Aran Islands, Ireland (September 2006)

Here is Coole Park near Gort in Co. Galway. It’s the former estate of Lady Gregory as well as the summer home of William Butler Yeats. Pictured is an enclosed pastureland of sorts with stationary deer.

A small, private path heading down towards the lake.

Here is Anna before we went tumbling through the soggy woods, looking for a clearing or a path.

I didn’t have time to visit the autograph tree (which these people have so cheerily found) but it has the signatures of: Yeats, Edward Martyn, G.B. Shaw, J.M. Synge & Sean O’Casey.

Leaving for the ferry from Rossaveal in Galway for Inishmaan. This was not our ferry boat; I just liked the look of it.

The next morning: the western coast of the island. The Atlantic is uninterrupted until the coast of Newfoundland.

A very affecting picture of children with Inis Meáin knitwear.

This is Inis Mór (Inishmore), to the north of Inis Meáin (Inishmaan). Inishmore is the largest of the three islands and the furthest north. About 800 – 900 people live there & it has a more bustling port city (Kilronan). Inis Oírr (Inishsheer) is to the south & is smaller than Inishmaan, but has a larger population & more visitors. Inishmaan has a population of 180-190 while Inisheer is 260-270. The islands are visible from the Cliffs of Moher in Clare and, in turn, the cliffs are visible from the eastern sides of the islands.

The islands’ geology is mostly karst limestone.

I swear, there must be twice as many animals on this island as people. In the most severe of landscapes, you will still find a flock of sheep!

How interesting:
“A study published in National Geographic showed a sheep can remember the faces of fifty other sheep for over two years.”

These wind turbines (I believe there are only three total) not only produce all the energy that the inhabitants of the island need, they have excess energy that is then (somehow) exported to the mainland. Maybe Dante can explain.

Some, lost and impatient, would take to climbing these fences, one by one, for hours to try to find some semblance of a trail.

I overheard someone ask why anyone would move out to the islands as they have such a barren landscape, free of grist, with an unendurable climate. The answer is that during the mid 17th century, during Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland, a popular expression for the Catholics was “go to hell or go to Connacht” – so they fled to the west coast & the western islands. What’s really remarkable is how they have sustained themselves and managed to extract some life from a completely unforgiving landscape. They fertilized the bare rocks using seaweed to grow potatoes, they thatched their cottages, built their currachs (boats made mostly of canvas & tar, designed for 4 rowers), made their own rope & spun their own wool for clothing.

Sweet intertidal zones!

Some crazy fux decided to go swimming (just to say they did).

So sadly disappointed, Aran cows are perpetually shocked & staggering backwards in fear. I tried again and again to get any one of them to come over to me, but usually their eyes would widen and they’d backpedal, their jaws offset, mid-rumination.

For some reason I find these sable & white creatures kind of threatening. I think that in reality, they are very sweet dogs, but I stayed away from this one like it was a witch.

suite pic.

A much-photographed but beautiful house.

After appealing to cows, horses, sheep, goats, dogs, cats & donkeys, I found the donkeys & dogs (all mostly border collies) to be the most affable of all. Donkeys have the softest noses & the sweetest temperaments.

The cliffs on the west side of the island are known to be “storm beaches” as they are formed not by glacial erratics but by huge waves (that strike approx. once every century).

Martin Sheen has just enrolled at NUI (National University of Ireland) in Galway as an arts student concentrating in English Literature, Philosophy and Oceanography. He’s said that he’d like to finish his education (he never graduated high school).
I don’t know if you’re aware but Martin Sheen ruuuuuules hard. He’s been arrested 70 times at protests over “concerns for his country and its role in the wider international community.” Here is a picture of him when I walked by him at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA.

Something else really nuts:
I was at a pub downtown for a get together with most of the students in the various Early Start programs, and while walking from one group of friends to another I heard, “Excuse me, but is your name Cailin?” I turn around & it is Caroline from my hometown! The last time I saw her was also random – a Fourth of July with a mismash of people.

Caroline is the second from the left, leaning back with the white, shell belt. I am the giggly one on the right with Vanessa.

“sea, islands, fishing, pubs, farms, trees, grass, shrubs, bushes, various other forms of herbiage….moss for example, rivers, streams, streamlets, puddles (especially after rainfall… which is occasional) sheep, cows, goats, dogs, chickens, ducks, geese, sparrows, crows, other form of birdlife etc… etc… etc…”


3 thoughts on “Aran Islands, Ireland (September 2006)

  1. I know you haven’t been there long and are on the opposite side of the island, but do you think you’ll go to Leitrim? Grandma’s house is still there, sadly with a new roof. She showed me a picture a few years ago and it was this absurdly small house….she went on to tell me that something crazy like…eight kids were raised in that house. Oh, Ireland!

  2. Yes, I’ve thought a lot about it & my parents sat me through a very long, bumpy home video (a highlight of which was the house Grandma grew up in) to give me some direction. I will get to Leitrim also because we still have family there.

  3. I know it isn’t much consolation but this morning I sat with someone during a coffee break & asked him, “What did you do yesterday?” His response: “Well, woke up, went to mass, emailed my parents, went to the pub to watch hurling (sports!), then stayed at the pub until late that night, then we were all hungry so we went to McDonald’s & rounded up the night with a healthy game of beer pong.” There are still dolts & very uninspiring people even in a country as fresh & exciting as this. I really wish you were here to experience it with me, I know you’d love it. I do also feel for you, though haven’t reached out or made comment as I don’t live in Greensboro, but you are one that should be always surrounded by loving friends.

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