Sunday happened to be Imbolc, Groundhog Day, Candlemas or Brigid’s Day, about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It marks the beginning of spring, which I now see comes a lot sooner in Ireland than it does in New England. Our first stop was at these fascinating beehive huts.
Also known as the Fahan Beehive Huts, Caher Conor (Cathair na gConchuireach) is located on the south side of Mount Eagle west of Dingle. The complex consists of five structures.
The clochan (beehive huts) in Caher Conor were probably single family dwellings and were attached to each other with a doorway leading from one to the other. They were built in the form of a circle of successive strata of stone, each stratum lying a little closer to the center than the one beneath and so on up to a small aperture at the top that could be closed with a single small flagstone or capstone. No mortar was used in building, which is called corbelling.
The hillside at one time had over 400 of these drystone, corbelled huts surviving, prompting one antiquarian in the 19th century to refer to the area as the “City of Fahan”. Dating the huts is difficult because the skill of corbelling has been used in Newgrange (3100 B.C.) and as recently as the 1950s. The huts at Fahan along the Slea Head Drive may well date to the 12th Century when the incoming Normans forced the Irish off the good land and out to the periphery of the Dingle Peninsula.
The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.
~ Natalie Babbitt
On Saturday afternoon my sister and I did some hiking in the uncultivated part of the Connecticut College Arboretum. It was like being in the woods we played in and rambled through as children. We encountered a doe along our path, she stopped short when she spotted us and then darted off sideways into the woods.
Nature — sometimes sears a Sapling — Sometimes — scalps a Tree — Her Green People recollect it When they do not die —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #457)
When I was at the doctor for a check-up last week he said it seemed like he was treating nothing but rashes from these little villains. Why do people even touch them, I wondered? But they can dangle from invisible threads and I was startled when I walked right into one. No rash, so far…
Death is like the insect Menacing the tree Competent to kill it, But decoyed may be.
Bait it with the balsam Seek it with the saw, Baffle, it cost you Everything you are.
Then, if it have burrowed Out of reach of skill — Wring the tree and leave it. ‘Tis the vermin’s will.
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1783)
For some reason I am drawn to trees that seem dead, but sculptural, and yet still have a few green leaves up near the crown. Sometimes dying is a very gradual process.
And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
~ William Shakespeare
(As You Like It)
One will see roots while looking down (photo above), of course, but also when looking up (photo below). The tree below decided it could grow sticking out of a rock face, high above the ground. There must have been just enough soil between the layers of rock for it to sustain itself. Maybe it is strong enough to move the rock some to give the roots more space.
One impulse from a vernal wood May teach you more of man, Of moral evil and of good, Than all the sages can.
~ William Wordsworth
(The Tables Turned)
Ferns (above) with visible roots growing on the rock face. Plenty of moss to soften the surface, too.
A tree (above) seems to have been blown over in a storm and left with a large cavity between its roots and the rock below. Stones and boulders, dumped by receding glaciers eons ago, are so ubiquitous in Connecticut and it seems the trees have no choice but to grow above, below, around and between them.
I wondered if someone might have set this stone deliberately pointing up as a benchmark for future hiking adventures. It’s amazing to contemplate that these stone walls deep in the woods once surrounded fields and pastures in colonial days. Farmers used the stones cluttering their land to build the walls but in the end, growing crops was difficult. Many eventually abandoned their homes and headed west for better farmland. The woods slowly came back and claimed the landscape once again.
The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.
~ Henry Van Dyke
(Fisherman’s Luck & Some Other Uncertain Things)
It’s been snowing! I’ve come back from my twelve days in North Carolina, where spring has already sprung, big time!
Poor Katherine… it’s no fun when it’s so nice outside but you are miserable with a fever and a very runny nose. And you don’t want to get out of your pajamas or comb your hair or let go of your bunny or blanket… And your visiting Grammy still insists on getting some pictures of you!
Several hours later – it must have been at least 80°F in the afternoon!
I had a lovely time visiting the little one and her parents. Their new house is beautiful. Larisa and I planted some seeds in her vegetable garden, re-potted a couple of plants, discussed colors for painting the walls, took walks, ate out several times, and went shopping for all sorts of things for the house and for clothes for Katherine. I also got to spend time with my friend from high school, Susan, who lives only two miles away. We got caught in a scary thunder and hail storm one night on our way home from having dinner out. Yikes! And I had plenty of time to work on my ancestor table (see sidebar) while the family was at work and daycare.
Now that I am home work on the bathroom has stalled as we wait for the floor tile to come in. But a lot got done while I was gone. The new closet is framed out, the electrical and plumbing are all done, and the walls are up. And I’m looking out my window at about 5 inches of snow – quite a contrast to the daffodils down south!
When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory. Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. It is not the previously known. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing, but what you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.
~ Alan Alda
(Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself)