Ireland Images.9 – Connemara, Mayo

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Achill Island House ©2016 Janet Maher

In Connemara and Mayo the sheep and lambs roam where they will and foxglove grows wild. There are Burren-like places, but with spongy, shrubby plants crawling over the stones. Here they include reds and tans that are mainly sandstone and quartz. A furry-looking green in all its range covers stupendous hills that surround every kind of waterway. I’ve thought at times of Georgia O’Keefe’s New Mexico in another palette or of upstate New York or New Hampshire, but nothing really compares to this. There was not enough time to go into Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden, but the scenery around it was among the most memorable to me in Connemara. According to E. Charles Nelson, when Ireland was underwater the tips of what are known as its Twelve Bens would have been visible as islands.

Mayo is where pirate queen, chieftain Grace O’Malley (Gráinne Ni Mhaille) ruled and the survivors of the Spanish Armada were killed. It is another place, too, where Saints Patrick and Columcille (Cholm Cille) left their marks. I trudged through the south cemetery of Aughaval Graveyard looking for Saint Patrick’s Knee, a legendary stone where a small indentation reportedly never goes dry. The grounds were completely overgrown, however, and their small ruin within has been almost entirely reclaimed by Nature. The magic stone named for Columcille that once existed in the south cemetery on the other side of the street was destroyed centuries ago when a priest decided to put a stop to people’s wishing ill toward each other, which had succeeded with the stone’s assistance.

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Interior, Abandoned House, Achill Island ©2016 Janet Maher

Enroute to this area, the road to Clifden had been covered over from a landslide and I needed to take an unexpected bypass through the back of Killary that was very Burren-beautiful, quite different looking from the rest of the land this far north. It was full of sheep decorated with multicolored markings designating ownership. The person who guided me at the detour explained that when bogland is on top of a base of stone, extremely wet weather can completely soak the ground to the degree that the water simply sweeps the layers apart. My host of the (very cool) airbnb in which I am staying added that a movement is underway urging farmers not to let their sheep graze on the mountains (which are common areas and should actually not be used by them at all). Between the vegetation being eaten away and those in the business of selling wood removing the trees, the subterranean webbing of so many kinds of roots that used to keep the ground anchored is being eroded. Sheep, he said, are also getting too heavy, which, in turn, translates to people also putting on too much weight. Everything, as always, being interrelated.

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Detail, National Famine Museum Sculpture at Croagh Patrick ©2016 Janet Maher

©2016 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair

Ballyvaughan.4 – Wrapping Up

Graphite Drawings, Irish Lace ©2016 Janet Maher

Graphite Drawings, Irish Lace ©2016 Janet Maher

Time to say goodbye to my Ballyvaughan community and the Burren, taking so many grateful memories with me into the last leg of this Ireland journey. My very heavy return box is almost taped up to ship back tomorrow, packing having become a relatively simplified process after so much adventuring here.

Several works have come out of this stay: one completed (having brought the interior pieces with me to be reworked and torn into pages), a box for it to be made back home; one completed mock-up for another book to be made at home; one plan for another book to be made at home; images and recording for a video installation piece to be made at home; the continuation of an ongoing project (Mapping the Invisible) with more progress made; and — a new series begun from this experience. I include here a shot from the studio wall of two of three graphite drawings on vellum (of which there will be more) that will go through a process of wax transfer over photographs that I have taken throughout this stay. The photographs will be chosen from among the at least 100 versions of palimpsests of decaying/paint-peeling walls. Why I chose to draw Irish crochet lace has to do with many things. One is that it was a highly-skilled craft taught to young girls and women in order to provide some means of income during years of nineteenth century starvation.

Yesterday there was a lecture at the college by reknowned model, props and prosthetics maker for major international films — Mark Maher. His presentation and props were fascinating. Among the pieces he handed around for everyone to examine were an actual copy of a cast of David Bowie’s face and the severed head of a man that looked and felt all-too-queasingly-real. Amazing what can be achieved with silicone, paint and hours of painstaking creative labor!

Also yesterday, I received an email requesting me to enter a show that I did not get into last year, the person saying that she still remembers my pieces and recommends that I enter given that there is a different judge this year. One never knows, it may be another wasted entry fee, but it would be lovely to be able to show there…

Last adventure a few mornings ago, a visit to Dysert O’Dea, recommended to me by my new friend who returned to all things home last week. Well worth the trip. Clan O’Dea has been in continuous hold of this ancient well-restored castle in an area that includes a beautiful demolished church and round tower, high stone, ring forts and the gamet. Twenty-five remains are available to see as long as one’s hiking legs hold out.

Perhaps before the day is through I will visit dear Flaggy Shore one more time. Tonight I’ll also visit O’Lóclainn’s to say goodbye to Margaret and where I’ll meet my Johns Hopkins friend who will be back from her class’s field trip to Dublin and tell me all about it.

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Detail, Desert O’Dea Monastery ©2016 Janet Maher

©2016 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair

Ireland Images.8 – Dublin, Galway

If you came this way, Taking the route you would be likely to take From the place you would be likely to come from, If you came this way in May time, you would find the hedges White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness. It would be the same at the end of the journey…If you came from anywhere, At any time or at any season, It would always be the same: you would have to put off Sense and notion. You are not here to verify, Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity Or carry report. You are here to kneel Where prayer has been valid…And what the dead can tell you, being dead: the communication Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of living. Here, the intersection of the timeless moment Is…Never and always.

1916 Commemoration, Dublin ©2016 Janet Maher

1916 Commemoration, Dublin ©2016 Janet Maher

1916 Commemoration #2, Dublin ©2016 Janet Maher

1916 Commemoration #2, Dublin ©2016 Janet Maher

The Games, Galway ©2016 Janet Maher

The Games, Galway ©2016 Janet Maher

Staircase, Trinity College Long Hall ©2016 Janet Maher

Staircase, Trinity College Long Hall ©2016 Janet Maher

Shakespeare, Trinity College Long Hall ©2016 Janet Maher

Shakespeare, Trinity College Long Hall ©2016 Janet Maher

Detail, Book of Kells, Burren College of Art Facsimile © Janet Maher

Detail, Book of Kells, Burren College of Art Facsimile ©2016  Janet Maher

T. S. Eliot, The Four Quartets, from Little Gidding, 1.

Ireland Images.7 – Still Point

As might be expected, I’ve taken a multitude of photographs. There are several collections going of certain topics. One is of the many instances of houses that look like the classic style we first draw as children, perfect geometry.

The artist’s book that I completed yesterday has a similar structure, though the relationship to these houses was quite accidental. From the side, if the front cover is opened the structure becomes houselike. The internal pages are designed to work as single squares made of two opposing triangles with a series of knots between them. I have called it Still Point, after Eliot. That will also be the title of the show I hope to have with work from this project, much of which needs to be completed after I get home.

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Ireland House #1 ©2016 Janet Maher

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Still Point (artist’s book) ©2016 Janet Maher

Ballyvaughan.3 – The Burren

Poulnabrone Portal Tomb ©2016 Janet Maher

Poulnabrone Portal Tomb ©2016 Janet Maher

It is going to be so very strange not to see magnificent rocks enmeshed with grasses and wildflowers around me upon return to the states. Time has done that tricky thing in that I feel as if this present will continue now forever. Having done a good bit of exploring and learning over the past three weeks, it may be possible to write a bit about this very special place.

Expert Gordan D’Arcy explained in a lecture how the phenomenon of the Burren was glacially created millions of years ago when all the earth’s land masses were connected. If we try, we can see how the edges of what became eastern North America had once separated from what became Ireland, which had separated from what became England, floating apart. No wonder the landscape and dry walls of the New England states come to mind so often here, and why so many Irish immigrants chose that area of America in which to place new roots.

Erratic ©2016 Janet Maher

Erratic ©2016 Janet Maher

According to D’Arcy Ireland was originally a jagged habitat with higher hills like China has. Changes from about one and one half million years after the end of the first Ice Age forward have resulted in what exists now. The borders of Ireland extended much further too, having been worn back to the cliffs, additional islands and jaggy shores of today. The Cliffs of Moher, for example, had extended about 100 meters further than they do now. What remains is the Burren limestone and granite that has not been washed and weathered away. Ireland had been covered by a shallow tropical sea, as evidenced by fossil imprints in the rocks. Marks in the stone were also created as other stones were dragged across while glaciers receded. Large granite boulders called erratics occur, sitting as if placed intentionally in various parts of the Burren. A fascinating occurrence appears in rocks from snails having eaten their calcium away. The rocks are peppered with regular-shaped circular crevices and sinuous trails.

Inis Oirr, Aran, Flowers ©2016 Janet Maher

Inis Oirr, Aran, Flowers ©2016 Janet Maher

Within the Burren, extending through Galway, are a vast array of plants that exist where they normally would not. Some came into Ireland with previous glacial activity from the north, leaving arctic seeds that thrive where the stone provides just enough shelter and alkaline surface for them to attach. Thin build-ups of acidic soil blown in from neighboring areas such as Tipperary fill in holes in the stone and provide a different environment that can likewise sustain plants. Neutral mixtures between the two support still other types. There are about 950 species of flora in Ireland, some of them rare. Seven hundred of them are found in the Burren. Thirty–two of the thirty-four species of butterflies are also found here.

Aillwee Cave ©2016 Janet Maher

Aillwee Cave ©2016 Janet Maher

All around is the physical evidence of ancient history, layers upon layers of time co-existing with the present. The 5200-5800 year old Poulnabrone Dolman is a tomb that held a royal dynasty of thirty-three people. The area has about 70 of these upright tombs from about 4,000 years ago when the Burren was heavily populated. Archeology work on the Caherconnell Stone Fort revealed evidence of human occupation from several different time periods, including a burial site from the early 6th/late 7th century. The Caherconnell Archaeological Project continues. The Aillwee Cave has been relatively dry for the last 10,000 years but its origin dates back two million. Created from what was once a river flowing above the floor upon which visitors walk, the current dampness and seepage of rainwater from above has been incrementally forming delicate stalactites over thousands of years.

In a small cave near Ennis a recent exciting discovery of bear remains containing evidence of human butchering has placed the existence of humans in Ireland 2,500 years father back in time than was thought–to at least 10,500 B.C. “That is 8,000 years before the Egyptian pyramids were built and 7,500 years earlier than the first Stonehenge monuments.”

That highly evolved Irish septs following Brehon Laws existed from pre-Christian times throughout the many centuries before England’s turbulent colonization calls for the need to study the Milesian clans in parallel with dynasties of much more publicized areas such as Egypt and Asia. The Meaghers were certainly among the notable septs from their original base as abbots at Monaincha and in their surroundings in the vicinity of Roscrea, Tipperary.

©2016 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair

Ireland Images.4 – The Flaggy Shore

Flaggy Shore, video still ©2016 Janet Maher

Flaggy Shore, video still ©2016 Janet Maher

The Flaggy Shore, Burren, Co. Clare ©2016 Janet Maher

The Flaggy Shore, Burren, Co. Clare ©2016 Janet Maher

We went into the COLD water last night with a group of women who have been meeting here at the same times mornings and nights for four years. One brought a swimsuit for me. The most magic experience of this journey so far. We will go back tonight.

©2016 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair

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Self Portrait, Kilkee, Co. Clare, Ireland ©2016 Janet Maher

Self Portrait, Kilkee, Co. Clare, Ireland ©2016 Janet Maher

Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation…*

This Sunday my father might have become ninety-two, yet instead he has been gone forty-three years. I’ll never forget the series of days during which the rug of my life vanished from under me and everything changed. Somehow it seems fitting that I am in Ireland on his birthday, as I was for the first time on the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. Each deserved a special observance in the place they knew as theirs. As far as I know my father never came to the birth home of his great grandfather. It remains to be seen how I will mark this anniversary. Perhaps I will go to Mass at the Catholic church of Ballyvaughan.

When away from the studio flashbacks occur over and again bringing parallel places and times back to play in my mind, telling me things I would have preferred to have understood decades ago. I imagine my grandfather, James, in the stranger brought into the pub by a possible daughter who saw him walking outside. His eyes lit up when he looked at me a few barstools down as if suddenly recognizing me from long ago (or as if he was younger and I available?), but after returning his smile I politely looked away. It is only in writing this that I realize, my father might have looked like him now. He might have said “Hello!” just then.

At the ceili in Kilfenora the male dancers older than me, with their proper stances, are extremely graceful on their feet. One has been chosen as my partner to teach me to step lightly and swirl with him amid a group ritual that has been performed for centuries the same way. I marvel at a community that comes together once a week to dance—and generously allows tourists in to learn. How could there not be peace and good will in a place that constantly touches each other this way? We learned square-dance versions of these steps in gym class of high school and rolled our eyes. Too cool then to care about things that would eventually matter.

I am grateful for those who did all they could within their limited means to point the way, nonetheless, teaching me to fish, as it were. (The proverb works for all nationalities, even if I’m mixing metaphors!)

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is. But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…*

* T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, The Four Quartets, I, II

©2016 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair