 27th I took the early morning bus to Kinvara to meet Anne Korff for a field excursion. The tide was in which made the view during the bus ride more beautiful than usual. Because of my interest in the history of the Burren and its field monuments Anne suggested we go to a particular place called Cragballyconal which is located south of the peak of Aillwee Mountain.
Anne and her Jack Russell, Buddi, were waiting for me when I arrived at the Kinvara bus stop. It was very clear that Buddi was extremely excited about the day’s excursion. Anne drove us south from Kinvara past Corcomroe and Turlough Hill until we came to a place where it would be difficult and unwise to proceed by car. Anne parked her car off to the side of the road and we continued on by foot.
In order to get to Cragballyconal we proceeded to walk up several steep inclines, which I’m not accustom to. Anne was very kind and patience with me when I needed to stop to catch my breath. Anne used each short resting time as an opportunity to give me a lesson about the landscape and its history. I made certain to document our climbing progress by photographing the landscape behind us at each stop.
Soon we were past the uphill part of our walk and onto somewhat level terrain. The sun felt warm and the air clean and fresh with a wonderful soft fragrance of many various wildflowers. We pcontinied our walk on a narrow one lane dirt road – the first monument we came across was the Poulaphuca Wedge Tomb. Anne told me that “phuca” can be translated as “ghost”.
“Most of the tombs in the Burren, over 90% of them, are classified as Wedge Tombs. This is the commonest type of Irish megalithic monument widely distributed in the south-west, west and north of the country, and the Burren group is the densest concentration known. These tombs are so named because they have a wedge-shaped ground plan, that is, they are usually narrower (and lower) towards the rear, eastern end.”
Feehan, John, et el. The Book Of The Burren. Newtownlynch Kinvara Co. Clare, Ireland: Tir Eolas, 1991. (Page 63)
“None of the Burren wedge tombs have been excavated and, therefore, many questions about their date and their builders remain unanswered. Evidence, mainly from the north of Ireland, shows that some of these tomb builders had a knowledge of copper working and the use of these monuments continued well into the early Bronze Age, overlapping with the new burial practices of that period. The time span for wedge tombs as a class (and not necessarily the Burren series) could be a millenium or more, extending from c. 3000 to 2000 B.C.”
Feehan, John, et el. The Book Of The Burren. Newtownlynch Kinvara Co. Clare, Ireland: Tir Eolas, 1991. (Page 64)
In a previous blog posting I mentioned that Anne Korff is known through her work with Tir Eolas (knowledge of the land) a publishing company she founded in 1987. Her illustrations of the archaeology of the Burren and its history led to the publication of a series of guides and maps and the publishing of the book “The Book of the Burren“. This day’s field excursion was to an area that appeared on her map “The Burren: A Ramblers Guide & Map, Ballyvaughan“.
After our visit to Poulaphuca we walked on until we came to a deserted farm house. In a field on our left Anne noticed a ringfort that she did not remember –she suggested that we investigate. There was a gated narrow farm road that led up to the ringfort that we assumed was made by the farmer who owned the land. Anne climbed over the metal gate while she explained to me that you should always climb over these gates near where the gates are hinged and never where that gates are latched. I followed her lead and climbed over the gate and Buddi managed to climb between the gate’s metal horizontal bars. We then walked the farm road up to the ringfort for a closer view.
This ringfort was a dry-stone ringfort and a portion of a second surrounding wall could be seen when standing in its interior. Anne explained that when this ringfort was inhabited the stone walls were much higher and there would have been enclosures in its interior for use as the family’s dwelling place and to shelter their animals. Anne’s “The Burren: A Ramblers Guide & Map, Ballyvaughan says this about ringforts:
“The evidence of Celtic habitation in the Burren is found in the literally hundreds of ring-forts in the area. The term “ringfort” is used as a general name for a protected enclosure where a farmer and his family lived where he may also have kept his domestic animals. Typically a ring-fort consists of a circular enclosure, surrounded either by a dry-stone wall or earthen banks and ditches, possibly surmounted by a timber palisade. Depending on rank and status, a ring-fort might be surrounded by several banks and ditches. A causeway interrupts the banks and provides a way into the enclosure, the entrance being secured by a gate. Within the enclosure there might be one or more buildings, for dwelling purposes and protection of livestock. The great majority of ring-forts in the Burren are constructed from stone, although earthen ring-forts are also much in evidence.”
After exploring the ringfort we found a place nearby to sit and eat a bit and quench our thirst. During our little rest Anne explained that these ringforts were inhabited during the Early Historic Period.
“From the archaeological excavations conducted in the Burren and elsewhere, it appears that the majority of these enclosures [ringforts] were build and occupied within what we know as the Early Historic Period (A.D. 400-1200) in Ireland.”
Feehan, John, et el. The Book Of The Burren. Newtownlynch Kinvara Co. Clare, Ireland: Tir Eolas, 1991. (Page 81)
After our respite we climbed back over the gate and continued on our excursion. We soon came upon a farm road on our right that Anne thought would lead us to a shrine with an ancient stone cross that was marked on her map. Ten years had past since Anne’s last visit to this area. We could see a house before us on this road that may have been built since her last visit –it was clearly inhabited. As we were walking a vehicle past us on the road which stopped and left off a young boy with a shopping bag at this house and then quickly continued on the road. As the vehicle passed us I waved at the driver who did not return the wave. I mentioned this to Anne and wondered if our exploration was not welcomed.
We came upon another inhabited house and saw someone driving a tractor –we continued on somewhat expecting to be approached and asked to leave. Anne recognized an area over a stone wall and climbed over, I helped Buddi over and Anne gave me a hand in my effort to get over the wall. Once over the wall we saw that about 15 feet ahead of us was the shrine we were seeking. Above it was a roughly formed cross.
Anne recalled that the last time she visited this shrine there had been articles placed within the shrine. This made me recall the items I have seen within the little altar enclosure at the Well of the Holy Cross (Tobar na Croiche Naofa) at Gleninagh northwest of Ballyvaughan. There I have found a statue of the Virgin Mary, a small portrait of Christ, a burnt candle, rosary beads, prayer cards, and some picked wildflowers. Anne is under the opinion that currently such “offerings” are no longer left by local people but are only being left by tourists that have read about the historical customs of these places. Ever the starry eyed romantic – I secretly wish that she is in error.
Anne pointed out a bullaun stone filled with rain water located in the corner of the interior of the shrine. I have read many a hypothesis regarding the use of bullaun stones but because there is no written history about them no one really knows their purpose. Many such stones have been found on Christian sites and I have seen a very large bullaun stone in the graveyard surrounding the ruins of Rathborney Church (which is located at the southwest foot of Cappanawalla Mountain). Because Rathborney Church was built on the site of an ancient ringfort it’s bullaun stone may predate the church itself.
By this time Anne and I had put on our rain jackets because the wind had picked up a bit and there was a chill in the air. We climbed over another stone wall in order to get into the next field to find a dry stone structure known as a Shepherds Shelter. Anne explained that since ancient times shepherds took shelter in these structures from rain and other bad weather. Fate was on our side that afternoon, for we happened to be in this field standing next to this structure when the sky opened up and a hard rain began to fall. We both climbed in and Buddi followed us in. I wish now that I had taken a photograph of the three of us huddle within this Shepherds Shelter. I stayed quite dry for about 4 minutes and then the rain that had accumulated in tiny puddles on the limestone above me started overflowing and dripping down on me. We laughed because I was having my second shower of the day. I put my hood of my rain jacket over my head. My pants got a bit wet but I knew they would dry off soon enough when the sun came out. It seem that in less than 10 minutes the shower was over and we climbed out of our shelter and continued our exploration of the landscape.
The sun soon came out, we removed our rain jackets and my pants started their process of drying. Over the adjacent stone wall we saw a skylark flying against the wind and could hear the cattle lowing in the distance. The limestone pavement in this field took on its most characteristic feature of being broken up by parallel vertical cracks or joints.
“The most striking aspect of the Burren landscape is the way it is sculpted into flat, bare terraces, criss-crossed by joints, each terrace abruptly separated from the next by a cliff, so that the whole landscape looks like a fantastic , series of stairs, the steps of which you can sometimes follow for miles is you want.”
Feehan, John, et el. The Book Of The Burren. Newtownlynch Kinvara Co. Clare, Ireland: Tir Eolas, 1991. (Page 15)
“These joints are important for many reasons, most obviously because weathering of the rock is concentrated on the joints, which widen out to give the characteristic grykes of the Burren . . .”
Feehan, John, et el. The Book Of The Burren. Newtownlynch Kinvara Co. Clare, Ireland: Tir Eolas, 1991. (Page 16)
Over the next stone wall, but before the cliff edge, Anne spotted something in which she was very interested. She saw a group of mounds that were clearly made by the ancient inhabitants of this landscape. We climbed over the wall to get a closer look. There appeared to be at least three mounds grouped here and Anne suggested that they made be cairns – she also found evidence of a possible fulachta fiadh [fullokth feeah].
“There are a number of prehistoric burial mounds in the Burren. The large round cairns on the summit of Turlough Hill and on Slievecarran are two of the most prominent and striking sites, but there are many smaller examples as well. Dates in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age are probable, but some round mounds with enclosing circular banks could be even later.”
Feehan, John, et el. The Book Of The Burren. Newtownlynch Kinvara Co. Clare, Ireland: Tir Eolas, 1991. (Page 64)
“One of the most characteristic Bronze Age monuments known today was not recognized as such until recently. “Fulacht Fiadh” [fullokth feeah] is the term used to describe a low, usually horseshoe-shaped mound of burnt stones with a pit or trough at the center. Pits were normally dug a the water table so that they would fill naturally with water and avoid leakage. Occasional, however, they seem to have been dug near streams and may have been filled manually. The term was used originally in ninth-century Irish literature to describe open-air cooking places used by roving bands of warriors known as “fianna” [feeanna]. A “fulacht is a cooking place an a “fiadh” may refer to these warrior bands, the deer cooked in the pits or simply the wilderness in which these cooking places are often found. In any event, it is unfortunate that the term has been used to describe this type of monument as the cooking places of “fianna” referred to in the literature post-date by up to 2,000 years the mounds now known as “Fulacht Fiadh””. Archaeologists today tend to use the neutral term “burnt mound” to describe this monuments, and there may be as many as 45,000 in the country. It is by no means certain that they were cooking places, although experiment has demonstrated that large joints of meat can successfully be boiled in the pits. They may have been used as “sweathouses”, for bathing, for dyeing cloth, in the preparation of leather, or simple some other function that has been obscured with the passage of time.”
Carthy, Hugh. Burren Archaeology: A Tour Guide. West Link Park, Doughcloyne Wilton, Co. Cork, Ireland: The Collins Press, 2011. (Pages 13-14)
MORE TO COME . . .
Ireland: Friday, July 26, 2013
Much has happened since my last post. Friday afternoon I took advantage of the fine weather to walk up to the Burren College of Art and its Newtown Castle. I left my Meadowfield office, taking a break from working on the book manuscript and stopped at the Spar to purchase a sandwich from their Deli for my lunch break. I walked through the village to the School Road onto the entrance to the Burren Way foot path. On my way I saw and chatted with my friend and Burren College of Art (BCA) Facilities Manager, Robert Wainwright. He was headed for the school football field to watch his son’s match. I met Robert during my first visit to BCA in May of 2000.
There were others walking the footpath and I found that I missed the usual peaceful solitude I have experienced when I have walked the path alone. Because it was later in the season the surroundings of the footpath had vegetation that I had not seen before. In the area of the footpath where there is limestone pavement someone was thoughtful enough to stack pieces of limestone up to create a low wall on either side of the path so walkers would not go astray. Also, there are now stepping stones added to the stiles in the stone walls that create “step-ups” and “step-downs”, which I found very helpful. There are two sections of hazel wood on this section of the footpath and they are my favorite areas to walk. In my mind these areas of hazel wood look much like little fairylands.
The end of the second hazel wood leads to a field where the owner had graciously opened up a narrow path between his electric fence and a stone wall for the walkers of the Burren Way. I walked the narrow path and climbed over the final stile onto a paved road, there I could see the top of Newtown Castle beyond the next field. I turned to face Cappanawalla Mountain and walked a little way until I the road met a road the skirts the bottom of Cappanawalla Mountain. Near there I found a spot to settle for my lunch break. The other path walkers had made a turn in the opposite direction after the last stile so the only sounds I heard were bird songs. I enjoyed sitting there on a limestone boulder at the side of this road.
After my lunch break I continued on this road toward Newtown Castle. The road is paved but narrow and there is much vegetation on both sides. Once in awhile there is a break in the vegetation and the walker can see a beautiful view of the Ballyvaughan valley and mountains of Moneen and Aillwee. I enjoyed the quiet walk and soon arrived at Newtown Castle and the Burren College of Art.
When I arrived I visited the office to say hello to Karen Culligan the Finance Officer & Programme Co-ordinator for the College. I asked her to give my best to Mary Hawkes-Greene the college’s president and then went to the college’s gallery to see the exhibition of Irish artist, Anne Madden.
The exhibition is entitled “Flux and Flow” and showcases 7 paintings that were created between the 1960’s and early 2000’s. The exhibit’s flyer includes this statement by Aidan Dunne:
“Anne Madden’s childhood and adolescent school holiday’s spent roaming on horseback in the Burren around Corofin, left an indelible impression on the young artist. Time, distance an absence have served only to strengthen these links with Clare and to amplify its recurring presence throughout her work”.
Ireland: Thursday, July 25, 2013
Earlier today, Thursday –July 25th I road along to Ennistymon with Breada and her sister Cathy Johnson. Cathy drove us up corkscrew hill and through the farmlands of the Burren. Traveling in her car made me remember how much I enjoyed being driven through the Burren landscape when Robert Wainwright had driven my students and I to the many field excursions which we could not reach by walking alone.
We arrived in Ennistymon and Cathy pointed out the large supermarket where she and Breada were to do their shopping then drove me around the corner to let me off near an ATM. Before I got out of the car Breada was sure to point out where I could find a bookstore and an art supply store. Once I received my Euros from the ATM I went into a little shop that had books shelved from floor to ceiling in its rooms and hallways. I found and purchased a book of Moya Cannon’s poetry that I did not own. It is entitled “Hands”. This poem is called, The Fertile Rock:
In May evening light
an exhausted silver ocean collapses,
it has carried so much to this island,
blue rope and teak beams.
dolphin skulls and fish boxes,
and, once, a metal tank on wheels,
containing one cold passenger.
It rises and collapses at the rim
rises and collapses again –
a mile of white, salt lace
which races across the low limestone terraces,
invades every crack and crevice
in the brown, brine-bitten stone,
and sprays up over
a small grey plateau,
whose fissures brim
with sea pinks.
I also found and purchased a book entitled Connemara: Legends and Landscape. At the time I purchased it I was under the impression that I could take a bus from Ballyvaughan to Galway and then take a Connemara bus tour and spend the night in Clifton and then return the next day. The book is basically a book of beautiful landscape photography with some thoughtful writing. The following are excerpts I especially wanted to record and share:
McEleveen, Hugh. Connemara: Legends and Landscape.
Dublin, Ireland: Nonsuch Publishing, 2009.
“I am the sum total of my ancestor’s existence.” (Cato & Bridgeman, One Giant Leap, Palm Pictures.) This statement of a Maori leader expresses a universal experience. An individual’s identity is derived from a sense of a belonging to their people and is defined by a flag, an anthem, culture and traditions. The obsession of ex-patriot communities with the culture of their homeland exemplifies our need for a cultural as well as a unique identity.”
“Every generation builds on that of its parents. Each generation makes new advances in science, technologies and the understanding of the world. Every age believes itself to have a truth and understands the beliefs of previous generations to be erroneous or legend, which we assimilate into our own belief system. As a consequence we mythologise the beliefs of our ancestors. We use the words legend and myth in a derogatory sense to dismiss the ideas and values of our predecessors. In the same way our children will cast aside our understanding of the world and relegate it to fiction.”
“Just as we can trace our genetic ancestry, we can follow the path of the evolution of our beliefs. Ireland is no different to many other cultures when we discover that our stories and beliefs were born out of the landscape.” (Chatwin, B., The Songlines (Penquin: London, 1988) & LaFarge, O., The American Indian (Golden Press: New York, 1972) Aboriginal Australians sang their songlines as they walked through the landscape to neighboring communities. These songs were a verbal map of a highly articulate culture. Knowing these stories as we walk through the landscape cannot but enrich our enjoyment of it. By understanding our landscape we understand our history and consequentially we understand ourselves.”
Connemara: Legends and Landscape Pages 9 and 10
” . . . our belief of ages of Ireland. Pre-history saw a maternal earth goddess culture in the Stone Age. This grew into a male warrior society during the metal ages. The arrival of Christianity was a fundamental shift of beliefs and societal values which in turn is being replaced by an age of scientific secular rationalism.” (Dames, M., Mythic Ireland (Thames & Hudson: London, 1996). P. 167.
Connemara: Legends and Landscape Page 10
I now know that this Connemara tour/trip can not happen with the existing bus schedules unless I book a room in Galway for the night before. A Connemara tour will have to wait until a future visit to Ireland.
When I paid for my books I found out that the lady behind the counter was a painter and she told me that there was an American who was currently an “Artist In Residence” at the Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan. I made a mental note to walk up to the college and introduce myself to him before my stay in the Burren was over. I then walked onto to a small art supply / office supply shop and purchased an inexpensive hardcover sketchbook – I failed to pack my sketchbook when I left Kalamazoo. I enjoyed spending my time while Breada and Cathy shopped by walking up and down the streets of Ennistymon and saw a shop sign I don’t think you would ever see in Kalamazoo, “Nagles Bar and Undertaker”.
Ireland: Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The weather has changed and it has been raining for most of the day. A very good day to sit in Meadowfield’s dining room and work on the manuscript for the book. It got to be around 1:30 when I thought I would walk over to the village for a sandwich and a cup of tea. I put my rain jacket on to prepare for my walk and was surprised that the rain had stopped and that the air was warm and balmy. The walk to the village only took a few minutes and soon I was seated at a one person table in Logue’s Lodge and had ordered my sandwich and tea. I brought along a book that PJ Curtis wrote and gave to me when we met last Saturday, “The Lightning Tree”. I’m in the habit of bringing something to read when I go there for lunch or to have my supper. The last time I ate at Logue’s I brought along a small publication about the Burren to read. The text consisted of the usual information about the Burren –the dry stone walls, Cliffs of Moher, Poulnabrone, etc. At the very back of the publication I found this that I wanted to record and pass on:
“Despite man’s long presence in the area, it is the spirituality of the Burren that a surprising number of people find most striking. They can see “as in a glass darkly” the hand of a creative higher power writ large in the fertile desert. For them, confrontation with and recognition of the mysterious spirit of the landscape may be of almost a mystical moment. In recent years, environmentalists, attempting to minimise the adverse impact of tourism, have drawn strength and courage from their recognition of this quality of sacredness to face succeeding hostile Irish governments backed by funding from the European Union.
Some fourteen or fifteen centuries ago, Christian holy men and women, evidently attracted by the same sublime spirit and the deep solitude inherent in the area, came here to live in prayer and mortification “in desert places, sustained by herbs and water and alms”. Mac Creiche (who some think belonged to the pre-Patrician era) was probably the first. Enda of Aran was here, he who is acclaimed as the founder of the Irish monastic movement which was to spread as far as Eastern Europe. Colman Mac Duaich lived under Sliabh Carron’s cliffs with his cock and mouse and fly. From her motherhouse, close to the sea in Doolin, Lelia appears to have ruled her paruchia, a network of religious centres, from Killarney in Kerry to Kiltartan in Galway. In 1194, only eightly years after Cistercian monks founded their famous house at Clairvaux, their brethren felt called to come to Corcomroe and, in dedicating their latest foundation to Saint Mary of the Fertile Rock, further endowed the area with the “law of quality”.
The “law of quality” means that, to the person who is willing to receive energy from a place held sacred, the more of this life energy or grace (call it what you wish) will be granted to them. Even today, the visitor who is open to the mysteriously compelling charisma of the Burren finds the “law of quality” still valid and capable of filling one’s cup according to its capacity.”
O’ Ceirin, Cyril. (2000), The Outlandish World of the Burren, Rathbane Publishing, Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland
Ireland: Tuesday, July 23, 2013
All artwork you see in this post was created by Anne Korff.
This morning I took the first bus into Kinvara to meet with the artist and publisher Anne Korff. We met to review my book concept and to obtain her permission to cite some of the historical information in “The Book of the Burren”. I had purchased her book several years ago during my first trip to the Burren when I brought students for a study abroad trip to the Burren College of Art. The book was highly recommended by the late Michael Greene, the co-founded of the Burren College of Art along with his wife, Mary Hawkes-Greene.
Anne was waiting for me at the Kinvara bus stop to greet me. We introduced ourselves and she took me down to see the harbor, for I have never visited Kinvara before other that driving through it on the Galway bus. We walked to a nearby cafe and both ordered a cappuccino. We went through my book layout and she looked at my drawings and gave me some much appreciated feedback. We discussed what I needed to do in order to properly quote from her book. After that was accomplished we started talking about other things. Anne was very interested to hear that I had been in Cyprus in February and was interested in my experiences there. After we finished our cappuccinos she invited me to her house and studio in nearby Doorus.
Photographs of Anne Korff’s home in Doorus.
Anne Korff is known through her work with Tir Eolas (knowledge of the land) a publishing company she founded in 1987. Her illustrations of the archaeology of the Burren and its history led to the publication of a series of guides and maps – many that I own. She also worked in cooperation with several authors to create and produce The Book of the Burren, which I also own. She was born and raised in the north of Germany and attended university in Berlin. She came to live in the west of Ireland in the 1980’s.
We spent most of our visit in her studio looking at, and talking about her artwork. Most, if not all, of the artwork shown in this post was hung in her exhibition “Orient / Occident” in the Arts Corridor of Galway University Hospital in 2012. This is her Artist Statement for “Orient / Occident”:
I began this series of paintings in 2008 after traveling to Morocco in previous years. Having been mostly a landscape painter, my first encounters with Islamic architecture, art and culture led to a radical change in my work. Two aspects struck me in particular: the first being the swamping of traditional life-styles and architecture by all the trappings of a Western consumer society; an all pervasive clash of two very different cultures; the second, the abstract nature of Islamic and Moorish decoration and its meditative qualities.These two things had a profound effect on me and my response was to produce abstract paintings, using shapes and colours in arrangements totally at variance with everything I had done before.
Visits to Tunisia, Andalusia and recently to southeast Turkey, have deepened my interest in Islamic design, and witnessing again the pressure of Western societies on the lifestyles of North African and Middle Eastern people fed directly into this vein of work. Producing abstract paintings has been truly liberating, allowing me to incorporate and question aspects of Christianity, consumerism and capitalism, with motifs and colours borrowed directly from Islamic and Moorish decoration and buildings.
As these journeys in the real world have fueled my work, the resultant paintings have become an authentic expression of my ongoing inner journey. I constantly grapple with the contradictions produced when East meets West where two radically different cultures are overlaid, becoming fragmented and sometimes distorted.
During last year, my paintings became more and more based on elements and symbols as shown in prehistoric art, produced by people in the Middle East and Western Europe. I am particularly intrigued by overlap and similarities shown in some Celtic and Islamic art which suggests roots in a common ancient origin
My paintings are a celebration of the beauty of Islamic art as seen by a “Westerner”. I hope to encourage the viewer to embrace cultural diversity and the opening of dialogue that might help build bridges between the Christian and Islamic worlds.
I’m including her work on my blog because I feel more people should see her work. In her artist statement she says,
“I hope to encourage the viewer to embrace cultural diversity and the opening of dialogue that might help build bridges between the Christian and Islamic worlds.”
That is my wish, as well. I know many people who are ready to build such bridges and I believe that Joseph Campbell is correct when he states that it is up to the artists and poets to lead the way. It is very obvious that politicians will not. Anne told me that she is not sure there are people who are ready for the message within her art. I encouraged her that there are.
I posted a few of the photographs I took of her paintings on my Facebook page and asked my FB friends to say something about her work. The following are only a few of the comments her work received:
“Your work is seen by my soul as instruction. Powerful manifested in chills and affirmation.”
“These are absolutely beautiful and speak peacefully to my soul. The circle – never ending cycle; simple yet complex. Colors of peace and energy, healing, and soothing. Extraordinary!”
“I feel an energy and spirituality in her work.”
More photographs of Anne’s work that are stored in her studio
Ireland: Monday, July 22, 2013
I took my walk yesterday along the foot of Moneen and Aillwee mountains onto the ringfort of Cathair na hYamham. I found things much changed from what I experienced in my past visits. This visit is much later in the season so there are different wildflowers and vegetation (in the past I have visited the Burren in May and in early June). In the past there were stiles built into the stone walls in which one could easily climb over and wander and investigate the limestone pavement. These stiles either no longer exist or the full growth of the vegetation has them well hidden.
The landscape was very beautiful and peaceful and I started taking some close up photos with my little Nikon camera that has served me well over the years. In the past it has periodically given me some trouble with the little automatic lens cover getting stuck –well yesterday it decide that it is stuck for good and will not allow me to take any photographs because of an lens cover error message. All the photos that I will post from now on with be taken with my iPhone.
The field that contains the ringfort of Cathair na hYamham has changed a lot as well. Before where there was a large field for grazing cows has now been divided up into separate fields by stone walls made of very large pieces of limestone, so large that only some kind of mechanized earth mover would have been able achieve. The stone walls along the narrow roadway have been built up which no longer makes it possible to enter the field to walk to the ringfort.
This morning I received an email from Anne Korff of Tir Eolas Publishing in Kinvara to set up a meeting for tomorrow morning to review the concept for my book project. She will be meeting me at the bus stop at Kinvara at 10:00 so I will be taking the early bus from Ballyvaughan.
I was planning on traveling into Galway today but I will stay here at Meadowfield and do some manuscript writing to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting. The owner of Meadowfield B&B has been very gracious to allow me to turn her dining room into an office after her guests have had their breakfasts and are out for the day.
I was lucky enough to finish two new drawings just before I left for Ireland and put them into the mock-up layout of the book: The Holy Well of the Holy Cross and Poulnabrone Dolmen. I hope the writing muse is with me today as I labor . . .
Ireland: Sunday, July 21, 2013
I arrived in Ireland on Wednesday, July 17th and was driven from Shannon airport to Meadowfield B&B in Ballyvaughan by Thomas Connely. It’s wonderful to be back in the Burren. I have been spending most of my days here taking advantage of the very fine weather by going on little walking tours and talking with the B&B guests here at Meadowfield. The weather has been in the 80’s, sunny and with a nice breeze.
Yesterday I had a lunch with PJ Curtis to review a book project I’m currently working on. I got to know PJ because of a lecture he did for my students at the Burren College of Art (BCA) several years ago, maybe it was in 2008. After the lecture PJ and I had lunch at the BCA Cafe and found that we had many interests in common. He was a friend of the late John O’Donohue and much of our conversation that day was about O’Donohue’s writings and beliefs.
Yesterday I found that PJ is also a friend of another author that I much admire, Phil Cousineau, whose book “The Art of Pilgrimage” helped to inspire my direction and subject matter for the course content of Midwest Institute’s Ireland Study Trips and direct me to the focus of my 2009 sabbatical studies. After our lunch we looked through the drawings and layout of the book I’m working on, the preliminary title is “An Artist’s Notebook of the Burren”. The purpose of the book is twofold: 1) To serve as a portfolio of my drawings of the Burren; and 2) To help communicate to the visitor (tourist) that this landscape has an ancient history and a spirit of its own -while conveying that this landscape and its relics are not only beautiful but fragile and deserving of their honor and respect. I’m am happy to report that PJ was very enthusiastic and encouraging. We made plans to meet later this week where he will take me to to places in the eastern part of the Burren that should be included in my book.
As I mentioned earlier the weather has been very fine but I see that it is suppose to rain tomorrow. It is now 2:30 in the afternoon so I should take this opportunity to take another of my walking tours. I will walk the road the skirts the foot of Moneen Mountain and the foot of Aillwee Mountain, perhaps I’ll visit the ringfort of Cathair na hYamham.