Yesterday Janet and I explored Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington, the “largest primitive coastal area left unspoiled in Connecticut.” It was a cloudy, chilly winter afternoon, with snow flurries starting up just as we were leaving.
If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my own heartbeat.
~ Vijali Hamilton
(Of Earth & Fire: Poems & Artworks)
Six of us took another family walk in the woods the other day, in Beebe Pond Park. Nate had been there years ago but I had never had a chance to explore it.
Katherine and Dominic loved climbing on the many boulders deposited by receding glaciers millions of years ago.
It was warmish for a winter’s day, but I was happy to have my gloves.
We walked for a very long time and only turned around when Katherine got too cold and darkness was approaching…
Geology is not my thing, but, I was willing to tag along with my sister to visit relatives and rocks in West Virginia last week. The only thing I really know about these outcrop pictures is that the black seam is coal and that Beverly was impressed with the photographs my camera was able to capture. Perhaps she will use them in her classes.
We had a lovely time visiting our aunt and our cousin and her husband on their farm. The first night we were there Beverly woke me up at 2 o’clock in the morning to see hundreds of lightning bugs sparkling in the nearby woods. It was magical.
We saw deer and heard about bear sightings. We took long walks and ate whole foods, both at a farm-to-table restaurant and from Kappy & Bruce’s kitchen. We watched movies with Aunt Em, who will be 90 in August. I will miss enjoying the margarita Aunt Em made for me each evening with dinner, and the early morning chats over our black coffees. 🙂
Beverly collected quite a few rocks for her collection and packed them up, cushioning them in her dirty laundry, to mail home to Connecticut. It was heartwarming to see her having such a good time. Bruce & Kappy paid close attention to the geology lessons they received as they were carting us around. We had such a wonderful time!
If you look closely you will see me peeking from through the doorway. Another enchanted forest lies beyond this wall. This post is going to be terribly long but it was impossible to edit it down any more than I have. 🙂
There were paths and stone steps leading every which way between boulders and gnarly trees. Following the map provided was more than a little confusing.
But an occasional sign would sometimes give us a clue as to our whereabouts.
Said to once be the home of a religious hermit who was fed and cared for by the Jefferyes family… it may well have sheltered many others through the centuries.
The roots of the trees, I think most of them were Yews, were growing around the stones, and their branches made huge canopies over the rock formations.
For hundreds of years, the Blarney Witch has taken
firewood from our Estate for her kitchen.
In return, she must grant our visitors wishes.
If you can walk down and back up these steps with your eyes closed — some suggest walking backwards — and without for one moment thinking of anything other than a wish, then that wish will come true within a year.
We say only that the steps can be slippery and that we take no responsibility…
Historians will tell you that this was home to the very first Irish cave dwellers.
But if you arrive early enough in the morning,
you may still see the dying embers of a fire.
Firewood, paid for by your wishes on the Wishing Steps,
is lit every night by the Witch of Blarney,
as she fights to stop shivering on her
nocturnal escape from the Witch Stone.
It takes little imagination to see who is imprisoned here.
The Witch of Blarney has been with us since the dawn of time.
Some say it was she who first told the MacCarthy of the power of the Blarney Stone.
Fortunately for visitors,
she only escapes the witch stone after nightfall — and we close at dusk.
The faerie folk of Ireland are famed the world over for their mischief and charm.
They have of course been here longer than any of us and it is
our duty to keep them safe in this special glade.
They do, however, have a native cunning.
So if you spot one, don’t let it be fooling you.
There is so much to see at Blarney Castle & Gardens! Of the 14 things we could have seen here at Rock Close we saw only 5 of them. Elsewhere on the castle grounds there are more gardens, arboretums, woodland and riverside walks, the Blarney House… I could go on. There’s no way to see all this in a single day. I do hope I get to return here some day.
On our way out something else caught our interest:
Where Two Rivers Cross
Prior to 1870, the River Blarney joined the River Martin near the Rock Close,
but the course of the river was altered and the gradient was changed
to increase the outflow of water when Inchancumain Bog was drained.
The River Blarney was re-directed under the River Martin,
which was channelled overhead via a short aqueduct.
At the point where the River Blarney emerges can be seen
the remains of an old flax mill.
It is a rare occurrence really in that one does not often find
a place where one river passes under another.
As a matter of interest,
the River Martin was known as the River Aumartin in the 1600’s
while the River Blarney was known as the River Whey.
Larisa picked us up and we headed back to her home. My cold by now had reached the runny nose phase and I went to bed early. Later that night Tim’s brother Josh arrived from England to visit with us for a few days. But this is the end of my photos.
The next day we went into Cork’s city center and spent the day shopping and visiting different pubs. It’s all a blur to me now because I left my camera at home and spent the day blowing my nose and feeling miserable. But I did manage to find some connemara marble for my sister!
And the day after that I stayed in bed while the others went to the Titanic Experience Cobh and saw Josh off at the airport later that day. That night Tim & I spent our last delightful evening with Katherine and her wonderful au pair, Anna, while Dima & Larisa went out on a date.
We arrived home on a Thursday and flew down to Georgia on Friday. Not pleasant flying so much with a clogged head! As it turned out Shannon had a sinus infection so we sat around talking ~ misery loves company. Tim and Nate were puttering around tending to techie projects and bringing us food. One afternoon we got ourselves out to a flea market and then a nice dinner out. And it was good seeing Julius and Dominic again ~ I cannot believe how much they have grown!
We flew home on Tuesday and I had my final radiation treatment on Wednesday. Phew! That was quite a vacation!
Today old man winter came back for a morning visit and left us 4 more inches of snow. A perfect day to snuggle in and finally finish these posts about our trips to Ireland and Georgia.
Waking up Monday morning my cold wasn’t too bad, mainly a sore throat. Katherine had to go to school and her parents had to work so Larisa dropped us off at Blarney Castle. It was another damp and chilly day but we had fun.
The usual path to the castle was blocked off because they are in the middle of some major renovations.
When we got close to the castle we stopped and had the most delicious and warm bowl of Irish Stew at the Coach House Cafe. It really hit the spot. In spite of my sensitivity to wheat I took a bite of the warm brown bread that came with the stew. Yummy! 🙂 It’s not often one finds something that tastes so good at a cafeteria!
The cafe was in the old stables and we ate in the main room. As we were leaving we saw that in the summer there was space right in the stalls for overflow dining. My only complaint was (again) no heat in the restrooms! Brrrr….
Because of the castle renovations we could not take the usual stairway up to the Blarney Stone. We never made it to the stone at the top because, well, the alternate steps were very small and continued to narrow the higher we went. We made it about 3/4 of the way up before we called it quits and retreated. We had to return home without our gift of eloquence. Notice in the picture above that the only railing we had was that wobbly rope. I’m only 5 feet tall and I had to duck to go through that doorway. And going down was even harder to pull off for these senior citizens. Phew!
On the castle grounds there are several other things to see. For this trip we chose the Rock Close. Pictures of that magical place in my next post…
Our last stop for the day was at Killarney National Park where we walked a trail leading to Torc Waterfall. The forest we walked through was enchanting and wild. Unfortunately, it was here that I first felt an ominous scratch in my throat. But I was able to enjoy the hike and push away that nagging feeling that I was going to be in for it, a least for a couple more hours…
I think I love the woods as mush as the sea. It was a wonderful day!
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.
~ Saints & Stones website
It was good to get warmed up in the car and drive off for our next destination.
After our long afternoon at Coumeenoole Beach we found our bed and breakfast, The Plough. The hostess, Beatrice, made us feel right at home. When we got warmed up and settled, we headed out again for dinner at Lord Baker’s, Dingle’s oldest gastro pub and largest restaurant. Tim & I had one of that night’s specials, Slow Roast Shank of Kerry Lamb & Red Wine Sauce. (local and grass-fed lamb) It was so delicious that we are still talking about it!
When we returned to our B&B I was feeling chilled so Beatrice warmed up a hot water bottle with a faux fur covering to take to bed with me. I warmed up quickly and slept very soundly. 🙂
Sunday morning Tim & I woke up before the others and took a morning walk. The surrounding scenery was soothing and pastoral. We were overlooking Ventry Harbour and the moon was still in the sky.
When we returned for breakfast we had a pleasant surprise. The first thing offered was porridge and was it ever tasty! Beatrice said the “secret” ingredients were local, sweet cream and a little shot of Bailey’s. 🙂 Then we had a choice of various egg, ham, and sausage breakfast combinations.
I loved the pillows Beatrice used in her sitting room! This was our first time ever staying at a bed & breakfast ~ thank you Larisa & Dima for the special treat!!!
We had a long day ahead of us and so we were then off for the next adventures.
In October my sister and I spent a couple of nights at the Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge in Orleans on Cape Cod. The big draw was that the motel had a short path to Nauset Beach, a ten mile stretch of seashore facing the open Atlantic. We could hear the waves from our motel room. Pure joy!
Wildlife sightings: from the road we saw wild turkeys and a coyote; hopping across our path to the beach we saw a bunny; and at the beach we saw gulls of course, and a little piping plover running along the water’s edge, and a seal bobbing in the waves.
One afternoon we spent two hours meandering on the beach. Nothing but sand, sea and sky as far as our eyes could see. Beverly, the geologist, was collecting stones, and I was taking pictures. And contemplating the universe, the oneness of all things.
Being awake. Resting in the happening of this moment, exactly as it is. Relaxing the need to understand or to make things different than they are. Opening the heart. Just this — right here, right now.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Resting in the Happening of this Moment)
We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves — the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds — never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
~ Pema Chödrön
(Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living)
Few places on the earth possess a nature so powerful and so unspoiled that it would remind anyone living in a concrete world that he once belonged to a pre-industrial civilization.
~ Liv Ullmann
It was windy and chilly and we were bundled up well. I even wore my mittens when I was not taking pictures. But eventually it was time to go back to our room and get ready for dinner. So back up the path to the motel. Our window was the one on the right in the white section of the building. There are only 12 rooms. A quiet, beautiful, windswept place to stay.
I hope I will come back here again one day…