To close our time on the Tain Way I offer a poem written and presented to the congregation of the First Unitarian church of Ithaca New York 25 years ago, 1992. Interspersed are final photographs from our walk on the Tain Way of 2014.
The poem content is not directly biographical / confessional although it draws upon my experience as a single parent in the 1980’s through 1990’s.
A Poem Read To The Congregation
a crisis threatened an Irish village men women children filled the meeting place everyone participated especially the infants
raising John alone was not part of the plan Its been just john and me helen gave birth to john to have a part of me in case of loss i felt the same way and she understood
a welcome feminine voice in our home “Little House on the Prairie” and “Little House in the Big Woods” twice.
Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article by Wilder called “HOME” that has an emotional resonance for me dated 1923 Wilder was in her 50’s.
Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, with her gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.
Across the years, the old home and its love called to me, and memories of sweet words of counsel came flooding back. I realize that’s all my life the teaching of these early days have influenced me, and the example set by Father and Mother has been something I have tried to follow, with failure here and there, with rebellion at times; but always coming back to it as the compass needle to the star.
So much depends upon the homemakers. I sometimes wonder if they are so busy now with other things that they are forgetting the importance of this special work. Especially did I wonder when reading recently that there was a great many child suicides in the United States during the last year. Not long ago we had never heard of such a thing in our own country, and I am sure there must be something wrong with the home of a child who commits suicide.
we give so much to our children what’s left over though is ours
Now’s time to share a trinity of images from a morning spent about the Skellig Islands May 2014.
Pam and I have many stories from that day, a favorite is from the parking lot of Portmagee where we met the fast boat to the island. I prepared for the day by making a reservation for our ride. We traveled from Killarney, where an early morning breakfast feast spread by The Killarney Royal Hotel fortified us for the adventure. Throughout our tour, experiencing Ireland was like taking blinders off, this first experience on The Ring of Kerry was no exception, driving on a tight timeline to reach Portmagee with minutes to spare, every turn of the road presented a new delight.
Grateful to have made it to Portmagee, we quickly pulled our kit together. As I closed the bonnet, Pam exclaimed “our umbrellas.” At this point of the story we laugh together. Umbrellas indeed. I had a dim clue of what lay in store for us and insisted the umbrellas be left behind, a counter-intuitive decision for a rainy Irish day the Wild Atlantic Way. Regardless of the time, we needed a bathroom break as there will be no facilities on the fast boat or the World Heritage Site where there is no space for human waste products.
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The humor is in our welcome aboard the fast boat, like a fishing boat with a small cabin and small deck dominated by the engine hatch. We crowded on, handed a full set of fisherman slickers. This is a heavy coat with hood and pants, all waterproof. Our close timing guaranteed the worse seat, away from the cabin in the open. It was a new experience for us and we felt a sense of dread as the craft left the protection of Valentia Sound into the open Atlantic Ocean.
We faced a west wind, driving 12+ foot waves, as the boat breached each wave the crest went over the cabin in a waterfall of salt water. Up and down, up and down. Thankfully neither of us lost breakfast as some did. I do not have photographs of the trip out or the approach to the island, my equipment was safely packed away.
In the above photograph you see the entire course of our approach to the island, a bit more than 10 (land) miles from Portmagee. We toured Valentia Island that afternoon.
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There is a fair climb to the top to view the former monastery buildings. The steps are uneven and, when wet as it was that day, slippery. I wore a waterproof North Face shell with hood for the low threatening clouds. There was no rain as such, a constant fog on the top kept all exposed surfaces wet.
From the point on, until the top, was the most exposed and uncomfortable (frightening, chilling…you get the idea). Spare yourself the experience if you are afraid of open spaces and heights. Here was a stiff wind blowing from the right, on the left the cliff falls away to the ocean. Ahead, the path narrows to about 10 inches with a cliff wall on one side, the precipice on the other. Then come the monastery entrance and rock wall safety.
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This single image gives a succinct impression of the monastery setting. The bee hive shaped stone monk cell requires a stooped crawl to enter. Inside, the space is small and, thankfully, dry. The structure keeps out the rain and wind, a marvel of stone construction. This cell is off to the side, on a cliff balcony, over the wall an ocean precipice.
My closing advice is to plan your time wisely. The ship boards in less than an hour, in that time you climb the 700 steps and explore. There are people all over the place, in waves. To capture the structures without humans, you need to wait until the cohort become bored and leaves. There will be a space before the next wave of tourists breaks. Leave enough time to descend the steps safely. People have suffered fatal falls on the steps and cliffs, it is easy to do. Make your personal safety a priority.
The morning of our day on the Dingle Peninsula I left the room early, my Sony Alpha 700 in hand, while Pam finished her preparations. The elevator deposited me in the lobby and I proceeded to capture images of the Killarney Royal Hotel, our base for three nights.
This marvelous “antique” mirror caught my eye. We are used to seeing convex mirrors in the upper corners of elevators, strategically located at hallway junctions, automated teller machines and parking garages all with the intention of providing a wide, fisheye, view to detect unsavory, lurking types and danger.
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This spotless, framed convex mirror is from a older, saner time. Such objects came in use from the 1400’s (15th century). When all glass was blown, a convex surface was easier to produce than a flat and, since all glass was expensive to produce, a convex mirror was a popular luxury item, an expensively framed status symbol.
Known as the “sorcerer’s eye” from the all encompassing view and, in keeping with our modern uses, even back then also called a”banker’s eye.” Symbolically, the 15th century paintings used a pristine mirror to represent the Immaculate Conception.
The five images here are the final result of trial and error, working out the details of using a flash in the relatively low light of the morning lobby, avoiding my reflection, maintaining a sharp focus throughout the field, capturing the unique details of the frame without distortion and the mirror’s wide angle view. I gave up on the flash and, instead, did this series at f5.6 and the ISO incremented 800 to 3,200. As such, the exposure ranged from 1/5 to 1/25 of a second. All shots were handheld.
I hope you enjoy the results. This was a promising start to our memorable day of exploration.
Known as the Hag’s Chair in some contexts, K29 or the Mass Rock, in others, set as a Cairn T, Loughcrew kerbstone thousands of years ago the carved symbols on front, rear and seat are very worn. There is no surviving record to inform us of the stone’s purpose. The upper side appears carved to enhance the form as chair. Set to the north of Cairn T, not in front of the entrance as with Newgrange, even this is a mystery. It is the third largest curbstone.
The popular name refers to the hill itself, “The Hill of the Witch” (In Irish, Sliabh na Caillí). In lore sites such as this are associated with The Others (“fairies”), living lives parallel to ours.
Tradition holds that, during times of the Penal Laws, Catholics gathers on for Mass using this curbstone as the altar. By this it is known as the Mass Rock.
Pam and I had the emotionally moving experience of Cóbh Heritage Center on May 29, 2014. This statue stands outside the center, on the quay from with thousands of Irish emigrated from what was then Queenstown. My father’s mother, Elizabeth Wills nee Duffy, left from here April 28, 1898.
These are the words on the plaque:
“Annie Moore and her brothers Anthony and Phillip embarked from this town on 20 December 1891 on the S.S. Nevada. Annie was the first person to be admitted to the United States of America through the new immigration centre at Ellis Island, New York on 1 January, 1892. This sculpture was unveiled by the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson on 9 February, 1993. It was erected by Cóbh Heritage Trust Ltd. and is dedicated to all who emigrated from Ireland.
This sculpture won the Zeneca Ireland Ltd. commemorative sculpture award . A statue of Annie Moore was also erected at Ellis Island, New York. The commemoration of Annie Moore at New York and at Cóbh was initiated by the Irish American Cultural Institute.
This sculpture is the work of Jeanne Rynhart of Bantry.”
Cloigtheach is the Irish language name for a round stone tower. The word’s literal meaning is “Bell House.” This fine example of mica slate and granite is found in the Glendalough valley of County Wicklow, Ireland.
The sun was past noon when we arrived at this glacial valley of the Wicklow mountains. In the few hours available I shot the tower from numerous angles and chose this because the tower is placed in the larger natural environment, viewed as a singular object apart from the monastic city the tower is placed among.
Saint Kevin founded a monastic settlement within Glendalough valley almost 1,500 years ago, in the late 6th century A.D. As a religious center the monastery flourished for 600+ years, becoming a monastic city. Destroyed by English forces in 1398, it was disestablished at that time. Still, Glendalough served as a pilgrimage destination through the intervening centuries. The surviving buildings date from the 10th through 12th centuries.
Rebuilding and restoration efforts began 1876, including the roof of this tower using original stones. At 30.48 meters (100 feet) tall the Cloigtheach of Glendalough is the landmark by which the site is known.
Where would we be without Saint Patrick? He was a force, to be sure. A favorite story, is the landing of his return to the island 432 AD. The tides on the eastern coast of the Irish Sea can be strong. His plan was to sail up to coast further north than what we call today Strangford Lough. On passing this inlet the boat was swept into the lough tidal narrows. Circumstances called for a landing, rather than wait for the tide. Patrick came ashore where the Slaney River enter the lough and “quickly converted” the local chieftan, Dichu, who provided a barn for holding services. The name of the town “Saul” in Irish is Sabhall Phádraig, translated as “Patrick’s Barn.”
In this posting I’ll go lighter on descriptions of technique. Leave it to say I held to the Canon fixed lens EF 50mm f1.2L USM throughout. Some, like the photograph of Saint Patrick, used a tripod. Others, like the latter two of the following Irish Themed Cross set were handheld. Generally a flash was used to supplement ambient sunlight from a large north-facing bay window.
Here the “celtic” cross is converted to an Irish theme through a substitution of a shamrock with golden decoration inspired by pagan neolithic petroglyphs for the nimbus (circle) intersecting the central intersection of arms and stem.
For the first three I played with aperture, taking advantage of the stability of a tripod. The final two of the set are handheld.
Note the fanciful leprechaun snowman with pot o’ gold, on the left.
Blown glass Irish dancers.
the suitcase for our 2014 tour of the island and re-connection with family. Also a symbol of our ancestors travel across the Atlantic ocean to North America.
The angels of our Christmas tree and home remind us of the Jesus birth stories of scripture and the force of love in our own lives.
What comes to mind with the sudden appearance of Gabriel to Mary and that astounding message? Unlike the attempt of Jonah to avoid his calling, the subtext to Mary’s ready acceptance is the risks faced by an affianced woman who becomes pregnant. The book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 22 verses 13 – 21) calls for stoning a woman who presents herself for marriage as a virgin, when she is not.
When learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s reaction, as a follower of Mosaic Law, was to divorce her quietly to avoid exposing her to shame. It was a visit from an angel, in a dream, that convinced Joseph to accept Mary (Matthew Chapter 2, verses 18 – 24).
An angel visited shepherds, announcing “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God.” Luke Chapter 2, verses 8 – 13.
Was it an angel who warned the Magi, in a dream, not to return to King Herod with news of Jesus (Matthew Chapter 2 Verse 12)? Scriptures clearly state (Matthew Chapter 2 verse 13) “the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt.”
People can be angelic in expressing love for others through action. I am thinking of a movie Pam and I viewed last evening, “The Theory of Everything.” Jane Wilde, in her love for Stephen Hawking, stays with him when, shortly after their romance began, he was diagnosed with ALS. The prognosis was death in two years. In all likelihood, Jane gave Stephen his life and work through loving him. He is alive and working today at 75.
The love of our parents is more common, no less precious.
A note on the photographs, I used a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr with Canon lens EF 50 mm f/1.2L, Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt, Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head. Some of the photographs were hand held. When the flash was used, it supplemented ambient light from a large north facing bay window.
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