Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Back Yard Babies

What we usually do for Memorial Day

Only this year I'll be up at Cub Camp
Wow. The week wiped me out. I've been spending lots of time outside fixing up the back yard. It has looked so hideous for so long, that it almost seemed daunting to try and make anything from it. Part of the reason is that nobody wants to brave the elements and go do anything out there. It's ugly and hot. We hibernate like winter bears--only in the summer.
Sort of what it looked like before. I'll have to hunt down a better picture. It was hideous-looking.

We moved the old roll of fencing we're holding onto until we can find a way to sell it. We put the boat atop the Station-Wagon-of-Stowing-Crap (which is a monument to the neighborhood of all the things we keep for no apparent reason). J sifted through the gravel near the gate for a bit. I made a raised flower bed near the wall at the side of the house (the wall the neighbor put up illegally a couple of feet on our side of the property line in spite of my instructions to the opposite) until the cinder blocks ran out. B dug about half of it up. We'll add in the compost in a bit. I filled most of the holes in the yard, and have raked half of it (it's mostly gravel and weeds and ants, so not an easy task). I also sifted through all the rubbish for a tiny black bit of plastic with my pictures on it, to no avail. B took out the boxes and I swept the porch.

Right now I'm hiding out in the coolth with a fairly dark tan, waiting for the sun to lose some of its potency so I can avoid getting heat stroke.

But here I stand, a testimony to hard work and determination. In a few minutes I'll go back out there and work on it some more. B needed a family project to fill out one of his last merit badges before he does his Eagle project for Boy Scouts. So what better idea than to make our outdoor spaces more livable.

Also I'm still trying to find my camera sim card. That thing blew into the dusty winds of time down some unfindable crack or something, because all of my varied efforts have come to naught.

And lastly, it's bulky pick up (which I call Ragpicker's Shopping Day). We traditionally don't start to really find things to toss out on the roadside until it's passed. (Actually someone in the family goes out and takes much of it back inside for some strange reason.) So this time I was determined to get it right. There's still some muck to sift into the many boxes that litter our front porch, (Two birds! Yay!) but there's also, apparently, still time.

This morning, much to the dog's chagrin, I gave the wind chimes back their voices. I would have liked him to at least pay a passing attention to the new squirrel we have chiding us from the orange tree, but he hid instead in the house from the sound of the chimes as I worked on them. What a great watch dog, that one.

Now I need to go put the screen door back together. It has been torn and flapping for a long time. Hopefully it will look newish. I sure wish I could find a new door that doesn't cost as much as a new car. I want to paint it red. Or maybe indigo.
THIS door. Or maybe a brighter red

(By the way, I picked up a ladder for the boy's bunk, and a lovely new basket. It's HUGE. I have no idea what I'm going to use it for or where I'll put it, but I'll think of something. Thank you, Ragpicker's Shopping Day.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Ciarrai Shirt Incident

Don't I look jolly?
I said before I'd tell the story of the shirt, so here goes:
It was May 7, 2016 and I was in Ireland with me mum and me sisters (the K's) and a tour group. We'd been to Muckross that day, our first real rainy Irish day. Three of us had walked home instead of riding the bus, and I'd caught a cold from which I still haven't emerged. 
After we got home, the girls had gone shopping and I fell into a coma and then took a jacuzzi. I emerged feeling about 95% better, so it was off to explore again. I found a great place to get a hot ham and cheese sandwich and watch football (soccer). Then I went in search for my peeps.
I found the K's on the street and we bummed around looking in shops and buying atrocious touristy things. Again we saw a cool street performer--one of the better buskers I've ever listened to, and so entertaining. He sang happy birthday to me and heckled passersby. 
After a bit we ended up at the pub at the hotel there in Killarney. Some old codger danced my mom around for a couple of beats and then she ensconced herself near the band. That same guy danced me around and flung me into a beam, knocking over the glasses of beer that were sitting there. They fell and shattered and got beer all down my back. Not pleasant and really embarrassing. I tried to help clean it up, but they wouldn't let me. Apparently that happens sort of often in pubs. Who knew? :o) I blew it off and got us some 7-ups and went to sit by Mom. The band (two guys--I wish I'd gotten their names) was really fine and Mom was really impressed again at how many songs I knew to request.
(Just a note: The afternoon when we'd first hit Killarney, we went to a sports uniform shop in a little mall and found nice jersey shirts like the ones we wanted, but they cost 50 Euros and up ($65 American).)
I looked over at the bar and saw a guy with a Ciarrai (Kerry) shirt on, so I went upstairs and got my sweatshirt and baseball cap. I was not going home with that bulky thing, especially since I'd already bought another sweatshirt just as bulky at Bunratty Castle.  
He had a woman with him, and another guy, both keeping an eye on him. I figured that if they thought I was really taking advantage of him, they'd decline for him, and I knew I'd never see him again. So I pumped up my courage and went up to him and said, “Hello.” 
He said, "Hello" back, kind of weaving as if he were standing aboard a ship in a fair-sized gale. Shirt man slurred his words badly and had a horrible time trying to say anything. I knew he was either heavily blitzed or more than a little mentally challenged. But since he was in a pub and sloshing a drink around in his hand, it was undoubtedly the first.
“My sisters and I have a bet going that I can't trade someone this football sweatshirt and brand new baseball hat for a sports shirt. Would you trade me?” 
He said, “Well it's a very special shirt.” 
I said, “Well this is a very special sweatshirt. And the baseball cap is brand new.” I turned on the Please Please Please Gigantic Eyes look my kids give me when they want to go to Dairy Queen or money or to get out of doing dishes.
He sort of listed for a second, and said, “All right. If you'll wear it.” 
I figured I already had a back full of booze, so what the heck. So I said “Sure! Let's do this.” So I handed him my sweatshirt and cap (so thankful I hadn't worn it in the rain, so it still looked nice). He skinned off his shirt and handed his to me. Over my beery shirt the jersey went and the rank stench of sweat nearly floored me. My sweatshirt was snug on him, and he said so. I told him, “Ah no, it fits you just right.” Then, in case he changed his mind, like a freaking chicken, I went back to sit next to Mom. I don't know what she must have thought, seeing her firstborn jumping around like a Mexican jumping bean over taking a sweaty shirt from a drunk guy. I couldn't believe it, though. I'd done the exchange and hadn't had to have the younger, prettier girls do my talking for me. It was a real coup...and a testimonial of how completely snockered that poor guy was.
Now and then I'd go back over because my sister, Lisa, was over there getting chatted up by a different drunk guy. 
The woman with Shirt Guy was really sweet. I thought she (Jac B Bsomething I found out later) might be his wife, but if she was, she was awfully okay with strange women asking him to take his shirt off in public--and hand it over.  
The first time back that woman asked if we wanted pictures with him. I thought that was interesting, so we did it. He went and got another shirt on and came back, still carrying my sweatshirt and still wearing the ball cap. So I was still thinking he might regret his folly. I went to hang with Mom--you know--out of sight, out of his mind.
Later, I went over to tell the K's we were heading up to the room and we started out. Jac B came running over and asked if we wanted another picture with Shirt Guy. She said he was a golf pro. She offered to let us follow him through her facebook site. He'd told me his name but I'd forgotten it in the press, so it was a good idea. But I'd given him a false name (Aislinn Murphy), so after the pics, when she offered us her facebook addy, I let Ju handle it since I had the wrong name.
When I finally had a good chance to look at the shirt, I saw it was really special. It was an official Ciarrai Football jersey (soccer), but more than that, it was a commemorative shirt especially for the centennial of the freeing of Ireland. On the back of the shirt is their Declaration of Independence or Poblacht na H Eireann. I'd totally lucked out. Mom was just floored. And I was pretty much high as a Woodstock hippy on that success.
Maybe, though, I should find out who Shirt Man actually is and send him a little money. My sweatshirt wasn't new or even very special. The whole Shirt Exchange was mainly an ego stroke thing. It was a goal reached and a message to myself. And it felt great! For the first time in a while I felt like I mattered.
And I love the shirt.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I'm SO coveting this front door. Just saying.
This is only a fraction of the doors I collected in Ireland. I need a new front door.
Blarney castle
St. Finnan's, I believe

This for the sign overhead

Clearly Kinsale

Another Kinsale find

Wow. Double door and knob in the middle!

NOBODY is climbing into this window.
Trinity College says come right in...and take your exams.

What's left of a castle window. Cruddy taggers.

Okay it's a summerhouse door

Even pub doors looked sweet.
I need a rua door.
Fairy door on the grounds of Kylemore (I think)
Which door do you want? (Okay they're windows.)
Through the gate to the secret garden
Little postern door
A door at Trinity College
Dublin door
LOVE this one! St. Finnan's, I believe. Looks like it should be at Hogwarts.

 The rest of my door pictures are on the sim card that is currently residing inside the dog. As soon as he is able to pass it, and if it survived the trip, loads more glorious doors. Trying not to barf here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I Went to Ireland Chapter 1

I went to Ireland to immerse myself in fragrant green silences. I wanted to worry every potent drop of Irish-ness from the experience, like a dog with a succulent bone. But the phenomenon lies deep in the marrow. There was no way to get those last drops, from a cushy seat on a tourist bus.

So at every stop I tried to do the thing I thought would make that moment. I gathered wool from the bushes and carded and spun it by hand. I climbed stairs to discover secret places no one else found (Yes Mom, that was me who set the alarm off in the last castle we climbed through. Sorry, just had to see where that locked door led.) I tipped and slithered out to the end of the spit to gather a limpet from the River Shannon. I hung out over the cliffs at Moher to take pictures of the gannets dipping and sloughing below. The wind snatched my tin whistle notes away from me.

Not as easy as one might think since the wind is stronger.
I climbed treacherous castle steps in a long velvet gown and veil to see what it might have been like in the 1100's (It sucks, just so you know. That dang veil had to eventually be tied on because my little metal circlet did nothing to hold it in place. They probably pinned it to a wimple.) I also know how extremely difficult it would be to try and assault up those wet, twisty steps, especially if they're dumping slick gunk on you or have any kind of weapon at all. Undo-able if you're trying to use a shield for certain. I took pictures of graves and countless cathedrals. I played my tin whistle in pubs. (I was rubbish at picking tunes out of the air, but they still dragged me in to sit with them and jam and even gave me a couple of solos.)
High tea at Dromoland Castle

Broghan's, best place for Hake on the planet!
I wanted to eat foods I could only get in Ireland as often as possible. You can eat a hamburger anywhere. I don't know if I got really lucky or they just all cook well, because it was almost all fabulous. I ate bangers and mash (absolutely delicious mashed potato, parsnips (who knew) and yam) and white pudding (not high on my gustatory list) and lamb stew (outstanding), fish and chips (lovely), and to top it all off, luscious scones with clotted cream and blackberry preserves.

This was almost a Dangit picture. I took lots of those--castles flying past so fast you couldn't see what it was...Dangit picture.
I was grateful for that bus, even though there were many more places I really wanted to stop and explore. It got us quickly from one side of Ireland to the other. Just so you know, I will never drive in Ireland. I make that vow right now. Those guys are driving beasts just to avoid fiery death with every passing lorry. Just trying to take a picture of the car barreling past us three inches away made me promise myself to avoid that possible fireball conflagration. There are no verges onto which to escape and let a person's heart go back into their chest cavity. My hat's off to Murt, the expert driver for not killing us, and for fitting that huge conveyance around the sharpest hairpin bends.
Moncai Rua went everywhere--even to make a phone call.

More than that, I was grateful for Murt O'Shea, the shepherd of our little band of American sheep (some of us were more like goats). Every day he pulled from his vast well of historical, geographical, political, weather-related, and slice-of-life facts to fill our trek with meaning and wry wit. For some, his patter merely entertained. His words helped me fill out what it means to be the quintessential Irishman.
Murt with my donation of 500 pennies at the Dublin airport

We in America think we've distilled these people into leprechauns and green beer, to emerge once a year at St. Patrick's Day--a day on which every American thinks they're Irish. I kept waiting for Murt, who once was a skinhead with a lackadaisical high school career, to blow up and shrug out from under the onus of our callous tags. I'm sure he has endured such treatment in all of his 33 years of driving tour buses.  But he didn't complain. There was a little snark, but after all that time of herding Americans, I think he has earned it. Part of why, was his attention to detail and loyalty to a good-paying job. But the other half was pure Irish hospitality.
Waiting to kiss the stone...'cause I don't have enough blarney.

I met such treatment on every hand, from the shopkeeper, who upon hearing that my mum had managed after several attempts to finally lose her umbrella, promptly plucked up a brand new umbrella, tore off the tags, and handed it to me with a huge smile. There were the Murphy Ice Cream shop girls who offered me a free bowl since I was celebrating my birthday. A woman in I think it was Dingle made us welcome for tea in her own front room, complete with fresh-baked scones and clotted cream.

Yeah! Kerry football shirt!
There was the linen shop owner who leaned on the counter and talked about life in Dingle with stars in her eyes. There was the man at the cathedral of St. Finnan's who instead of charging me, sent me in to accompany my husband. (I probably should have told him The Man was back in the States, probably playing computer games.) There was the band mate who offered my mum a free CD. And the pinnacle of grace came from the completely wasted man who actually took the shirt from his back to trade for my UofA sweatshirt and baseball cap (story later). Their kindness and hospitality have no match on the planet.

Sheep dog trials. It's how I know my dog just doesn't want to listen.
They are a clean, hard-working people. Every arable foot of land had to be wrenched from the peat and the stones. They had to improve the land hauling seaweed to mix with the poor soil. Everywhere the gorse threatens to overwhelm the producing bits. But they work at it and their myriad stone walls are testament to their toil. I almost never saw litter. The houses were either well maintained or ruinous hulks rising nearby from the rolling green carpet. Many of their windows showed lace sheers. I'd like to get a set for my own cottage.

These people are fiercely loyal, not only to their own beloved land, but to ours, for so many favors rendered. And they remember all of them. It's like a very grateful, though smaller, tougher elder brother kindly smiling as his blustery, brazen younger, larger brother fights off bullies for him. What tolerance and thankfulness, which we completely take for granted.

Don't get me wrong. Many also love their booze and poteen (pronounced potcheen), or moonshine (which is illegal to sell). We went to the Guinness works in Dublin for a tour.

One of the bands we listened to in Galway
They're favorite meeting places are pubs, at which they eat, drink, dance, sing, play instruments, and socialize. We went to countless pubs, not to drink but to find great musicians,
delicious food, and good company. We weren't disappointed.

One day we went to a memorial for our firemen killed in 911 just outside of Kinsale. There is a tree planted for every deceased fireman. How many Irish memorials do we have here? Heck, we could hardly even name their most famous war heroes.
Memorial at Kinsale

The gate to our memorial. It was on a hillside with a view that wouldn't stop.
Several stories Murt told stood out to me as shining lanterns illuminating what it means to be Irish (I wish I'd taken a tape recorder. Next time I will, so I can get all the extra little facts straight.):

Muckross House--more of a hunting lodge, actually
We were coming back from Kylemore Abbey through Connemara and up Galway Bay when we passed (on the other side of the bay) two villages. I forget the names of them, sadly. But they bookend the Road of Tears. The villagers were starving to death during The Hunger. They heard that a shipment of American wheat had come in to the neighboring village, so they began to walk. They walked and walked and finally made it to the second village, only to find out that the news had merely been an empty rumor. No food. The only thing to be done was to walk back. Apparently every soul died on the way.
But the story doesn't end there. American indians who had experienced their own Trail of Tears donated food to the survivors who had stayed in the village, earning Ireland's undying gratitude.

Also on that leg, we stopped at a Rag Tree. The whitethorn fluttered with thousands of shreds of cloth. It seems that when a baby died, as often happened, the grieving parents lay the wee bairn to rest beneath a whitethorn so it's spines would keep the wolves away from the tiny bones. The Sidhe held whitethorns in sacred regard and would thus care for the babies. The rag trees grew from the feeling that placing a piece of a sick person's clothing might help to make them well.

One of many statues in Dublin dedicated to their fight for freedom
Murt also told us about the freedom fighters of 1916. As an American I can understand laying one's life down for the chance of freedom. So many of our own patriots' lives ended in penury or an icy, lonely grave. Freedom has a steep price, one we Americans take too often for granted. Sometimes we thumb our noses at those we feel were criminals more than patriots. But we stand here on the other end of the decision, not having faced the same predicament. To the English, our Minutemen were mere hooligans with guns and pruning forks. How can we judge them? Our Fathers won our own fight from the Motherland long ago. We only reap the rewards.
Muckross Abbey was fun to climb around in.

This whole thing served to endear Ireland to me. And through it's people, my own country. I'm proud that we've stuck by their side. To me, the Statue of Liberty meant these poor starving scarecrows when she said: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Walking "home" from Muckross House

At the library at Trinity College

More chapters later. (Most of my pictures are on the sim card which is inside the dang dog as far as I can tell. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Sigh.)