Ireland: beauty mysteries

My skin never feels better than when I'm in Ireland. It's soft, never dry. It feels like silk, looks totally even. I don't even mind the little freckles that come out only when I'm here. It fairly glows.

See? Creamy where it should be, rosy elsewhere.

My hair, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.

I hear that the Irish "wind fairies" are attracted to certain types of hair, get twisted in and build nests. It's going to be a while before I get them all out, I do believe...

Ireland: I didn't bring my harp this time

It's a different kind of trip than when I came to Ireland with my harp in 2006 (pre-blog) or when I received a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant in 2010 to study harp in Ireland (see a list of posts in this post). It's personal, Mom and Sheila and I and our friendship circle.

But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy being serenaded by others. What a treat, really. Sitting back and eating fish and chips (which I later regretted deeply, but I knew I would) while a band of local musicians in Dingle played reel after jig after air after song...

All by heart. All together now...

What a pure, joyful treat.


Ireland: the best excuse ever

Forget "the dog ate my homework." Or "I have a family emergency." Or "my car won't start." Or any other excuse you might use to not go to work or school or to your mother in law's for dinner.

The best excuse?
"Sorry I couldn't get there...Larry's cows were blocking the road."

Quite large cows...being very content, there in the middle of the road.

Trailing smaller cows, who spend quite a bit of time nuzzling each other.
In the middle of the road.

And then comes Larry to herd the cows out of the road for you.

And you think you're on your way, but then Larry comes up to the car window and in his charming, unshaven, toothless way kisses your cheek and tells you he's missed you since you were here two years ago (how did he remember that???) and says don't you look not a day older. Asks that you're what, not a minute over 30 years old, right? And that he's shocked - he means SHOCKED - that you're 44 years old. And that Minnesota must be close to Chicago, right? And here's his brother Paddy's phone number in Chicago - call him up and stop in for a visit when I get home, right? And isn't the sea gorgeous today? And how are your friends with you...oh that's your mother and aunt? Why, they look like young girls they do. And the day is quite hot, isn't it? And that tomorrow the breeze should be fresher. And that he'd better go move the cows along, so he'll see you again before you leave Mermaid Isle...(at least I think that's what he said...)

And with another scratchy kiss on my cheek and a slap on the hood of the car, he sends me on my way to town. 

I'm going to use this next time I want to play hooky: "Sorry, can't come to work today. Cows in the road..."


Ireland: Mermaid Isle

So we have friends who own a private island in Ireland (yeah, it's not what you know, it's who you know...). You see the island from their magnificent house and from the ancient, tiny stone cottage on the property. A cottage they have renovated and turned into a guest house.

Mermaid Cottage.
When you sit in the glassed-in conservatory of the cottage, you see this:

The bay that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean.

This is my third visit to Mermaid Isle. I've heard tales of the pod of seals that live at the tip of the island, giving rise to the mermaid legends of the area. But it's always been too cold, too windy, too rough to go out and visit them. But today dawned misty-sunny and the water was glassy-calm. Mom and I hopped into the little rowboat.

 Kevin, our host, acted as oarsman.

 We saw underwater gems.

We marveled at the sea life clinging to a boat mooring.

We saw the stones and sea and sky mirroring each other.

But where were the seals?

Wait - are those rocks?

Only if rocks have sweet little faces, twitchy whiskers and big liquid eyes!

 This is the face of a selkie, a mermaid, a water-cat.

He followed our boat all the way back to the bay.

So did his bigger friend.

Who looked suddenly to the right...

 When this guy snorted. Goodness, bad manners.
No one could ever mistake him for a mermaid.

Our trusty oarsman rowed us back home, and we talked of magic and myth and the siren song of the sea over the sound of the rushing waves.

P.S. Mermaid Isle is for sale - the main house and the cottage. Gather yourself a group of friends and go in on the purchase. Divide your time there. You'll never regret it. Then invite me over when you're there...


How I came to buy yet another Irish wool sweater

I was exhibiting great restraint at the Blarney Woolen Mill. Grrrrreeeaaaattttt restraint. Walked right past the piles of Aran sweaters with their creamy yarn and traditional stitches.

 Those cables. Seriously.

Looked at, didn't touch, wraps in the shades of the Irish flag.

Loved the layered look. Irish wool + Irish lace = Heavenly.

I even tried on a gorgeous, lavender-heather sweater coat that was on sale for an amazingly good price, admired myself for a while in the mirror, tried on a matching hat (also on sale) and then put the whole ensemble back on the hanger. I don't need another Irish wool sweater. Plus, I knit. I have looked upon the magnificence of my yarn stash at home and declared that I shall not buy another sweater until I have knit up said stash of yarn.

But then came the tempters. The manager of the Mill descended upon me, telling me that a knitter not buying a gorgeous sweater is like a chef never going out for a delicious meal in a restaurant (good point). Our darling saleswoman, Geraldine, told me that the color was soooo lovely, and turned my eyes the color of the sea. Then I heard rustling coming from pockets and purses on both sides of me. Suddenly, a $20 American bill was slipped into my left hand (from Aunt Sheila) and a 50 Euro note was slipped into my right (thanks, Mom).

And that, my friends, is how I came to be the owner of another Irish sweater.
And a hat to match.


Ireland: there's more to Blarney than kissing the stone

After you've kissed the Blarney Stone, don't be so busy telling charming tales and filling the air with fibs that you miss the other magic of Blarney Castle grounds.

Walk outside to see the massive building, the accompanying tower. 
That grey stone, fortress for so long.

 Head down a misty lane into the rock close.
Your sense of time and space and self fade away.

You'll swear that ancient trees spring up right out of ancient rocks.

You'll lose your mother in a fairy ring and not find her for hours.

You'll think you see a harp growing in a tree.

You'll listen while your Auntie Sheila holds court in an old stone ring:
"You over there, you die. And you - you bring me a pint. Or you die."

You back away from caves you stumble across. You back away very, very slowly.

And when you start to see faces in stones, you know it's time to go.
You know, before you starting hearing them talk to you...

 Oh, beautiful Blarney...


Ireland: Kissing the Blarney Stone

Yep, I did it again. This makes the fourth time I've kissed the Blarney Stone, but I've only visited Blarney twice. The four kisses? The "photographer" missed the first kiss both times. Watch out Mankato - when I get home I may never, ever shut up.

Here it is - The Blarney Stone Itself.
Well-kissed rock, if you ask me.

You hang backwards and kiss the thing upside down.
But you're in good hands. I think this guy's fingerprints are still on my ribs.

He helps you up in a big swoop as the wind rushes up that opening
and the blood rushes back out of your head.

Worried about germs?
1.The kissing helper cleans the stone frequently with Clean & Fresh spray.
2. Then he'll invite you to have a pint in the pub to kill what's remaining on your smacker.


Ireland: one way or the other

Ireland is a place of hilarious contradictions. We found a few today, on the way from Glendalough to Cork.

You can take the path of life...or the easy path.
But you've gotta wonder what kind of Irish joke gets played on you if you choose the easy path...

 In the middle of the mountain...

...you'll find the gentlest stream.

Outside a traditional Catholic church...

...you can find a very secular wishing stone built in the wall.

On a bishop's tomb in said Catholic church...

...you can find a pagan Sheela na Gig carved on its edge.

You'll be amazed that a cancer fighter (Sheila) and an asthmatic (moi)...

...can climb a 100-foot round tower. With minor wheezing and only one short break
between sets of very, very, very, very narrow rickety wooden "steps."

At the National Stud in Kildare...

...the only studs you'll find are of the equine variety,
but you WILL find "the other" Brigid's well.
As in not SAINT Brigid. If you get my drift.

Very proper ladies...

...will find no problem getting down and scooping slightly slimy well water
into empty booze bottles from the flight over.

And in yet another Catholic church...

...you can find this "cat goddess" Sheela na Gig figure thingey.
So, what's for you - the path of life or the easy path? (If you choose the easy path, let me know how it goes...)