“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” ~ Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
An Irish judge recently fined a Kerry farmer 25,000 euro for destroying a protected ancient ringfort and souterrain on property he had purchased two months prior. The earthen ringfort, estimated to be 1,000 years old, was identified on the register of national monuments of historic importance. This was the first ruling of its kind to be brought in Ireland based on the 1994 National Monuments Act. It is hailed as a major victory for preservationists.
Did the excesses in building during the Celtic Tiger years, and subsequent loss of landscape integrity in the countryside play a part in the decision of this ruling, and the seriousness in which it was taken? Perhaps. And yet…there was also a recent proposal to de-list any post-1700s buildings nationally due to budgetary constraints. So what to keep and what’s expendable remains an ongoing conversation.
One of the many things I loved from the first moment setting foot in Ireland was the comfort level of people living alongside and sometimes directly within physical references to the past. Fields with signs inviting you to climb over a fence to walk among the ruins of abbeys, farmers with beehive huts, passage tombs, ogham stones, and yes, ringforts in their fields, who left out a small bowl or box with a handwritten sign asking a euro for the trouble of allowing you a closer look, but often just inviting you in. Ancient monuments in the landscape with no fence surrounding them (as Stonehenge has sadly needed), no seeming worry about graffiti or destruction. Continue reading →
‘Terroir’ is the effect that sun, soil and strata – the history and substance of the earth – have on things like wine, coffee and tea. It is the “sense of place” from which they come. Something you can taste. Brought right up through the roots.
It makes you wonder…do people have it too? Is there some kind of human terroir?
We are such a mashup in America, our gene pools must look like some sort of DNA jambalaya. Not everyone is interested in sorting it out, in separating the strands Continue reading →
Last week was the National Week of Migration, officially declared by The U.S. Catholic Bishops. I’m thinking we need more than a week, but I appreciate the effort. And it made me think again about the migratory routes of my own family.
I was also thinking what a luxury it is to spend time researching this migration story – what were the reasons for, where are the records showing, etc. And how baffling this would be to the very people I’m trying to understand. I figure they would either think I was crazy or hopefully appreciate a little, that I cared. Their livelihood and sometimes their very lives were at risk, while I’m in my warm home (thank you, central heating), curled up in a comfy chair, cup of coffee by my side, pouring over essays with titles like “The Transfer of Land and the Emergence of the Graziers during the Famine Period.”
It’s been said that there are only two stories on earth: “a stranger comes to town” and “a person goes on a journey.” Either way, someone’s leaving home. Continue reading →
It’s January 6. Epiphany. Three Kings Day. Twelfth Night. Nollaig Bheag (Little Christmas). Theophany.
Celebrated in more countries than you would ever expect, it signals the end of Christmas celebrations. In our house, it’s the weekend we take down our Christmas tree. The last day you play carols until the next December 1. It’s all about stars and kings but really it’s about the manifestation of God. Seeing the holy in the ordinary. Continue reading →
I once had the foresight to ask my father to write down some of his memories. He was 47 when I was born, which left a sizable generation gap. And like most children, I was absorbed by the present and oblivious of the past. But what I would give now, to sit down and talk with him about his childhood, his growing up, his reflections about that world. “Tell me about your parents,” I would ask, (all my grandparents were dead before my 4th birthday) tell me about a regular day in the life of a small town Iowa farm family.”
Eventually I did have the sense, just a year or two before he died, to ask him “What was Christmas like when you were little? Tell me.” And so he did. He wrote it out for me. And now, it’s a gift every Christmas to imagine this and know it was my father’s world. I can hear his voice when I read it. Continue reading →
So two American tourists are hunting in the highlands and it’s really misty and they come across this bridge and when they walk across it, they walk into a village where everyone is dressed as if it’s two hundred years … Continue reading →
It was an unusually warm day in Dublin. Stephen’s Green was full of people enjoying the sunshine and warmth. And I was spending the day in the National Archives reading first person accounts of the famine.
The National Archives of Ireland sits at the back of a short nondescript street called Bishop’s Street. About a block away is Whitefriars Street, home to a hostel and an excellent coffee shop. Whether it was the Whitefriars or the bishops karma, I don’t know, but I surely felt the presence of something. Continue reading →