spider time   2 comments

10259983_10152083686661546_6502648281315963197_n.jpgearly onset autumn is making me a little melancholy.

not a LOT. i mean, life is good, and it is still summer.

but the signs are rampant.

when i got up pre-dawn today the still-fat moon was wreathed in mist. when i went out to fill the bird feeder in the pearly light, the grass was swathed in hundreds and hundreds of the tiny delicate spiderwebs that presage autumn.

the big spiderwebs were strung across the manure pile. to get in and dump my load i had to carefully pinch off a judicious thread, here and there, to give me access without destroying all the masterworks. i didn’t see any occupants, but an interested mosquito hung about, so i guess the spiders are eating well.

jasmine is still a sleek and glossy gunmetal blue, but the first hints of her pale winter coat just came through. just this morning. i swear they weren’t there yesterday.

the ol’ man and i suddenly realized yesterday that we’ve only had the Goldberry out ONCE this summer. we haven’t gone tubing with the kids at all.

wtf?

the calendar says it’s still summer, even though i haven’t been able to swim for days. my hummingbirds haven’t left yet, although they’re beginning to swarm. my flowers are bright and thick. the pastures need to be mowed. the fountains are tinkling merrily.

but the spiders say that autumn is coming early this year.

khairete

suz

Posted August 10, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Last Day at Gramarye Cottage…..   Leave a comment

19420668_10154662147916546_9097733726135534946_n.jpg

 

and incidentally, the last Ireland post (since I blogged earlier about our actual last day.)

And the title’s a little misleading, since we didn’t actually spend the day at the cottage. But there you go. It was still our last full day at our beloved little temporary Irish ‘home’, and a fine day it was.

Not fine in the weather sense, of course. Not as relentlessly rainy as the day before, which was probably the worst weather day of them all, but it still rained, and the sun only put in occasional glimmers.

Slept better than the night before but still not particularly well, and went briskly through our morning routine (amazing how much faster it goes with no inTrawEbZ to distract me) and we were off to Parke’s Castle in County Sligo.

Like Enniskillen, Parke’s is a very nice castle in a very *managed* sort of way. I enjoyed it more, perhaps simply from being better rested. We got in for free, which was nice, because a large part of the castle was shut off for renovations, which was a pity. There was a fairly lengthy video to start with, and a lovely old well in the courtyard, and fine big battlement walls and an overgrown moat, and some nice dioramas and gorgeous woodwork in the castle, and a stormy grey sea billowing in the rain outside.

But Sligo Abbey was a gem. Just magnificent, ruined glory, SO much fun to scramble around. David liked it even better than Boyle, and I get it. Sligo is less fussed-with. Its stones lie where they fall, and there are marvelous obscure creepy subterranean chambers with broken bits of sarcophagi just begging to be tripped over, and dark doorways into dank places that drip, and graves EVERYWHERE. I love Boyle for its many and various and strange and Pagan-esque carvings, but Sligo’s slow decay is mesmerizing, especially set as it is right smack in the middle of a very busy, bustling town. We crawled over every inch of it and took so many pictures I’m afraid my phone will melt down when I try to upload them all.

One of my favorite things to see was James ______’s grave. His last name, his birth and death dates, and even his dear old mum’s name were all ruthlessly expunged, leaving only the mystery as to why this poor fellow had been so badly dissed after his expiration. What did he do to warrant being X-ed out like that although not (presumably) exhumed and evicted? Also the engraving reads ‘Here lies the boby of James….’ giving rise to the supposition that the engraver was illiterate. I myself think he may just have been a poor speller.

When we finally tore ourselves away we decided to lunch in Sligo, and remembered that my brother Richard, who came to Ireland with his wife a couple of years ago, told us that he’d had the best lasagna of his entire life while in Ireland. And since Richard is my much much much older brother, so old and wizened and desiccated and gnarled as to be absolutely fabulous, he may actually have something useful to say about lasagna.

On the other hand he’s a vegan and lasagna is cheesy, so it’s very suspect, but he confesses to indulging in the creamy goodness of cheese when he was there. And he was right- we went to an Italian restaurant where David got a calzone the size of a small baby and I got the best lasagna I may have ever had. Then we wandered briefly, snapping the shot of the pretty bridge at the start of this post, before heading off for our next adventure, the Megalithic Cemetery just outside of Sligo.

Next to ruined abbeys and castles, stone circles and prehistoric grave sites are pretty much my favorite thing in the world. I had no idea that this site was so huge, and so very very very packed full of ancient stoney burial things- dolmens and circles and capstones and one gigantic hollow herm. People brought their dead, and the offerings that went with them, to this place for thousands and thousands of years, going back 5700 years, older than Gilgamesh. We know nothing about the rites they performed, the prayers they sent up, the dances or religious plays they may have enacted, the music they played, the tears they wept. All of the details are lost in the mists of time, and the stones and the eternal grass hold their secrets and do not surrender them, but even across the lost millennia we can hold onto something they passed down to us along with our DNA and our upright posture- the strong call to honor and pay cultus to our beloved dead.

Rising magnificently behind the rolling fields of this cemetery is a hill topped by another burial mound, known as Maeve’s Nipple. Maeve was a legendary queen with tales much like King Arthur’s, with the expectation that she’ll ride out of her barrow with her warriors when Ireland has need of her. I imagine there have been a lot of folks pleading with her to make her grand return in recent centuries.

I felt no ghosts, and heard no whispers. I always hope I will, but I didn’t expect to and that’s good. I can’t honestly say whether it’s because there were a lot of tourists milling about, or that the site is so very ancient that all the spirits have long moved on, or if because my ancestry isn’t very Irish that I couldn’t hear them, or if I would need to be in ritual space, cleansed and prepared, in order to do so. But we were nonetheless moved and entranced and delighted and awed.

Didn’t hurt that there was a riding stable right across the road, and pastures full of beautiful horses and placid cows all around the acres and acres of peaceful dead.

Back in Leitrim County we decided to try and get into a lovely ruined church we’d passed many times near the cottage, but for which there didn’t seem to be a parking lot or any information. We just parked in front of the forbidding iron gates, and were pleased that there was a stile sort of arrangement that let us in. Like Sligo the main purpose of this one, called Fenagh Abbey, is apparently to be a cemetery, but this one is modern. We couldn’t get into the building itself, but through the cast iron gates we could see very neat and well-tended graves, obviously fairly recent, as well as a mix of old and new graves in the yard around the church. We poked about happily for a little while, took a few pictures and headed out. When we exited the gate we saw another car parked just a few feet from ours with a gentleman standing outside it. He didn’t speak or give us a dirty look or anything, but his presence was very clear- ‘Wot are you Americans doing poking around our cemetery? Clear orf, nah!’

And we did.

Back home for a nice tea by the waterfall, and a final early evening walk through the faery gardens. I loved seeing how drawn David was to the deep dark under the trees. He has Druid in his blood, I have no doubt.

David packed when we came in. I tried but wasn’t feeling it, so took my farewell offerings around the gardens in the deep dusk, candies and strawberries and cream. I knew the morning would be busy, so took my time and lingered in the most numinous spots, sending love and thanks.

I will never forget the spirits of this beautiful, beautiful place.

Posted July 7, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Northern Ireland and Rain   Leave a comment

IMG_0649.JPG

 

Woke up Sunday morning to relentless rain after my first poor night’s sleep in Ireland, not a great combo. I had a cup of coffee which did almost nothing to revive me, but did manage to doze a little more on the couch. By the time we set out for our Northern Ireland day (in the relentless rain) I was still feeling pretty draggy.

Good drive up in spite of the weather, and I drove for a fair bit of it so David could sightsee. We finally drove through some actual mountainous areas, not seaside cliffs or big hills, and if there had been even a smidge of sun I’ll bet we would have stopped to take a zillion pictures and gasp. But as it was we just chugged straight on through to Enniskillen, just over the border (which is still wide open, pending Brexit complications.)

N.I. looks, obviously, like the Republic, since geography don’t care nothin’ about politics and boundary lines. But it’s different too, what with the signs being shown without the Gaelic (which is always listed first in Ireland) and the speeds in MPH, which was somewhat of a relief except that by then I was acclimated to Ks. But the roads are also wider and better paved, and with more visibility. I welcomed this, although the more groomed aspect overall didn’t please my Inner Wild Child as much as Ireland’s overgrown tangled opulence.

We made our way to Enniskillen Castle, our putative raison d’etre for making the drive, but I tell you true, I was just a little underwhelmed (possibly due to the relentless rain and poor sleep.) It’s a very nice castle, mind, but more of a museum, really. Very NICE museum, with interesting info and artifacts about the pre-literate history of the inhabitants of region, and some good dioramas about wars. But I tell you true, for me the highlight was the exquisite tea and cakes we had in the cafe.

I found a stone circle only 20 minutes from the Castle, and a stone circle was very much on my Things I Want To See list, so David obliged and we headed off, in the relentless rain. Enniskillen is a biggish town, but like the rest of Ireland, it ends so abruptly that it seems cut off with a sword, and you’re back out into the countryside again. A few miles of smallish roads (but not the nightmares around the Cottage which we now consider ‘home’) we found our stone circle, which we had all to ourselves due to the relentless rain. It was a fascinating circle, although there was little info on the site about it other than that some neolithic potsherds  had been found there. The wind was strong and bitter, and the rain relentless, so we walked around briefly and took some photos, but didn’t stay to listen for whispers, or for me to do a nice little EBR the way I was able to in the Lake District of England.

Next on our agenda was the Lough Ryan Castle, right nigh to our Cottage in Mohill, so back home we drove, and were treated on the way to the odd slice of sunshine slanting through the clouds and lighting up a mountainside, which just thrilled us.

You can see why people ask us what we’ve been up to and we just gaze blankly at them. It can’t be quite normal to be that dang tickled about a sunbeam. In our defense, the rain had been relentless.

Lough Ryan Castle promised, according to the handy brochure, a druid altar (spelled alter in the brochure, Gods give me strength) and dolmen. Well, we drove round and round and up and down and found not a friggin’ thing except a huge tarted up trophy resort. We finally flagged down a waiter in a parking lot, who looked blank and then told us where to go to find it, but said it was so overgrown that it was probably impossible to locate. And he was right.

Boo hiss to Lough Ryan Castle for having a druid altar and not bothering to maintain so much as a footpath to it with a wee sign.

This disappointment after a day of relentless rain sent us home slightly despondent, so we built a fire and snuggled in blankets in front of it. Then David fixed a dinner that couldn’t be beat, and when we finished the sun burst through, briefly but miraculously. We cheered and went out for a post dinner walk, for miles, through fields of splendor on lanes paved with magic. Thus the day ended brilliantly, and we tucked ourselves in happily for an early night.

Posted July 6, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

When there’s a pony involved, Suz is happy   2 comments

19399765_10154647622571546_5158629805471735947_n.jpg

 

So you can see what the highlight of MY Saturday was!

But we’re not there yet. Since these bloggedies are for me to enjoy when I forget I’ve written them and come back to re-read in ten years, let’s go back to the start of the day with yet another good night’s sleep (most of my Ireland sleeps were lovely) and woke to grey skies. Managed to get out t he door earlier, and lo and behold, for the the first time since we arrived at Gramarye Cottage the sun burst out as we drove off, and we left in sparkling sunshine, which was magnificent. It didn’t seem possible for our little slice of heaven to be even more magical, but Ireland keeps on giving in that department.

We drove to Leitrim Village and found the canal Eugene had suggested. He hinted that we might see otters, which we didn’t, but other than that it was wonderful, one of those little humble hidden gems that people aren’t going to divert to from doing the Big Attractions, but totally rings our weird little introverted chimes. We opted for the longer walk, the 10k, and set out still enjoying brilliant skies and wildflowers that positively seemed to glow.

There are paths on both sides of the canal, and in some places water on both sides of the paths so there were zebra stripes of water and path, splashing and chuckling and being all wet and lush and all shades of green and flowery and ripply and spectacular. Occasionally we’d pass stands of woods so dark they seemed to lead to another dimension, and which breathed out air 20 degrees colder than that on the warm sunny path. Ireland magic being what it is, few of the photos we took of the Dark Realms came out showing anything close to what they looked and felt like in the Outside World. But the legends of pookas and kelpies take on a new resonance when you stop and peer into one.

We were lucky enough to come upon a lock just as boat was waiting to go through. A lovely young man who had passed us in his car, presumably when he got the call from the boatman, was closing the water gates and opening the sluices, and we got to watch the whole shebang. Living on the C&O Canal, one of the world’s best, means we’re no strangers to towpaths and locks, but the ones by us are charmingly defunct (and I like them that way, don’t get me wrong) so it was nice to see one operating as locks have for lo these many years. A young man sat nearby in a silver Mercedes smoking cannabis.

By the time we got back it was, of course, raining lightly but still pleasant. We sat on a picnic bench in the parking lot and ate the wraps I’d packed for us, and chatted with an Irish couple who were vacationing in their Winnebago from County Meath, and whom we’d watched kayaking more or less on our route.

Weird Suz note- they offered us a ‘nice fresh cup of tea’ and I went into Unprepared Introvert Panic, stammering something about having to be somewhere and fleeing for the car. I asked David later if I’d been rude and he said yes and that it would have been nice to have tea and chat with them. And of course it would. But I shrieked that he needs to step in when he sees me making social faux pas and rescue us both, I just can’t be relied upon to behave rationally when People are involved, now, can I?

We WERE still in search of an internet cafe for our doomed quest to download our Baking Show, so after escaping the terrifying social situation I took a rare turn at the wheel and got us to Drumshanbo, where we indeed found a cafe, but no wifi. But we had really good coffee, and baked treats (David’s vanilla cupcake was great, my G/F S/F caramel square was super disappointing, what did I expect, duh?) We also tried to get some more euros from a bank machine which rejected us rather snidely, and surprisingly, since Capital One had told us we’d have no problem using it. And to be clear we never did have a problem buying stuff, but it never did give us cash. We were a little concerned as we still had several days ahead and our cash stash was dwindling.

But little woes were easy to put aside, because this took us up to the time for my much-anticipated trail ride. We got there early (how could I stay away when we were right there?) and my horse was being used in kid’s birthday party, so David settled in the car with my hotspot to have a nice technology catch-up. I picked out a helmet and sat in the office bouncing like a 7 year old, and when two girls like unto my Younger Self offered to show me around the barn I practically skipped after them. The talkative one had an accent my poor old ears just could NOT decipher (and possibly a speech impediment) so luckily for me the other one quietly translated when it became clear that I wasn’t going to get it. But the bottom line was that we all spoke Horse and it was just too fun. Lovely horses, but much like the Warwick Riding School of my childhood, standing on concrete with no bedding. The manure was mounded into astonishing hills, they must have trucks come cart it away. The school horses are mostly field kept, I gathered, so the only ones who live in are the boarders and the one school horse on ‘box rest’, which I suppose isn’t much of a treat. Finally it was time, and the very nice and kindly instructress got me mounted on my lovely piebald Gypsy horse, Curly. As it happened, both the girls who were showing me around said Curly was their favorite, but that he could be ‘a wee bit lazy’ and liked to eat grass a lot. Also that they had both ridden him in their lessons earlier that day, so while I did find the poor fellow pretty lazy, he was actually probably just plain worn out. But oh oh oh, how marvelous it was to sit in a saddle, fiddle with the stirrups, find the rhythm, and look at the world from the vantage point of a long neck and two ears.

After years on Nik I found it odd to have to use my legs that much, and a fair bit of the ‘tickle stick’ as the trainer called it too. He had a nice walk and trot, but died out as soon as he could possibly manage it, and no fault to the hardworking fellow either. I rode a little in the nice indoor under the watchful eye of the instructor, and was thrilled beyond measure that a) I hadn’t totally lost it and b) my knees and the rest of me too didn’t scream with pain. I’ve never forgotten how horrified I was to get on April after years of not riding and not being able to post, and I was pretty sure it would happen again, but no! The video David took of me didn’t even look half bad at all.

A somewhat sullen young woman called Amy got on a chestnut, and the two of us headed out. I was pretty thrilled to be the only one on the trail ride, and once Amy figured out that I could ride reasonably well she warmed up a little. We trotted along a small road and out onto the main road, and through a roundabout, all of which had my Little Girl squeeing with joy as this was the sort of trail ride I took so many, many times as a kid, with the traffic courteously letting us by, and me feeling like a queen, aboard a nice pony. We made our way through some new construction and then onto a lovely, lovely green path by a river, with the trees arching over us in leafy Irish bowers. There we bumped it up to a canter, which also felt comfortable, familiar and (under the circumstances) positively thrilling. Amy’s horse was slower than mine so old Curly kept dropping out into a trot, but I was still on Cloud 9.

Which was, incidentally, the name of *my* pony at WRS. So I wasn’t actually on my long lost and much beloved Cloud 9. But you get the picture.

Then we went back to the barn and past it to an upland trail through a nice field (muddy, but everything in Leitrim County is muddy) and had a few really nice canters, with the clouds skirling above us, the grass blowing around us, and mud flying up into my face, just like the Olden Days. I was in heaven. It was raining by the time we made it back to the barn, but I still had 10 minutes or so, so I joined in the kids’ lesson going on and did Round the World, to my own surprise and the amusement of the instructor. Then I tried to get Curly to give me a last canter around the ring, but he was so not into it and I didn’t have the heart to get after him, since he’d just given me a literal dream come true.

I dismounted and walked him back to the barn in the middle of the kids. The owner came out and asked how the ride was, and pointed out that my helmet being on backwards wasn’t a great sign. I was embarrassed, and so were Amy and the instructor for not picking up on it, but I tossed it off with ‘it started off right but the ride was so wild and wonderful it blew my helmet around!’

I was thrumming with delighted joy the whole way home, where I cooked us a splendid feast of roasted Irish potatoes and steamed broccoli with butter and cheese, and soda bread.

Then a night of writing by the fireside, a hot bubble bath and lots and lots of reading.

I’m not sure you can have a day much better than that.

Posted June 29, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

All’s Well That Ends Well   Leave a comment

The next day, Friday, tried to be that one obligatory blah day that even the best vacations often get, but it finished up marvelously in spite of itself. Started off luv’ly, a late sleep with the now-standard vivid dreams. I was thrilled to see the faery gardens flooded with brilliant sunshine, especially after last night’s magical FM ritual, but alas, it didn’t even last until I’d finished my first cup of coffee, and that was the last we saw of it the entire day.

Even without the internet to distract me it took me an hour to drink my coffee, have breakfast and do my obligatory morning puttering (which seems to be a necessity even when I’m not at the farm.)

David wanted to go the Folk Museum in Ballinamore, but I really wanted to get my ride in before the weekend crowds, or at least get it scheduled, so we got ourselves together and headed off to find the Hayden Equestrian Center in Barnacoola, one of the places mentioned on the many convenient brochures left for us in the cottage. I had tried to call, but our phones didn’t work in Ireland (yes, AT&T and I have had Words about THAT fiasco) and there was no reply to the text I sent, but I wasn’t sure if it had gone through. Next step- just go there, right?

Half an hour and lovely drive later (albeit down the now-familiar-but-still-terrifying tiny tiny country roads) our GPS guided us smartly- smugly even- to the stable. We passed a school on the way, which still blows my mind. There were houses scattered along all the roads, we really never saw anywhere in Ireland that was devoid of humans, but it didn’t seem NEARLY enough for a school, and you couldn’t get a mom van let alone a school bus down that freakin’ road. What do they do, parachute them in? Everyone drives? Kids – gulp – WALK to school? From miles around? Through fields? Surely children aren’t allowed to walk on those roads where the speed limit is 80k and the visibility 6 feet if you’re lucky?

It’s an unsolved mystery, as is Hayden Equestrian Center. The facility looked lovely from outside the big, firmly-closed iron gates. I got out to see if there was a bell or intercom, which there wasn’t, but as I poked about the gates woke up and slowly creaked open for us.

So you’d assume that someone saw us and let is in, right?

The barnyard was deserted, and there was no sign of anyone at the house near the gates. I got out and was immediately accosted by two tiny aggressive furiously yapping dogs. The white woolly one desperately wanted to bite me and kept bumping my leg with his nose, while the Jack Russell-y one contented himself with yelling madly from four feet away. A sign said ‘Office’ so I followed it, leaping and making futile screeches at the dogs, but it was locked and no one responded to my knocks.

I made vague gestures to David which were meant to say, “No answer, I’m going to look around” and which he pretended to understand.

I note that he didn’t get out and rescue me from the dogs. Just want to put that out there.

Call into the equipment shed. No answer. Nor at the very nice indoor arena. Half a dozen or more heart-stoppingly beautiful faces looked at me from a pen in the barn area, mostly of the white Connemara-ish variety, but they gave me no information on how I could climb aboard one of them.

Finally I got sadly back in the car, shaking my pants free from the wretched dogs, and we set off on plan B (or is it C?), the Moorland Equestrian Center, putatively half an hour away.

Or so we thought.

The GPS dumped us in the middle of Drumshanbo, where there was clearly no Equestrian Center, and pretended it was okay. We tried to call, but again our phones were of zero use. So we parked and thought we’d have some lunch and ask the locals for directions, but after we’d walked a block there was a big sign with an arrow. Excited (well, I was excited) we got back in the car and followed the arrow, but there were no more signs or arrows or anything vaguely resembling an Equestrian Center, other than a very gross and off-putting stockyard that looked like the last lap for any animal unfortunate enough to end up there. David saw a road he thought might be it, but there was no sign and we blipped past it and drove on. And on. And on.

It was gorgeous country we were driving through, but my inner 9 year old who had been SO excited at the prospect of getting on a pony was utterly broken-hearted. But what could we do? We finally admitted defeat and turned around to have that lunch we’d thought about back in Drumshanbo. Maybe at least we could find somewhere with wifi and persuade the Great British Baking Show to download to my Ipad. (That never happened the entire trip.)

At the sandwich shop the waitress told us were ‘about a minute’ away from Moorlands (we were in the middle of a dang town!!), so heartened by this news and some thumping good club sandwiches and chips we set off again, this time on foot, and you know what comes next, right? Sure enough, it was down the road David had thought it was on. The first thing we saw were two fat glossy golden Halflingers in a field of knee-deep emerald green grass. Next thing you know I had a reservation for 5 the next day for a trail ride with walk, trot and a ‘wee canter’, and I was literally as happy as a little girl.

155118_orig.jpg

Not EVERY horse there is a piebald gypsy horse, but an awful lot of them are, including Curly whom I was to meet the next day.

Next we went (finally) to the Folk Museum, which is actually NOT in Ballinamore, but Ireland is casual with directions. The Museum was simply delightful, not just for its displays but because we got the sole attention of tour guide Eugene, who was one of the few folks there who exuded the affable easy charm I was expecting of the Irish people. I’ll refer you to FB for the pics we took of it. Wish we’d taken more than one of Eugene.

Then it was home for tea by the waterfall, a walk around the Faery Woods, dinner by David, and I took a solo walk in the rain after dinner, as it was still full light at 9:30 at night.

And Bob’s yer uncle, we’ve made it to the weekend!

Posted June 24, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

The moons of summer (woo woo alert)   3 comments

The moon was elusive in Ireland, cloud-wreathed as our visit was, but I’m so happy that the full moon of Skiraphorion, my Rose Moon, my power moon, did put in an appearance or two. The night before it was full it rose silent and golden over the castle at Ballinalacken, lighting up the vast fields of grasses and wildflowers. The sky was so light between the moon and the outrageously late sunset (still light lingering at 11:30) that no stars were visible, just the moon and an occasional bat winging through the bright air.

In the months before the trip I carefully collected rocks, mostly from the mountains during hikes but also some from my little farm, and some crystals I’ve had lying around in bowls for who knows how many  years (I’m fond of rocks.) The kids laughingly refer to it as the ‘rock exchange program.’ The plan was to gift Ireland with some rocks infused with our local energy, especially from the nature spirits of the farm, and to bring some Irish rocks back to the various shrines here.

Well, my bag of rocks, lovingly wrapped in a soft bag and put near (I could have sworn IN) my suitcase disappeared. No Maryland rocks made it to Ireland. I was bummed, but what you gonna do? I took a libation vessel and some nice digestive biscuits and made my offerings (and apologies) at Ballinalacken, where the signs I got back were immediate, positive, and fairly amused. I was at the gates, after all, and Hermes was there.

The Gods of Ireland are not mine, and I can’t say as I got a big sense of them, or a deeper understanding of them, or got any clear messages from them. But I sure felt welcomed by them, and by the local spirits, at least for the most part. There are for sure and serious some dark pockets of energies there, ancient Things that humans are wise to leave unmolested. But the sweet scents, the timely rainbows, the whispers of laughter on the wind, the occasional sounds of bells from deep inside a hedge- the wonder was greater than the fear.

The night we arrived at the cottage was the full moon, and it was completed lost in thick clouds. Nonetheless I had an enchanted evening exploring the gardens and introducing myself, and settling into the warm welcome of Gramarye Cottage.

But the next night, the night technically after the FM, the clouds parted, and I was off to the gardens. I took a cup of cream and a bowl of candies, with no clear idea of what I was going to do, and just let it move me. As I lit the candles in the little hut on the deck the moon lifted herself up from behind the hill and the towering old growth trees to the east, and I was drenched in silver.

What I said and did will remain between me and Them, but I’ll carry it in my heart forever. It was a ritual beyond words, performed in a faery forest, in a land steeped in myth and magic. I stood in places so black I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, my heart pounding in fear. I fell into a thorn bush and left blood. I danced with rustling shadows until my blood coursed and my skin became transparent. My shadow, cast on the living waters and moving flowers, was beautiful. I spun silver webs from my fingertips and tangled us all in them.

Afterwards I slept like a baby.

Posted June 21, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

From cave to cottage   Leave a comment

We were a little sad to leave Ballinalacken Manor. We loved the castle, the grounds and the gorgeous countryside, and there was so much more to explore. We decided that next time it’ll be 3 nights, not just 2, in an area we want to get to know. 5 nights would still be a good amount to spend in the cottage.

The Burren country of Clare and Galway is so glorious. We didn’t make it to the Burren itself, but I’m so glad we got to meet, however briefly, the windswept fields and rugged shoreline. I don’t think I mentioned in my earlier entries that at one point I walked behind the manor house just to explore, and found some beautiful woods full of trash, with an old stone cottage or summer house decaying into bits. It felt blighted, totally out of place with the manor and castle and the broad expanses of wildflower fields in front. I did a cleansing, and hope it helped. But that was the only thing that jarred. The rest of the area was simply incredible, and I had some intense, moving, magical experiences.

After another pleasant but forgettable breakfast we loaded up and headed for Doolin Cave, our final Burren stop before heading to the now-eeky prospect of Leitrim. It’s a very nice cave, and the guide was charming and knowledgable, and I think one of the owners of the property. It was a pretty big group and I was near the back so I missed some stuff. It was raining (naturally) but what I grooved on almost more than the cave were the gardens leading to it, complete with enigmatic goats with Satanic eyes.

If you’ve been to Timpanogas in Utah, or Luray in Virginia, or even our own little Crystal Grottoes in Boonsboro you’re not going to have your hair blown back by Doolin. I like caves (although I’d never spelunk, the story and pictures from the crazy people who discovered this one could give you nightmares) and I really liked the huge centerpiece stalactite around which this feature is built, but nothing else was particularly memorable.

I gulped and offered to drive so David, who was feeling much improved but still not 100%, could sightsee. We had walked down the road we were about to drive so I already knew how narrow it was, but I couldn’t expect the poor man to do all the driving for the rest of the trip, so I figured I’d better bite the bullet and get it done.

I’m so glad we opted for the coastal road. It was absolutely spectacular. Unfortunately we didn’t take any pictures at all- I know, those of you who are FB friends are amazed that I put the camera down for a minute, but, you know, driving on those roads is not conducive to spontaneous photography, especially in light but persistent rain. I’m sure the cliffs and rocky beaches and flower-filled little villages and high pastures and brooding forests are equally awe-inspiring in the brilliant Irish sunshine, maybe even more so, but after a lifetime of eerie and often downright frightening Celtic myths and faery tales, seeing this landscape wreathed in mist and rainbows was something I’m not likely to forget, even with my crumbling brain. I adjusted fairly quickly to the roads, and while I couldn’t gaze about at leisure, I certainly saw enough to fall under the spell of what I later heard called the Wild Atlantic Coastal Area.

Eventually we hit the freeway for a long stretch, which wasn’t as scenic, but really, whatever parts of Ireland are ugly, we never came across. Even the miasmic woods behind Ballinalacken were beautiful. And I tell you true, it was a relief to just drive on a real road for an hour or so, without trying to dance the impossible place between thick hedgerow scraping the passenger side and the oncoming lorry.

Then it was off the nice roads and onto little roads. Tiny roads. Silly ridiculous roads barely as wide as the farm lane that leads to Moonshadow, but with speed limits of 80k. The country turned to rural farmland, seriously Shire-ish, which is a type of country that makes my heart go pitter pat, but it was pitter patting more from sheer nail-biting terror that I might encounter an oncoming car. Fortunately it almost never happened.

Our luck ran out when we were well into Leitrim, and our Google Maps dropped us. Not totally, but it started to bug out, and we were so very relieved to have both the printed maps that David had sensibly made before we left the U.S., and the emailed directions from the cottage owner. David took over driving, and as usual stayed calm (carefully, studiously, determinedly calm) as my anxiety rose.

Flipping rapidly between the maps, the GPS and my email, we made our way mostly by trial and error to and through the town of Mohill. It really isn’t very far from there to the first turn off, but tired and worried and in the rain it felt as if we had to be on the wrong road. But no, there was the (defunct) Murphy’s Ale House on the corner exactly as Kerry-Lynn said it would be, so we turned off onto a road so tiny it had grass growing up the center. Eventually we came to the yellow house as expected, took the sharp left we were supposed to make, and were on a road even tinier. Expecting to get crushed by a tractor around every (blind hairpin) turn, we came to a point where we could either go straight or go left. David started to go left, but I shrieked that we hadn’t reached a landmark and had to go straight. He started to say that the road seemed to bear left, but, probably more to stifle my bleating than anything else, backed up and went where I thought we should go. We ended up in a farmyard, inched our way a little further on and came to a living Kerberus, three enormous boxers who glared at us with unblinking eyes and were so closely packed they really did seem to share a body. Then they started barking. Then they came at us. If I’d been driving I’d have had that Jetta up and over one of the fieldstone walls, but David smoothly backed her up and turned her around in the (unwelcoming hostile) farmyard (probably inhabited by cannibalistic psychopaths) and got us out of there. We went the way he originally planned (and the next day I could see that yes, the road such as it was actually did bend that way, but don’t tell him I said so) and on past another house and more hedgerows and a few farm fields and pastures and then into thick dark wet forbidding woods while the road kept getting tighter and tighter, and our poor little Jetta’s proximity alarms kept going off, and my hair was standing up straight on my head. And then it happened. The road sign we looked for, Tour de Hubert, was there before us. One left (the car dinging madly) and there was the cottage.

Out in the rain, fumbling to read the code for the lock box off my email, unpadlock the gate, get the wretched car into the rather ugly little back yard, and finally we hauled our tired wet jangle-nerved selves and our various boxes and bags into the high-ceilinged kitchen of Gramarye Cottage.

My first impression was mild dismay. As I said, the backyard where the car went was nothing like the amazing photos I’d seen online, and the cottage was chilly and felt damp. It was super cute, but without luxury, and while I’m not a luxury-needing gal, I was feeling a little fragile after the harrowing last 10 miles or so of our journey, and the soothing whispered elegance of the Merrion was suddenly something I wanted desperately.

We did some basic unpacking and poked about the cottage. We were pleased to find plenty of wood ready to start a fire in the wood stove later, and to my great delight, a bathtub, since I had thought I read in Tripadvisor that it only had a shower. The upstairs bedroom is reached by a ladder. The downstairs master bedroom bed was surprisingly small (a ‘three quarter’ which I’d never heard of before) but the heat fired up with a reassuring rumble, the kitchen was pretty and super well-stocked, and the little living room inviting.

But we hadn’t passed through any towns big enough for a real grocery store, so had to venture out again and find the Tesco in Ballinamore, about 20 minutes away, another tense and nail-biting drive. We had been to Tescos in England and liked them, but this one is ghastly. It’s in the ugliest building I’ve ever seen, almost insultingly ugly. You would have to work at it to plan something so aesthetically displeasing. You walk underneath a low roof to get to the door, and then realize you have to go back outside (in the rain) to get a cart, and then realize the carts are locked together and you have to have a 20c coin to get them, which we didn’t have. But a lady who had walked by us before with a very typical Irish no eye contact and no smile heard us meeping, and came and put a coin in and pushed our cart at us, brushing off our stammered and effusive thanks. (More on the Irish people in a later post.)

The store is dismal, dank and none too clean, utterly without windows or any source of natural light, and everyone in it seems miserable from the shoppers to the check out clerks. A lot of the food was past the date, and some had been opened and partially eaten. When we got the checkout we discovered that Ireland doesn’t give bags (and really, good for them, but we were caught pants down). Luckily David spied some boxes and we grabbed them and made our escape.

We’d hoped to find somewhere in town to eat, but there was nothing appealing, only bars. So we slogged back home and cooked our own dinner, which was good, I was just so not into it.

But before I started cooking, and while David was building us a fire, I decided to go out and check out the gardens, the faery gardens I’d fallen in love with online, and see if I had made a good choice or doomed our vacation to the dismal backwater everyone in Ireland seemed to think it would be.

And that’s when the magic happened.

I’m not going to describe the gardens here and now. I’ll refer you to my FB page (and I’ll soon have them sorted into albums, I don’t at this writing) but even wordy people like me can’t get everything into words.

Those two acres or so are jam-packed with fae, with magic light and dark, and with ancient spirits. I’ve never seen anything like them. I knew right then that I was going to do a lot of magic while I was there. When I came in I had a hawthorn leaf in my hair.

While I was in the bathtub a Goddess image formed on the window, made of steam.

We realized that David had left part of the charger at Ballinalacken so not only did we have no phone or tv or wifi, we also didn’t even have the capability to charge our various devices. We’re not that plugged in, or so we thought, but it seemed a bit Luddite even for us.

But also pretty exciting.

Posted June 20, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized