Oh, and my four legged neighbors, who are very shy, but very entertaining.
As promised, here are some photos. I'm a bit of a luddite on the Mac, so the pix didn't organize well, but below are some shots of the "village" where I am staying, random morning views from my bedroom window, and the view from above.
Oh, and my four legged neighbors, who are very shy, but very entertaining.
It is in fact, NOT a long way to Tipperary. I can attest to this fact personally, as I got there in just under three hours from Cork.
Okay, sorry. I couldn't help that. You can shoot me now.
I traveled to Tipperary, to the lovely town of Cloughjordan, to see the work of my good friend, Dave Kennedy, former co-owner of Road Records, and now, professional photographer, who was exhibiting at this lovely bookstore, Sheelagh na Gig.
TANGENT ALERT: Some of you may think you know a thing or two about the owner of Road Records from a little book you've read, but actually that book was fiction, let me repeat that, fiction, as in, not true, so please dispense any thoughts you have in your mind about that. The only thing Dave ever said to me that I used in the book was: "At least we have the rubbish weather to keep us from being completely miserable." A sentiment I have well come to understand, and one that I couldn't even come close to expressing in as eloquently a manner, hence my stealing it straight out of his mouth for my own selfish purposes.
And, given that this blog is an attempt to write about my travels and Ireland and other assorted adventures in a truthful way, on the count of three, let's all disconnect from the world of make-believe.
Well, all of you except me, that is, because it turns out I'm not very good at this truth thing. Turns out I'm quite the cheater, actually.
I've been following Dave's photos for a long time on his blog, and it's been quite frustrating to only be able to see his B&W prints smooshed into thumbnails. They are sweeping, haunted landscapes, shot in infrared, and I know I'm not getting nearly a fraction of the impact of these shots. That's why I decided to head up to Tipperary--it's the first time I've had a visit coincide with one of his exhibits and I didn't want to miss it.
I was so excited though, that before I even boarded the train, I'd already decided what I was going to say. Two days ahead of my trip I draft-blogged that stunning as his work was online, it simply couldn't compare to the full size prints. I even had an oh-so-clever analogy: comparing his web and print shots to digital and analog--that like digital music, his web images don't even begin to capture the majesty and fullness and richness of the landscapes. I was oh-so-proud of that one, you know, the whole music analogy thing, given his previous vocation. And it sounded so nice and spontaneous.
Except it wasn't. Because I wrote it before I ever saw the prints.
So the truth is (and really, this is the truth this time) even had I gone ahead and posted just that and not confessed, that statement doesn't come close to doing his photos justice. I have literally no visual arts training, but as a writer, I do feel I owe Dave something far more descriptive and poetic than that.
So, let me put it this way. I went to the bookshop to see Dave's prints, but I also timed my visit to coincide with a writer's group meeting. I've been wanting to attend a writer's group in Ireland for a very, very long time, and given that I am about to undertake another set of revisions on my book, I was really looking forward to the chance to meet some working writers. Lucky I was, because this group was made up of an extraordinarily nice and diverse group of people, and I felt very privileged to be so readily welcomed into their circle.
As we went around the group and everyone read their work--some excerpts more polished than others--my eyes remained fixated on one of Dave's prints, hanging above the back door. It's a small skiff or rowboat, sitting in the tall grass on the edge of a lake in County Mayo, another boat in the background.
I'm kind of cheating by putting the picture here, but do keep in mind, the web images compress and contract and pixelate these shots, so even visually, by electronic means, there's no way to convey the full beauty of this one, or any of his photos.
And sitting in that room with the full size print straight in my line of sight, my ears completely tuned in to the musical voices around me, I found my heart lighting straight out for that boat. I wanted to climb in it. I wanted to lie down in it. I wanted to cast off the rope and float on the lake until I had nothing left to think about. I was exactly where I had wanted to be for so long, surrounded by writers, and yet, there was Dave's photo, tugging me elsewhere.
And such is Dave's art: a fabulous revisioning and interpretation of some of Ireland's landscapes that gives you a peek into a world that Dave has not only photographed, but re-imaged through his own wildly creative eyes.
When the continents all smoosh back together into Pangea II, meaning I don't have to worry about overhead bins, I will be taking a whole bunch of these home.
As far as the crow flies, Nemo seemed to be only about half a mile from my lodgings. But in the world of hastily thrown up subdivisions, roads don't necessarily go in any sort of logical order, and according to my Googlemap, it was actually about a two mile walk to Nemo.
Which was okay, because I was going to Nemo, a sports club, to work out. So a warm up walk on yet another rainy and cool afternoon was all good.
But wait--she's on vacation! A writing retreat! She should be at the pub. Chatting up the locals. Exploring the beaches.
Why on earth the sweaty indoor gym?
Well, some people drink, some smoke, and others meditate.
As far as needs go, it's not a bad one. It's good for my head. And it doesn't hurt that working out helps keep those ever-encroaching-exponentially-expansive forces of gravity at bay.
According to the web site, drop in visitors were welcome at club Nemo.
According to Yvonne, the gorgeous Mia Hamm/Katie Taylor look-alike staffer behind the desk, this was not true.
Even when I explained that I was just in town for a few weeks and needed a place to work out.
She apologized profusely in that typical way the Irish have of saying sorry like 5o times, when really, 17 times would suffice.
Then I pulled this one:
But I came all the way from Washington DC just to work out in your club.
Amazingly, this seemed to work. It was either that, or the postal look in my eyes--because Yvonne did a quick 180.
"Well, maybe we can let you in just this once."
Her co-worker did not like the idea and went through a litany of reasons--insurance, the boss, policy--that I should not be granted access.
But Yvonne seemed prime to win this one.
"She just wants to use it on a trial basis, so let's let her in."
"Ah, that's not a good idea, Yvonne"
"Come on, it's just this once. Go on. Go on and take a spin. On us. We'll get you sorted for the rest of the visit when you're done."
Thank you, Yvonne.
Sweaty and calm after my workout, I returned to the desk to see what we could manage for the remainder of my stay.
Turns out there was no way to get back in without paying a three month fee or talking to the big boss man himself, which Yvonne, in spite of her clearly super human physical attributes, that in my mind, could accomplish just about anything, was loathe to undertake.
But--as smart women are apt to do--Yvonne and I hit upon the same solution at the same moment:
Gym classes, offered to the public.
I haven't taken a gym class since high school, but given the circumstances, this seemed like a fine option.
So up I signed.
Did I pick spinning?
Did I pick aerobics?
Did I pick swimming?
I chose Boot Camp for women.
Well, maybe it had something to do with the fact that Yvonne was teaching it and by now I had a serious girl crush on Yvonne.
So next Tuesday it is. I can't wait to see what kind of drill sergeant Yvonne will be.
As for the other class members, I'm a bit worried. Will I be embarrassed by the 30-something lithe and fit Celtic warriors (they are Celts down here, right? Or are they Vikings? This whole tribal thing is so confusing to us pathetically simplistic Americans).
Or maybe I will indeed run laps around those pasty-face, beer swigging, alcohol-engorged women, restoring some American glory to our badly damaged world image as super heroes.
Bah. I just hope I don't pass out during kick boxing and make an ass of myself.
And that Yvonne still respects me in the morning.
The first thing you think when looking out the window the morning after arriving is: how do they do it? The human body was not designed to survive such grim conditions--no sunshine on the skin, nothing to warm your damp bones, nothing to radiate heat to the fringes.
And sorry, but there is no way to say this kindly--it permeates the inside of the houses with ferocity. I arrived last night to the residence where I will be staying for two weeks and the windows needed to be opened. No fault of the owners--they've been gone two weeks and everything was shut up. Such is the nature of life in an environment as wet as this one.
But when you step outside, you get it: moisture--buckets and buckets and buckets of it, is what gives this country its distinctive flavor--the raindrops perched on the edge of the wild sedge blades, the scent fresh from all the cleansing, no matter how grim the landscape looks or feels, the smell outside is always one of blood and sweat and tears being washed away, as if each morning could be a fresh start for you, if you will so allow it. And because you have been here before, you know that the fifty shades of grey will some day subside, leaving your eyes burning in the sunshine from the spectacular fifty shades of green that all this moisture brings.
Of course, you don't have to live with this climate 24/7 so romanticism is easy.
Then again, that's what traveling is all about--getting high off of something new and fresh and alive, and you are the traveler here, so off you go, boots strapped to the feet, rain jacket in hand.
Suburban Cork may not be exactly pastoral, but travel is also a state of mind; after an eight mile hike in the rain, the day looks even better. Perhaps here, alone in a lovely little house with a fabulous bathtub and a working kitchen and owners who have set the boiler to heat the house three times a day just for you, left the beds with comfy duvets, and insisted you eat everything in their fridge, without even having to work at it, you find yourself slowing down, emptying the brain of the clutter of daily trivialities, as you eject the ridiculously rapid ejaculatory spewing of FB, Yahoo, Twitter and all the rest of it.
How easy it becomes here to push out all that nothingness, allowing the space to fill with more contemplative and creative thoughts, a slowing of the mind and time, a restoration of soul, and...
A full night's sleep.
Indeed, life is good.
There is nothing like flying into the sunrise and cheating the night.
When you fly west from Europe to the states, you cheat time. Everyone knows that.
But what about flying straight into that rising sun, and cheating the night?
For me, this is a bittersweet revenge, because for months night has been cheating me. Some of this is my doing--not setting boundaries, taking on too many responsibilities. Even when I do let go, nights remain a huge unknown; will I wake sweating from a violent dream? Will I burst into wakefulness at 5:30 with my brain convinced it's ready to roll, even though my body is not?
On a recent trip to Ireland, halfway through the flight, I put my watch ahead five hours, watched as the sun rose in front of us, way sooner than my biological clock would have allowed, and reveled in the success of having one less night to suffer through.
It's no coincidence that I happened to cheat the night on the way to Ireland. Because nowhere else does my brain catch fire like this place. I stopped in Dublin many years ago on the way home from Spain, and the city bit me in the ass; the aliveness, the air a soupy mix of diesel and ocean spray, the squawk of the gulls over the River Liffey. The city sliced a vein and I made no effort to stitch it up. Instead, I let it bleed into a novel.
Attempts to deconstruct the rationale of this connection are an exercise in futility. As far as I know, none of the lost tribes wound up here. So if there's a blood connection, it must be from a past life.
All I do know is that this city is sweaty and full of speed, it's dirty and it's alive, it's loud with the thumping of disco, punk, thrash metal, car horns, voices, and the heartbeats of artists everywhere. Not only do I not sleep here, or in the rest of the country, my brain combusts, spewing creative output at a pace that baffles even me.
For many years I fought it, forcing myself to stay in bed eight hours, self-imposing separation from my work, taking long quiet walks to distract myself.
Eventually though, I gave up. And then I gave in. Tossed the anxiety, the sleeping pills, the self-flagellating head-wrecking, all of it, and took the gift for what it was: an uninterrupted awakening of the soul.
So all those dark circles under the eyes you'll be seeing now?
They may not look good, but they're a good thing indeed.
It should be an interesting trip. Stay tuned.