Have you ever found yourself inhabiting another person’s dream?
Well that’s exactly what happened to us one rare bright and sunny morning, when through a series of surreal events, we found ourselves dreaming in the posh front seats of John McAllen’s dream cars – a classic red Jaguar and a jet black Porche with cream leather seats.
These DREAM cars were brought to us at Knockninny jetty as we cooked our porridge. Part of John McAllens’ love affair with danger and risk-taking they are two of just nine fast cars that he owns. Though they are good looking vehicles their allure for him is less about beauty and more about the “danger flavours” he craves.
“There is no such thing as courage,” he says, “There is either fight or flight and I always choose fight.”
For him experiencing the exhilarating edge of danger is a kind of dreaming. Along with his single engine airplane and other fast cars these two cars are just some of his “danger dreaming props”.
On this same sunny morning we were able to update our “Alan Count“, having met 1-John McAllen. (John is a descendant of the Allendes via a shipwrecked sailor of the Spanish Armada . The original Allendes changed the name to McAllen to blend in with their new country of Eire) And 2-Alan of the lovely cottage and canoe, who has already been referenced on this blog. So that take us up to five Allens so far….. and how many Macs?
Dave Scott is a bit of a gem – I met him on a hill top on my “go see” visit to Marble Arch Caves Geopark last year. During DREAMING PLACE, he invited us to dinner with his wife and son and gave us a precious set of maps. He also invited us to accompany him and a group of kids from the Gortatole Activity Centre to Innishee, an island inhabited by crows on Lough MacNean. Listen here
Before swimming back to the boat Dave invited us all to look for chert tools on the foreshore. We squatted down and soon tools were popping out of the gravel like smarties. Claire and I dream of spending time with the the mesolithic people for whom the area was home some 7-8,000 BP. It is believed that Ireland was not inhabited by humans ’till the end of the last ice-age. So the chert tools probably belonged to these original inhabitants. We left our finds with the collection belonging to Gortatole Activity Centre.
Later on in our travels in the Geopark, on the shores of Higher Lough Erne, next to a Jetty at Crom we found even more prehistoric flints including a blade-like tool. I carried the blade in my pocket until I gave it to a young farmer from Galoon island who admired it. All his life on Galloon island and he never found such a thing. The blade is safe in his pocket, close to home.
As a child Margaret Gallagher was ” lazy”, or so she tells us. She didn’t want to do ANYTHING and that’s kind of lucky because she is still here in her family’s thatched, whitewashed cottage near Boho (pronounced Bow) in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark to invite strangers to breakfast and well….. to live out the dreams of others.
Her cottage is just too perfect to be true, but stop before you get all teary-eyed and nostalgic. Living totally off grid in the footsteps of her ancestors is really tough. A round trip for water is 25 minutes, which keeps Margaret fit but has been hard on her hips and shoulders. The fire must be kept burning or the house will literally fall down. The 2,000 year old bog oak timbers will buck off the thatch if the humidity levels rise so the fire has been burning for over 100 years, so there’s an awful lot of sawing, stacking, carrying and raking.
Some details of cottage life surprise us. The door is left ajar inviting light, air and company all year round…..a robin hops in the door during our visit to see what’s going on. She closed her door twice last year when the temperature outside dropped to -20 Centigrade. But most unexpected of all is that there is no loo. No quaint views from the open loo door under a blue moon then…. perhaps there is a (natural) bog out the back.
Her family kept a a laying hen, a “clockan”(?) in the bottom of the dresser and this was normal practice. This fact inspires us to settle down to do some drawing. We have been working on a collaborative DREAMING PLACE drawing and the cottage provides some major indoor input. Claire draws the dresser, I shade it in a bit and draw a hen in the left hand cupboard of the dresser and a mountain landscape in the other.
Margaret really is the most hospitable person and though she lives off-grid her cottage is literally on the map, meaning she receives visitors from all over the world. Her favourite visitors she tells us, are without a shadow of a doubt Japanese guests.
When we arrive at a little after 9am the table is laid with a feast fit for kings. This is one place Tesco actually has not conquered so the Mediterranean bread was hand baked in a cast iron pot above the fire with coal. Claire knows about this as she and Chris have a “dutch oven” at their place in Sunshine Valley (Northern New Mexico). It’s a really good scheme….
You put coals on the lid and the heat spreads evenly around the iron. As a counterpoint we learn how to make perfect white sliced toast on toasting forks over the hot coals and these are spread with the best of homemade black current jams.
This feels like a really really posh hotel!! I’m hoping that is a compliment.
The cave systems at Marble Arch Caves are infamous among potholers for their fickle ways. They can be dry one minute and very very wet the next; wet and of course highly dangerous.
Boho (pronounced Boh) caves were very very wet on the day we were invited to descend them. Even our guide, Les Brown, who is chair of the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation that operates from Marble Arch Caves Geopark, was astonished by the quantity of water roaring from its mouth. He was quite impressed.
From this photo I’m not sure if you can really appreciate that there is a whole river coming out of the rock, a whole river running right over what would normally be dry land. It can take as little as 10 minutes and up to 24 hours for rain to flood these caves. Conditions in these caves are dramatic!
You see, these limestone lands are literally full of holes and rain running off from mountains and out of bogs can literally pour back underground through numerous sink holes the moment it leaves the skies. Naturally the Marble Arch show caves are very closely monitored, water flows are measured around the clock and dangerous areas roped off. In “wild caves” where there is no monitoring equipment it is much more dangerous and caution and familiarity with the caves are key to safety.
Sadly because of the big river coming out of this Cave we didn’t get to explore Boho caves. Instead we contented ourselves with interviewing Les at the back bar (a carefully created cave-like room) of MacKenzies in the potholers bar.
A hydrogeologist and adventurer, Dr. Les Brown is chair of the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation and afficionado of potholing. In one of his stories he was buried alive in Ethiopia and in another came across porcupine quills in a cave. This is where drawing overlaps with dreaming. We drew a porcupine in a cave in our collaborative drawing the day before we met up with Les.
Hot and thirsty from our bike ride between Dowra and Blacklion, we happened upon the most hospitable old lady. She scuttled around the back of her cottage when she saw us; we were worried we had frightened her.
But in a moment the front door swung open and we became her privileged guests. We stepped over the threshold into her world of radio, scrubbed flagstones and a dresser packed with tea things and Easter cards.
Would we like biscuits, sandwiches, fairy cakes? Listen to our adventure by clicking play below for tea with an old lady. For us this was a fairy story….of hospitality to strangers.
It’s true that Elderflowers make wonderful fritters.
We made these for breakfast during our stay at Helen’s National Trust cottage on the Crom Estate, Marble Arch Caves Geopark. Our very special batter from chickpea flour was fermented overnight with Kefir, (our kefir is fed with soya milk) which is a bit unusual and means it is suitable for vegans. It is also wheatfree. Fried in red palm oil, our fritters have a light dusting of icing sugar. The plate is Helen’s.
Does this water in a frothy pool deep inside the Marble Arch Caves system remind you of another more appealing Irish liquid?
The original source of Irland’s beloved pint is known to those of us who have lived, worked or holidayed in Ireland. So this post is really just for those who have not drunk peaty water as it emerges fresh from the Irish Boglands, those of you who may live on sandy chalky soils or volcanic soils in other parts of the world.
So next time you pick up “the pint” in New Mexico or Spain remember that the smooth frothy head began life as an emergent pattern of bubbles in a cave full of peaty mountain run off. Sláinte!
More about magic potions later on when I finish my pint but first it needs to sit and…..dream….
In fact there are so many common spotted orchids dotted around the place, it’s hard to find a place to dream without squashing them. But though this orchid is seemingly common here, in other locations they really are rare because modern agricultural practices threaten their native grassland habitats.
Through conservation schemes, some farmers in the MAC geopark have agreed to take special measures to protect and nurture this native grassland and it is a wonderful thing to see. Much of this agricultural land is farmed organically like this plot belonging to Ignatius.
The hay from these special meadows smells like heaven. And I’m going to rustle up a little audio piece we recorded at the farm of Ignatius McGuire so that even if you cannot smell heaven you can hear about it. Listen to Ignatius on mowing here.
Ignatius himself is a rare breed. He farms his ancestral homelands in the way of his forebears. He is bursting with energy and scything really is a joy to him. His enthusiasm is contagious and he soon has Claire and I swinging the scythe.
It goes without saying we are very impressed. Even more impressed because this man’s vision is ecological in a big way. We can imagine 10 men (that is the traditional number to work a field) out there mowing and competing with each other for speed and skill. He is really chuffed that we are keen on learning his skill and invites us back in August to help him.
Shannon Pot (important site in the Geopark) was probably quite midgy (full of no see-ems) in the mesolithic. Late one evening as we slathered ourselves with natural bug repellent, we also worked out why some people are born with the potential to grow long floppy hair!!
A prehistoric roundhouse nestled behind the Geopark’s GortaMcConnell view point near Marble Arch Caves hosted our first Cross border Exchange.
We invited local artists from Visual Arts Fermanagh to bring an object or idea from their lives or cultures to share with the original inhabitants of a prehistoric roundhouse in the limestone hills close to the Eire/N.Ireland border.
Five artists trekked to the site carrying a gurgling baby plus their chosen objects: a brass key to bleed radiators, a mug with a frog on it and a red enameled teapot. A blue tin kettle, an antique china teapot and a beautiful retro enamel red teapot attended our tea party but embarrassingly we were missing the TEA. Both of us had forgotten to pack it! How did this happen?
We have done The Exchange many times but never never with lightening, midges, a baby, and a real campfire. The novelty hopefully made up for the lack of real tea and a the campfire lit to keep the midges away felt kind of homely.
We discussed the importance of tea and hospitality over a delicious tea substitute, an infusion of fresh raspberries. If the custom of offering tea disappears could a whole culture collapse?
Our Dreaming Place Field work is complete but we still have much to report and thoughts and ideas to share via our blog. Our MAC adventures are set to continue with more audio, story and image uploads (From Tuesday pm) so you can catch up on what happened.
This blog is a short one as WiFi is free here at the very charming Knockninny Country House and Marina, but plugins to the grid are very costly. Ideally we need 4 plugs for a couple of hours to recharge equipment, which works out £20 plus our drinks so I’m going to need your support to complete this blog.
To help us discover what dreaming IS, how it manifests, please use the comments facility on this blog. We welcome your contributions to our list of kinds of dreaming….
How do we dream? ie. Daydreaming, planning, drawing
What phrases do we associate with dreaming? ie. “in your dreams” or “away with the fairies”
Myriad lakes, rivers, canals, drainage ditches, streams and rivers meet together in the counties of Cavan and Fermanagh to form a truly extensive watery network linking these ancient lands to the Atlantic Ocean at Donegal bay.
Today inward and outward flow of people, animals and things mostly happens by road, rail and air. The axis of the world has shifted.
We gather wild garlic for pesto and the four of us (artist/musicians Susan and Alan and Claire and Anna) stand on the wooded shores of Lower Lough Erne chatting.
The evening lake is quiet, but tomorrow we’ll take to the lough in Alan’s double kayak, a flotsam score washed up on the shore. There is a round crannog type island we want to visit. We must tie a scarf onto a tree or we’ll not find our way back to the slipway of a ruined monastery. Alan tells us to head straight out then let the breeze blowing in from the west whisk us around the back of the island. It sounds so easy. Susan says the island vegetation is very dense and it’s not easy to enter the woods. For us it is a place of dreams.
Since the end of the last ice age some ten thousand years ago this waterway has brought international traffic and trade creating a rich infusion of culture, peoples and things. We try to imagine the hustle and bustle of the waterway in a different time as we stand on the shore of the lough on an early Christian slipway made by monks as part of their shoreline monastery. Today this slipway gives access to a pristine waterway, seemingly deserted, more scenic view than international trade route. However now, this beautiful lough is at the centre of a farsighted cross border initiative that will revitalize these Geopark homelands.
From the beating heart of Ireland boats, tourists, places and things will help to re-float the economies of Eire and Northern Ireland. It is a glorious shared vision or aisling (Irish Gaelic for dream).
One of the subthemes of our “traveling residency” is slow travel.
Through the generosity of people here our dreams of experiencing slow travel within Marble Arch Caves Geopark are becoming reality. We have rowed a Cott (a traditional boat of the area) and a rowing boat, walked the lanes, hills and footpaths, paddled a Canadian canoe, gone swimming, and of course ridden our bikes. It often seems quicker to swim or take a boat from one island to the next rather than driving long way round on roads. Some local people still use the waterways for local travel including trips to the pub. But most islands are now linked by bridges.
Today we are visiting some beautiful Irish horses and hoping for a ride out in the sunshine close to the peaceful Crom Estate. Horses are still very much a part of Irish culture in both the North and the South – something we really want to connect with.
We had tea on a narrow boat during our sojourn at Derryvore Jetty, just across the water from Crom Estate, where we have been dog-sitting. “The Puzzler” is a very fine contemporary narrow boat painted in traditional colors and fully kitted out. She runs on “red diesel” and her appliances are solar powered. In the winter her little stove burns wood gathered from local woodlands. Her owners, Andrew and Sally Rawnsley use their bikes to travel into towns and villages to buy fuel and provisions and they run a blog of their own. Visit their blog here.
Aisling, Irish for “dream or vision” is a central focus for our project. For these 40 days and 40 nights, we are keeping our eyes peeled for Aislings in all forms, as we sleep by night and exercise our imaginations, explore places, and interact with people and things by day. We’ve learned that as well as a vision or dream, Aisling is a girl’s name and pops up on signs, on the sides of boats and in songs!
Check out the Christy Moore video below to join us in our “Quest for Aisling”.
Drawing has a special place near the top of our now bulging dreamers toolkit! It’s fun and useful and a methodology that travels well.
Collaborative drawing is a way people can dream together. It’s also a valuable way to explore experiences, connections and ideas.
As our drawing grows our adventures deepen. Like the ancient fossilized coral reefs under our feet here at Marble Arch Caves Geopark, the nooks and cranniess created by our pens are home to interesting and unusual inhabitants. For the time we are here the rich biodiversity of our imaginations and dreams forms part of the wider Geopark ecology.
Dreams, thoughts and imaginings of people, places and things are part of the distinct ecologies of the planet.
DREAMING PLACE is an experimental project by Anna Keleher (Devon) and Claire Coté (New Mexico), investigating dúlra – ecosystem; dúchas– heritage; aisling – dream. Based on an ancient Celtic tradition in which the land remembers everything, the project explores “dreams of place” and how lands speak through dreamers.
I believe the work you do really helps people to value what is important about their place in space – keep it up.
-Dave Scott, Gortatole Activity Centre Facilitator, N. Ireland
I'm loving the sounds, smells, textures, and virtual visuals of Radio Dreaming! It's a 'mini-vacation'!!
-Gale Picard Dorion, NM
A wonderful project, reconnecting to and listening to inner/outer Nature is crucial in this time of ecological and ethical crisis.
-Colin Donoghue, NY
I just listened to Radio Dreaming and I enjoyed it so much. It was really beautiful and soothing to listen to because I could sense how "in the moment" you guys were through your voices. I need more stuff like that in my life; Inspiring and interesting and a bit higher up on the cultural ladder that my usual forms of entertainment.
-Jessica Scott, OR