In conjunction with Amy Bogard (www.amybogard.com) Irish Blessings Tours is pleased to announce our collaboration in creating an Irish Sketch Tour. Based on Amy’s Sketchbook and Journal workshops back in Cincinnati, Ohio we are now going to take the concept on the road to Ireland.
Dates are still to be confirmed but we have penciled in the last weeks of September/early October for the tour in 2013.
Want to know a bit more about the concept?
Well, check out Amy’s blog to see what she has done on her tours to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico. And read how my own love of poetry, and haiku in particular, lends itself to experiencing Ireland on tour.
Smouldering Lough Talt
Hemmed in by the hills
Cloud above the cauldron
In August 2011 I guided Amy and her friends around my part of the world – West Cavan in Ireland – a landscape of myth, megalith and sacred power places. It turns out that Amy leads groups who journal their trips through art. While I am a deep devotee of art, that gene passed me by. I did, however, get the writing gene and while Amy wields her drawing pencil, I journal trips by writing haiku.
Haiku is a Japanese poetry form, deceptively simple and fiendishly difficult (but fun!) if you play by the classical rules. It is simply three lines composed of no more than seventeen syllables. The classic format is lines of 5,7,5 syllables but these days we tend to play it a bit looser since we are not writing in Japanese after all. There is generally a ‘seasonal’ word that tells the reader the time of year for the scene. It also is alive to the natural world, which then can stand for the universal, even Zen, truth. Unlike English poems we don’t use simile and the metaphors are very oblique. What you aim to do is to capture a moment in time and share the feeling/seeing/hearing/sensing with the reader. Using the seasons as a leitmotif the little poem aims to capture mood, moment and image.
A cow’s anguished moo
A calf taken from its mother
I generally have a small notebook in my handbag and haiku is a convenient way of jotting down what I am experiencing. I’ve been a professional foreigner for more than thirty years. I left the USA in 1980 and lived in England, where I met my Irish partner, for twenty years. We moved to Ireland in 2001. We live deep in the country on an acre where we garden organically. For someone who loves nature and needs solitude and quiet it is like heaven. Only better, because I’m alive to enjoy it.
Through poetry I not only met my partner, I also made other friends. One of those poetry buddies suggested to a group of American women that they let me organise a tour for them over the Festival of Brigit, who also happens to be the matron goddess/saint of poetry.
So poetry gave me my new vocation as tour guide and creatrix of tours for people who want to immerse themselves in an authentic Ireland. This Ireland is not always furnished with an interpretative centre but allows the visitor to draw their own conclusions. It does allow the visitor to experience for themselves, take the pulse, to be inquisitive and meet people in their locality.
Open-hearted traveling yields many pleasant surprises.
It is a way of touring that lends itself to journalling through art and poetry, in particular that three lined haiku that can get swiftly jotted in the pocket size notebook. To travel should engage your heart as much as other senses. Jotting down a haiku you often capture that heart sense. It captures that moment just as a photograph. But the poem or drawing uses your hand, muscle, coordination – and they are connected to your heart.
The roaring cascade
Raw assertion over rock
Lichen bearded glen
Amy wants to bring contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Amy at www.amybogard.com to express interest in joining us on this tour. We will forward full details of the dates, itinerary, and costs later in 2012.
While I know that it is conventional to read guide books (or this blog) to choose what to see and do in Ireland, I have always found that going at things a bit slant has proven more enriching. Besides, you have a lot of dreaming to do in anticipation of your trip. Guide books will help you with logistics but they don’t necessarily nourish the trip dreamer in any of us.
For this reason I have chosen seven (non-fiction) books that will whet your interest and help build anticipation for a tour of Ireland. These are the books that I have chosen to help interpret what you are going to be seeing on your tour of Ireland. There is a genre of books that recount other’s tours around Ireland. They are very entertaining and I’ve enjoyed several of them. By all means read them when you have a bad case of itchy feet. But while these might help you be patient as you wait for you take off date, they won’t help enrich your tour around Ireland. For that reason, although there are a number of fun and well-written books they haven’t made the final cut on this list.
- The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit – Patricia Monaghan’s book is part scholarship and part memoir with an artful juxtaposition of ancient and modern Irish themes, places and spiritual sensibility. The reader will get well acquainted with how myth plays out in Ireland’s geography.
- Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends – Marie Heaney (Nobel Laureate Seamus’ Mrs) gives a succinct retelling of Ireland’s legends and myths. While Monaghan will give you a sense of place, Heaney outlines the story in full, which will greatly enhance your sight seeing.
- Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology - Poetry is intrinsic to Irish culture, but with so many really good poets you could assemble quite a library. An anthology is the answer, exposing the reader to a wealth of Irish poets, including excerpts from Kavanagh’s The Great Hunger. I particularly like this anthology because it includes Irish language poets in translation. The translations are done by the top flight of Irish poets – Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, John Montague and Michael Hartnett.
- Ever Ancient Ever New: Celtic Spirituality in the Twenty-First Century – Even if you are not particularly interested in Celtic spirituality, Whelan’s book is a great explanation of the Irish Celtic sensibility and how it has developed from megalithic times to the advent of St. Patrick. If you are traveling to a country like Ireland steeped in both spirituality and religion, even if you are an agnostic, your tour of Ireland will be greatly enhanced by grasping the principles that have guided life on this island for millenia.
- Complete Irish Wildlife (Collins Complete Photo Guides) – Ireland is mostly rural and you are likely to encounter unfamiliar birds, flowers, insects, etc. in your travels. This handy guide has a a complete flora and fauna with colour photographs to help you identify. If you don’t have this in your rucksack when you tour Ireland you are sure to regret all those unanswered questions! In the absence of a naturalist tour guide this book will be invaluable.
- To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings – The late John O’Donohue did much to explain and reflect on the preoccupations of Celtic consciousness with his best selling Anam Cara. This book will help prepare you for your trip to Ireland with a blessing. It will also acquaint the reader to all manner of practice Irish blessings for the conventional occasions as well as offering of way of seeing the blessedness of less welcome circumstances.
- Meeting the Other Crowd – The great Eddie Lenihan was a famed storyteller from County Clare. In this book, co-authored with Carolyn Eve Green, you will get initiated into the fairy culture of Ireland. Lenihan is steeped in the oral storytelling tradition and Green has rendered it to capture that oral telling of the faeryfolk. Well worth reading if you plan of doing some fairy hunting on your tour of Ireland.
All of these books will make good armchair travel experience. But while you are preparing for your trip to Ireland you can spend many happy hours getting acquainted with the culture that has been shaped by the land and the stories they have told to explain it all.
Bee Smith created Irish Blessings Tours to serve travelers to Ireland who want the unique and inspirational packaged for their group’s desires and needs. Bee seeks the source to manifest your dream Irish vacation according to your budget and time scale. She has a special interest in Fairy folklore, Celtic Spirituality and the Natural Heritage of western Ireland and Northern Ireland. In 2011 Bee became one of the first trained tour guides that act at ambassadors for the UNESCO designated Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Send her your dreams for your Ireland vacation package to email@example.com.
This is the final article in my A-Z of Things to See in Ireland series. And Z stands for getting your zzzzzzs! When touring Ireland sleep, rest and pacing yourself on tour is absolutely key to maximising your enjoyment of the sights, activities and people you meet. And if you decide to tour the Northwest of Ireland, with the purest air in Western Europe, be prepared for how unpolluted atmosphere work like knock out drops!
So pack your favourite PJs, some ear plugs, an eye shade and your favourite sleepy herbal remedy. Allow yourself a couple days to acclimatise to the new time zone. Allow yourself to see things at a leisurely pace. People watch. Get used to the new currency. Let your stomach curl with pleasure every time you hear an Irish accent and …EVERYONE is talking with an Irish accent! Gently ease yourself into a different culture. Pacing yourself while touring Ireland will pay off in maximising your pleasure over the days and weeks you spend with us.
For many North Americans a tour to Ireland may be a once in a lifetime trip and you want to pack in as much as possible over a fortnight or less. This is a mistake.
If you read this entire series you can see just about every item if your itinerary is planned with care. You don’t have to run rings around yourself trying to tour Ireland. By prioritising what you want to see you will begin to discover in this series that you can see many of things you want to see and do in Ireland are within a circular tour.