Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ancient Ireland - The Northern Six

Ancient Ireland, indeed! I was reared by her bedside,
The rune and the chant, evil eye and averted heard.
Fomorian fierceness of family and local feud.
Gaunt figures of fear and of friendliness,
For years they trespassed on my dreams,
Until once, in a standing circle of stones,
I felt their shadows pass
Into that dark permanence of ancient forms.

- from Home Again, John Montague

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Interpretation: Canal Bank Walk

I have had enjoyed looking for Irish poems that fit scenes I saw during my trip this past week. I came across this short poem by Patrick Kavanagh that reminded me of an afternoon drive following meetings last Tuesday - when we drove a circuitous route to Kilkenny. The Grand Canal is still maintained and is a favorite for bicyclers and hikers - it is also mentioned in the poem below. The photographic vignette from in the train from Dublin to Portaloise is out of place, but the [old] couple on the "[new] old [train] seat" have been married many years, so I assume are still kissing - though not in front of me - so it fits the lines of the poem as well.

A canal near the Barrow River
 Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal
Pouring redemption for me, that I do
The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal,
Grow with nature again as before I grew.

John and Brighty on train to Limerick
 The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third
Party to the couple kissing on an old seat,
And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word
Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat.

Beech trees along a road near the canal
O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web
Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,
Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib

Grist mill on the Barrow River
 To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech
For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Irish Garden Poetry

I had heard sometime back that the Irish are fond of poetry, and many great poets are Irish. A few months back, I ordered a copy of The Book of Irish Verse - Irish poetry from the sixth century to the present, edited by John Montague so that I could do a little background reading on Ireland through poems. I even quoted a few lines from a 9th Century series of triads when thanking my host for his hospitality in arranging a dinner for me to meet some biomass industry leaders: Three things that are always ready in a decent man's house: beer, a bath, a good fire.

View of the valley from above Carlow
I was taken by how green Ireland is, even in the middle of April when I was told that it is still a little early for the season. The landscape is similar to green western Oregon, but still much different, and the old places are preserved in rock. Unlike Oregon where the old is still relatively new compared to
A 300 year old wall
this part of Europe, and made of wood that doesn't last. Everywhere in Ireland what is old is made of rock - ancient fences and walls and ruins of church towers, old houses in the country, and building in the towns, along side the old are newer ones, no more than 200 years young - scattered also around the countryside. Information signs in Gaelic and English - historic sites and signs, for renamed streets that are remembrances of an occupation not from across the Channel, but by a country in the east not more than 13 miles away at the nearest point - maybe more on that later. This is a country that is mostly farms and fields green with grasses and spring-planted wheat, with bright yellow rapeseed fields mixed in, along with cattle and sheep thrown in for good measure. And everyone is named John, except for those with names like Declan, Hazel, Ewen, and Padraig. These are a few fresh memories of Ireland.

An Irish garden in Adare
I spend all but one night in Carlow, with the exception a hotel in Adare on the way to Limerick. Across the street from my lodging were thatch-roofed cottages and shops - obviously for the pleasure of tourists. But the front yard garden of one was worth a quick picture - an Irish garden. Over a cup of tea with milk on Friday, one of my hosts commented that Irish gardens are, "Where you stuff the beds full of plants." It didn't matter to me, this picture fits my mind's eye vision of the way a garden should look. I found an Irish garden designer's Website, and she had good article posted that described what are actually Irish gardens.

Research plot of "salley" - willow
Maybe since there is not really an actual Irish garden style, there is not an abundance of Irish poems about them. One garden poem is by William Butler Yates, but it doesn't describe the kind of garden seen in the photograph above, or the formal English garden as found in estate as in the earlier post about Duckett's Grove Castle. The Yates poem depicting a "salley" garden, is describing a utilitarian garden of willows (1) - but regardless, it is a scene in a Irish garden none-the-less.
Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree.
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she placed her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.
Edenderry Power facility
An Irish salley garden today is not a place where young lovers would likely meet, unless the two were farmers kindling their love while growing willow to be harvested as biomass for fuel in pellet stoves for heat, or blended with peat and burned at a power station to generate electricity. But this may not be so strange, that willow once grown in gardens for its fiber to support a basket making industry, is now an industrial feedstock for bioenergy. My hosts are doing research on willow - finding ways to better grow the trees year after year, so more of Ireland's energy can come from indigenous sources, rather than oil - a further greening of the Emerald Isle.
(1) A salley is a willow tree. It was once common to have gardens of willows for osiers (willow rods). These gardens were kept to have material for basket-making and for thatch roofing of cottages. The Gaelic for willow is saileach, which comes from the Latin, salix for willow tree. Definition is from the link here.

Number 50 is 49

Rockies uniform
I hadn't kept up with the baseball news the past week while in Ireland. When checking to see how former Seattle Mariner Jamie Moyer was doing - hoping for a win with the Colorado Rockies, and knowing he wasn't getting a lot of back up support by his teammates' hitting - I saw the editorial below from the Denver Post. Jan heard somewhere that the forties are the old age of youth, and the fifties the youth of old age - I wonder what will happen with Moyer next season, if he plays in his "youthful" fifties.

Editorial: For Jamie Moyer, a classic victory by a classy pitcher
By The Denver Post

How 'bout that Jamie Moyer?
Not only did the Rockies' crafty lefty become the oldest pitcher to win a game in major league history Tuesday night — he's 49 —   but he did it the same way he's been doing it for 25 years, with his own blend of wits and guts and a fastball that barely catches the eye of a radar gun. So how old is 49 in baseball years? In the classic movie "The Natural," and in the not-quite-as-classic "The Rookie," heroes Roy Hobbs and Jimmy Morris are over-the-hill ballplayers who attempt to have one last hurrah before the game passes them by. Their age: 35. And Crash Davis, whom Kevin Costner's character was based on in "Bull Durham"? He was 33 when he finished his career. Heck, when Jamie Moyer was 35, he was still in the first half of his career.And when his career began with the Chicago Cubs in 1986, Wrigley Field didn't have lights, Pete Rose was still playing, and the Colorado Rockies were just a mountain range. But Moyer isn't just a classic — he's also one of the game's classiest. A devout Catholic and father of eight, Moyer's charitable work is as impressive as his athletic feats In 2000, he and his wife Karen established the Moyer Foundation, which serves children in severe distress. The foundation's Camp Erin program, with nearly 40 camps nationwide, is designed to help children aged 6-17 who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Compared to many of his record-setting contemporaries in what can be considered baseball's Steroid Age (think Bonds, Clemens, Canseco), the Rockies' new elder statesman is a breath of fresh Mile High air. He's won baseball's prestigious Branch Rickey and Roberto Clemente Awards, and in 2009 he and his wife were given honorary doctoral degrees by Philadelphia's Holy Family University for their public service. And now he's baseball's oldest winning pitcher. "It's a historic night for one tremendous human being," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy after Moyer's 268th career win. "It couldn't happen to a better guy." The good news for Rockies fans: Moyer leads the team in ERA this season — and will likely be breaking his record again soon.

From: Updated:   04/18/2012 04:09:07 PM MDT

Too bad it couldn't have happened in Seattle.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tá Préacháin Sa Chaisleán - Irish Birding

Rook crow nest silhouettes
My schedule was full the past week I spent in Ireland, and there wasn't a wild area near my hotel to walk through looking for birds. Even though I could watch fields across the road from the fourth floor restaurant, there wasn't good access, and I would have felt uncomfortable trespassing. My hosts were most amiable, going out of their way when there was a chance to show me a little bit more of Ireland than the inside of meeting and hotel rooms. The most noticeable bird I saw for all the driving around the parts of the country I visited were crows - both Rooks, Jackdaw, and some Hooded Crows and Magpies. Most impressive were the nests in the trees around Duckett's Grove Castle in County Carlow. They continued a barrage of calls, flying overhead, and some landing in holes in the walls of the castle. (The on-line European Birdguide Online is an excellent reference - it seems as helpful as the Cornell Ornithology Laboratory site.)

Brownshill Portal Tomb
There were not a lot of other birds to be seen - maybe it was just a little too soon in the season. But the other most noted for me as the Robin I saw while walking back from viewing the great rock structure that makes up Brownshill Portal Tomb. There were a good number of birds chirping in the trees along the path leading to the structure - a near hedge of shrubs intertwined with the trees over our heads. I got a quick glimpse of a colored bird, and then again when we were just about back to the car park. I had heard earlier in passing that the robins in Ireland are smaller than the ones in North America, so when I quickly flipped through the pages of my Birds of Europe, and found on page 276 the same as described to me earlier in the week, I had my first confirmed new identification in Europe.

I didn't get a photograph of the little Robin, and the photograph of the Rooks in the rock walls of the castle didn't turn out well, so a few other sight seeing photographs around Duckett's Grove Castle are presented instead.

Castle and jet fuel precursor
Behind the castle
An abandoned bridge, as the house
Bluebells outside the walls
Return path from a dead end
Enter the garden
The formal abandoned estate's garden
A superfluity of nuns on an outing

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hedgerows And An Irish Sunday

I am on a business trip to Ireland, and flew over the night from Newark - arriving in Dublin at 6:00 AM - five hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. My host picked me up, and we drove south to County Carlow. Once there, the inn was still full from the night before, so I ate a leisurely breakfast reading the Sunday morning paper looking out the fourth floor window at the pastures bordered by hedgerows, and then took four half-hour naps sitting on a couch, waiting in the lobby. The room was ready at noon, and another one of my hosts picked me up for a ride out into the countryside and an early-afternoon meal at the restaurant in the Rathsallagh Country House, a Victorian era country lodge at a golf course.

Green are the hills, pastures, and roadsides, 
All bordered by hedgerows following curving paths.

Climbing vines cling to spring lit walls,
Capped by slate shingles tinged with moss.

Hot tea poured through a strainer,
Good conversation of things old and new -
My first Irish Sunday.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Free Association - French Art At A Play

The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux
A few more exchanges with the Director of the Plainfield Public Library. He mentions how the Encore Un Peu painting by Ellie Bogardus reminds him of a tea scene in The Madwoman of Chaillot. I hadn't heard of this play before, so here is a clip from the movie with Katherine Hepburn. The movie setting looks much more elegant than the photograph from the play that was presented at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (1)

March 31: Thanks for all the info.  I look forward to going through it.  Funny how someone thought she was quite old back when I bought the painting.  I guess in Southern California 50 must have seemed old by the those in the eternal-youth culture. Best, Joe

April 1: When I saw Ellie's painting, it struck me as very French, as if it could have been a depiction of the tea-party scene in "The Madwoman of Chaillot", one of my favorite plays.  That's still what I think of every time I look at the painting. Thanks for sending all the links.  It has been fun reading about her and her work. Regards, Joe

I let Mathias Bonnard (2) know that another Ellie Painting had been location. His response, "There is a mystery about how Ellie's paintings are dispersed." I agreed - the hunt continues.
(1) MIT obviously not only puts on plays, but this year its Division III basketball team made it to the Final Four Championship. I learned of the latter at a meeting hosted by the FAA at which the moderator - the Dean of Engineering - happened to mention this in a passing remark when one of the student competition winners was not able to attend and receive his award.

(2) I also located a book cover drawn by Mathias, it can be viewed by clicking here

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Time Waits For No Man, But Some Commuter Airlines Do

The lunch menu
Back in February, I did a whirlwind work trip for meetings and site visits in Washington, Idaho, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Oregon, and then Iowa - on the last leg back to Maryland. The modes of transportation were planes, rental cars, cabs, and shuttles. I almost missed one of my connections between Pendleton and Portland, Oregon when my host and I were eating lunch in a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. For some reason, my Blackberry started buzzing even though it was on silent mode. I checked, and it was a call from my secretary in Maryland trying to get hold of me because the SeaPort Airlines agent at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport was calling asking whether I was going to catch my flight.

I said, "Yes, the flight is an hour from now, and we are just a mile or so from the airport."

My secretary replied, "No, it's right now, and they are holding the plane."

After a few more clarifying statements, we were off to the races in a pickup.

"I'll drop you at the door, you go and check in." My friend said.

When I rushed in the door, the airport was empty. I found my way to the hallway that led to the boarding gate - no metal detectors, no TSA agents. The ticket agent was out on the tarmac caught a glimpse of me and then looked at the pilot and gave the "cut the engine" sign.

She came in with me, friendly as friendly could be, looked at my ticket and entered me in the computer, and then back out the door we went.

As I boarded the plane, the pilot and copilot were sitting casually in a couple of seats, and immediately as I sat down, the pilot began a narrative explaining where the fire extinguisher was, the handle for releasing the door, and other features of the plane. I was the only passenger on the plane - no wonder they were so patient - no other airline I know of provides just-in-time arrival accommodations like this. 

He asked if I had any questions, and said, "You fly a lot, don't you?"

I replied, "Yes." He and the co-pilot smiled, and climbed into their cabin. They continued with the small talk. I asked whether either flew in the military. The co-pilot said no, but the pilot explained he was a Marine helicopter pilot, and then when he got out, it was less expensive to rent a plane than an helicopter to take family and friends flying, so kept at it and got his commercial license, and now this is where he is.

Being in a small plane, I was able to take pictures during the one hour flight from eastern Oregon to Portland. As I looked over the shots, I thought of a blog I wrote back in January 2010, with these photographs from that short trip fitting the verses.

We travel back west every December,
Home for Christmas,
Grown kids and and grand children in their homes,
No house of our own. 

Accommodating co-pilot and pilot

Early-morning drive to BWI,
Connecting flights through Midwest cities,
Hoping for good weather,
Eventually landing at PDX. 

Aerial boundaries - above the clouds

Whether clouds or not,
There, out the window, when
The plane gets low enough to the ground,
Postage-stamp-sized farm fields come into view.

Willamette Valley in February

Subtle brown earth tones where vegetables will grow in summer,
Accented dark and light-green hues of Douglas firs and lichen-covered oaks,
The approach skirts the Columbia River,
Parallel to the runways.

Vancouver, Washington across the Columbia River

Oregon on this side, Washington the other,
Only minutes earlier Mount Hood was eye level,
Adams, Rainier, and Saint Helens peak above,
Rolling mountains beside and beyond.

Mt. Hood, looking south

No matter how settled we feel in the east,
Living so far away from what is still familiar,
Even without our own house to gather,
This place we still call home.