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Posts from the ‘Climate Place’ Category

Pilgrim Tales: The Brazilians and Kelly

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“Belleza!!”

Our eyes open to four pairs of walking boots, eight pairs of black thermal legs topped by shorts.

“Erphff”

Too many people, too close, too early. Windmills  thrum in my head. I plunk my face back down into dew.

” It’s the B..r…a…Z….i….l…l…e….ñ…o…..s ” says Mark.

I raise my upper body inside my sleeping bag and waterproof layer, cobra like. Four Brazillians beam down at us like grinning gods.

“Bellezzzza” say the Gods.

We smile as widely as we are able at 6 am and utter the magic words”Buen Camino” and the Brazilians tramp off into the rising mist.

“Lets get up quick, before the next wave”says Mark.

And so it is that as a new pilgrim enters our domain we are up and dressed and eating a fine breakfast of cereal bars and figs.

“Oh man. This IS BEAUTIFUL” exclaims an American male. “NATUR- RAL PEEPO” he coos.

“Hellllll ooooooo!!!”

The pilgrim moves off the track and onto our campspot.

“I’m Kelly….. It’s good to meeeet yoouuuu…. what’s yoourrr naaaame”? he extends his hand towards me.

“Anna” I say.

” I looooove you uuu….Aaanna” he purrs.

“Oh God!” I think “he’s going to hug me”. And he does. Oh NO!!  It’s Mark ‘s turn to get hugged. Not sure he’s into stranger hugs.

“What’s youuurrrrr naaaaame?” asks Kelly

“Mark” says Mark.

“I looooove yoouuu Maaaarrrrrkk !”

” I love youuu Kelly!” says Mark.

Kelly gestures towards our camping gear laid out by the wayside.

“I looooove yourrrrrr Caaaamino sssstyyyyle” he says “Yoouuuur such beeeeeauuuutifullllll peeeeeoople.”

The windmills whir and slim, tanned, clean cut Kelly tells us he is from Hawaii and began his Camino in Saint Tropez, France. He tells us how he has ditched most of his gear including his music, tent and other essentials. How he is travelling light, sleeping out under the stars wrapped in a shower curtain.

“What d’you do back home” we ask, intrigued.

” I do this for a living?” he says “Don’t we have a choice”?

And off Kelly trots into his neat little future.

“Preacher man” says Mark

“Millionaire?” says me.

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At lunchtime we see Kelly sitting yogi like before a statue of The Virgin, his world laid out in the sunshine to dry on a stone bench.

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In the old world Camino town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada we wash a bag of cherries in a cool  “fuente” and just around the corner we spot Kelly on the terrace of a busy pilgrim bar.

Kelly opens his arms wide “Helooooo Natuuuuural peeeeople” he says standing to hug us in turn.

“How are you doing”? says Mark.

“Oh I’m resting today” says Kelly” I’m gonna hangout in this cafe’s all day with PILGRIMS”

” You okay Kelly?  I ask.

“Everything! hurts ” says Kelly his eyes swivelling towards buttocks, thighs, calves, ankles, feet.

” Yeah best to rest up here then ” we say “Hasta luego Kelly, have fun”

“Buen Camino Natural people” says Kelly.

(This is a one of series of pilgrim stories by Anna about her experiences with Mark on the Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Trail in Northern Spain).

Pilgrim Tales : Serge, Jonno and Charlie

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear Logroño the silouette of a knight pokes the air with his sword. He carries an old frame style backpack and is bent to one-side by the pendulous weight of a black plastic sack. As we approach the knight’s sword arm flies as his sword pecks up a tissue, a crisp packet, a water bottle and drop them into the bag.

“Buen Camino” says the knight.

“Buen Camino ” we reply and “Will you be dumping that outside the townhall ?” I point a finger at the litter filled black sack. “No” says the man through bushy hair and beard . “When I get to  town,  I’ll put it in a the first BIN  I see¨ he says.

This pilgrim has a pure heart.

We have been genuinely impressed by the cleanliness of the Camino since our start point in the squeaky clean northern city of Pamplona. So pilgrims doooo drop litter  after all. We are scarred but we need not worry for this pilgrim is a saint and he picks up what others have dropped.

“A clean camino is a wonderful thing.” We say! “Where are you from ?” I ask.

” I’m Serge and I’m French” says the pilgrim.

We ask as politely as its possible to ask a really nosey question ¨Are you on the Camino because you’re homeless”?

 “I have a home” says Serge, but after my first “Camino” I went back there to France and It didn’t feel right, it wasn’t for me any longer, so I came back here and made the Camino my home. I had found my MISSION !”

Holy smoke a holy litter-picking knight!! Stories travel the Camino as pilgrim currency and Serge has entered into Camino legend.

Further along the trail as we pass through a field gate near the village of Tosantos, we meet  a couple of young Laurie Lees in revolutionary beards and khaki shorts. They carry half drunk bottles of red wine and walk with sticks cut from the hedge; good companions who have met along the way and will continue together to Santiago. Jonno says he’s from Sydney  though he sounds English and Charlie says he’s a Scot though he too sounds English.

“I’m mixed up” he says.”

You must have been to boarding school then!” I say.

“No,” says Charlie,” I was brought up in Cyprus, but my parents split up and we came home”.

Charlie tells us how he has grown up with his dad’s stories of the romance of the Camino. My dad came here himself as a young man, way back in the eighties. It was different times then, fewer pilgrims, it wasn’t a tourist destination.”

He tells us how his dad and a friend had been working on a building site when over their sandwiches at lunch one day they decided it would be fun to go to the Pyrenees. They’d get there by hitching rides. Charlie’s dad had a lot of luck and arrived in just two days, but his friend wasn’t so fortunate and took ten whole days, by which time they were both out of money. The story goes that they walked up the mountain and became lost in a storm, coming down on the wrong side of the mountain into Spain.

“Are you doing the Camino?” people would ask.

There were few pilgrims back then and Charlie’s dad and his friend had such high novelty value they were Invited into the homes of old ladies to eat. And won over by the lure of hot dinners and the kindness of locals they became pilgrims and walked all the way to Santiago de Compostella. It was an experience that changed Charlie’s dad’s view of the world.

Such is the Lure of “The Camino” that when Charlie’s dad became a father he wanted to come back with his son. Now Charlie, has got the bug and tells us he is quitting his temporary job in Scotland to finish the Camino with his new friend Jonno. Before we leave these Camino adventurers we share Camino stories about the way this ancient pilgrim track lures travellers back, sometimes time and time again.  Jonno tells us he’d met a French guy who has done the Camino Pilgrim Trail twenty seven times.

So that would be Serge the litter-picker,  the frenchman with a mission!

This blogstory is one of several by Anna is writing about her experiences with Mark on the Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Trail in Northern Spain.

Pilgrim Tales: Paul Murphy MEP and dreaming place

“It’s 35 degrees Centigrade and the sky is black with thunder as we exit a bar in Villa Franca de Oca. We carry fresh “bocadillos” in our packs and hot mint tea and we’ll walk ’till dusk.

“I think we’re in for our first storm” I say.

” Maybe….” says Mark

Last night we had a wilderness experience off the beaten track; two sleepy  sillouettes on a starry hilltop  with a happy soundtrack of cowbells and frogs. And tonight we’ll sleep under a natural canopy in the Forest of “Oca” (Goose in Spanish).

” D’ya think we’re MAD? ” I say as we head off together, up a steep and stony path.

“Probably…” says Mark.

When we reach an interpretation panel by the wayside, we stop to have a look.

“Look” I say “There are Brown bears and ….. ”  my eyes open wide and my eyebrows shoot up.

“and… Wolves….!!!!”

“Mmmm… ”  says Mark

Back home in Devon my mum emailed me to say “Be careful of wolves on the forest tracks”

“What makes you think there are WOLVES? on the Camino? ” I tell her.

An almighty crack shatters the peace and tranquility of the Camino and the sky splinters into shards.

” A proper attack of aniseed balls” I say while the weather pummels our heads and necks as we run for the woods.

We cosy up under the tarp next to one massive deciduous oak.

“It’s almost fun” I say daring the storm.

We follow the trail upward and just as rain begins to fall, a perfect shelter pops up magically from the track. At the back of this welcome rain-shade is a lone pilgrim.

“I hope he doesn’t mind” says Mark as we head into dry-space.

“I’d do the Camino just for the VIEWS ?” says the sitting man bewitched by the panorama.

“I started out with my girlfriend” he tells us “but the Camino’s not for her”.

” Oh?” says Mark.

“Her pack was too heavy and she wasn’t enjoying it. She had to go back to work”

Our shelter companion for the duration of the rain is Paul Murphy.

” I’m an MEP” says Paul ,”for the Irish Socialist Party”.  ” I’ve just  lost my seat in Brussels so I’m out of a job in a week.”

We find we know nothing about members of the European parliament so Paul fills us in. “MEPs earn 90.000 Euro a year. ” he says.  Now that’s a big incentive .

“As MEP’s we get 300 Euros per day every day we attend Parliament. Just for turning up”

” hmmm” says Mark.”Seems a lot”.

” But…..” says Paul “As a member of the Irish Socialist Party we pay ourselves the average national youth wage for Ireland.”

“The youth wage?  I ask ” The YOUTH wage says Mark.

It’s still raining so Paul chats on. He’s signed in at a hostel for the night and has come out without his rain jacket . Luckily he has a lot of stories and is happy to share them with us. He is a persona non-grata in a couple of states. He was part of the flotilla taking supplies into Gaza, he was captured at gun point and ended up an Israeli jail, so he’s not very popular there.

“What was it liiiiike in Prison?” I ask my eyes popping.

“Oh” he says ” It was muuch better  than the yacht.” ” I was so seasick, it was really horrible.”

We couldn’t have dreamed up a more humble and engaging pilgrim to be holed up with in the rain. And he has more stories.

“I helped broker a deal for striking miners in Kazakstahn” he tells us.

“You’re an activist” then?”

“Yes” says Paul “My party brokered an agreement between the government and the striking miners”

We smile expectant.

“But as soon as we left the country the miners were shot!”

We digest the news as rain drums on the roof above.

And before the rain ceases there is time to tell Paul about Claire and me about DREAMING PLACE and how we took Radio Dreaming back to play to Mary-Jane and other participants in Ireland in our Place-dreamer Pod and what a lot of effort went into the Kickstarter campaign.

” And did Mary-Jane get to hear Radio Dreaming at her homestead” says Paul.

” Yes she did!” in his mind’s eye an old lady is a-listening in the Pod, her eyes alight with dreams.

Our rainy meeting in the pop-up shelter on The Camino has conjoured up diverse visons. And now it’s time for Paul to head back down to his hostel for the night.

“What time are you up in the morning” he asks us as he gets up to go.

“Oh about 7.30 or  8.00 a.m”

Though the storm has moved away we decide to stay the night in the shelter. Its just too good to miss. So we eat our bocadillos, drink the lovely hot tea and lay our bags out for the night in this Camino dreaming place.

“D’you think the bins’ll lure in hungry wolves “I say.

“Yup says Mark.

Now he puts on his wooly hat.

“Buenas Noches” he says and he’s asleep.

In the morning we set off along a steaming trail into the big woods.

“Red riding hood would have been safe here ” I say, for the mystery of the wood is lost on the grit causeway the Camino has become.We gravitate to a pilgrim friendly ditch by the side of the Super-Camino where we walk in single file.

“I passed by for you  at seven thirty ” says a voice from trail “but you’d already gone!”

“We had the Mother of  all Storms in the night.” calls up Mark cheerily from inside the ditch.

This blogstory is one of several by Anna is writing about her journey with Mark on the Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Trail in Northern Spain.

Paul Murphy is AAA (Anti- Austerity – Alliance) Member of Parliament for Dublin South West.  Paul’s website.

Find out about Paul’s popular AAA campaign to scrap water charges in Ireland .

Shampoo, a shrine and a pop-up shelter

P6090036 What to pack in your rucksack and what to leave out  is the all time Big  Camino Question. I wanted to enjoy walking  but not to suffer too much discomfort and I knew that getting it right might make or break our trip so it was essential to pack well. Choices re pack size and content should depend on accommodation not strength. This might be in hostels, pensions or Paradors, the luxury Spanish hotels. We chose to sleep by the wayside under the stars oblivious to the large wolf packs that still roam Northern Spain.  The guide book suggests a medium size rucksack, if you use a large pack it warns, you’ll be tempted to fill it up!Most of those carrying big rucksacks on this trail are men and this observation made me feel a bit smug at times as  I had ditched  my ipad, phone, camera reading glasses, shampoo, conditioner and face cream during the packing process at home.

Camping gas turned out to be a burdensome luxury, so after a few days Mark gifted it, unopened, to the owner of a hostel whose “Camino ” stamp was a red beating heart. Though we survived without hot food, we still had to carry the small aluminium pan and stove top as they were expensive and we’d be needing them back home. Mark made a shrine to the Camino from a pair of boots he decided he didn’t need. He continued along the way in sandals!

boots Sleeping well  is important, so the majority of space inside my pack was dedicated to the art of sleep. My luxury bedding choice consisted of a very tiny, very posh, very orange super – lightweight, self inflating sleeping mat and my beloved down sleeping bag, which folds down to almost nothing. Next a khaki coloured bivvy bag to protect from rain and dew and a cheap and cheerful rolly mat for insulation, geat also for yoga, siestas and a picnic. My first aid kit is disproportionally large, complete with essential oils to heal wounds and keep bugs and bigger things at bay, arnica gel for aches and pains, homeopathic remedies for toothache, the shits, injuries and rescue remedy for and just about anything else. I packed my black rain jacket that has a dodgy zip, but left my rain trousers at home. I’d wear my skirt in the rain and dry it once the sun came out.

Actually we were lucky and only got wet once.  Pumelled by giant hailstones Mark and I cosied under the good old DREAMING PLACE mat,  beneath the mightiest oak in the forest. Though lightning streaked down on all sides the oak didn’t get hit. Later a man made shelter popped  up magically out of the forest by the trail side, as the thunder rolled and the rain re-commenced.  It had a bench, a waste bin and a sitting man called Paul Murphy; an activitst and MEP for the Irish socialist party  We couldn’t have packed a more interesting and entertaining companion for a rainy afternoon in the wilds.

This blogstory is one of several by Anna is writing about her journey with Mark on the Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Trail in Northern Spain.

“Self sufficiency and the power of dreams” at Renewable Energy Market Place

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Our Place-dreamer pod really is lovable and willing, billed as “Self-sufficiency and the Power of Dreams” our little micro-caravan draws the attention of many curious visitors at” Renewable Energy Market Place,”  the biggest energy event in the South-West of England.

At the comfortable Encounters compound visitors are invited to join the great energy debate, sitting down to “tell a story” to another visitor and climbing into the cosy interior of the pod to immerse themselves in the rich collage of music, voice and sound that is “Radio Dreaming Off-grid.”

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That Artists are invited to collaborate in such an event is a great innovation and a forward looking response to the challenges of the future. The upbeat Visual minutes company documents the conference with drawn image and text  and The Art and Community hub  generates a tangible thrum to enliven the wider energy debate.  Matt Harvey,  Regen South West resident poet, David Buckland of Cape Farewell and Ruth Ben-Tovim  of Encounters are  among the inspiring speakers of the day who share their particular energy and vision.

 

Inhabiting the dream: postcard 15

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Inhabiting the dream: postcard 13

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Dreams are like clouds always changing and re-forming according to the weather

Cloud spotter Hans Wieland of Neantóg cottage in County Sligo is always eager to share his passion for clouds with anyone willing to look upward. Below inspired by Hans’ vision, Anna spotted this mind -blowing mammatus cloud over Kaçkar Mountain in Turkey. Must be worth quite a few points!

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DREAMING PLACE technology collaborative drawing 14 by Claire and Anna

DREAMING PLACE technology collaborative drawing 13 by Claire and Anna

DREAMING PLACE technology collaborative drawing 10 by Claire and Anna

The future in a lough, climate modelling

Bodies of water have been places of augury and insight since time immemorial but now there is a new twist to the tale and lough Nabrickboy is revealing qualities that predict the future. Martina from Marble Arch Caves Geopark explains ….

Inside the belly of an ice-house – Crom Estate

Ice houses are to be found in the grounds of many of the old country estates in these Northern lands. Here is Claire at the Crom Estate in Northern Ireland inside the belly of an ice-house.

About Ice houses – Ice cut in winter was stored right through the year in stone icehouses across Europe supplying numerous big houses with fresh produce and keeping guests happy with novel sorbets, icecreams and crushed ice for cocktails and bumps or sprains got while out hunting the stag!

Today fridges are present in every kitchen – well almost. When I lived in Spain we didn’t have a fridge; we are vegetarians so it was easy. The micro-organisms in plain yogurt keep it fresh for weeks and the cool tiles and wooden shutters protected the veg from decay.

In the last century before the advent of the fridge, many families used cool boxes or chests packed with ice to keep meat and fish. The pantry or larder had marble shelves to keep dairy produce and cold meats fresh as long as possible. My mum tells me the cooling properties of her mother’s  larder were enhanced by covering the milk jug with a wet cloth. The milk was kept cool via evaporation. In Spain water kept in unglazed “porons ” keeps spring water fountain fresh even on the hottest days. When camping beers maybe kept cold by hanging them out of the window in wet socks! Or submerging them in the stream.

Margaret Gallagher, of Mullylusty cottage just outside Boho in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark lives off grid all year round. She tells us that a wheelie bin makes a wonderful off grid fridge which keeps hungry animals out in winter-time. But can the wheelie bin be as effective as a giant crock? Kept wet a ceramic jar will keep milk and other foods fresh in hot climates again by evaporation. Buried underground it could be used to store root vegetables like potatoes and turnips.

Margaret tells us how her family used an ordinary chest to preserve meat. After the pig had been butchered the pieces were packed into a wooden chest with salt and buried in a surprising place. The place of choice at Mullylusty and other cottages was usually the dung heap or midden . We didn’t ask Margaret why this was so, but archaeological evidence reveals middens as natural insulators, valued for their properties of conservation. Evidence from Skara Brae in Orkney shows the homes were actually built inside an enormous midden!

BOG BUTTER – Not sure if all of  you know this but past peoples apparently buried butter in wooden kegs in bogs. But how far back in prehistory was it that the original peoples of Ireland first used bogs as fridges. Who first understood that bogs can preserve fats? Micro-organisms that cause food to go off can’t dwell inside a soggy shroud of bog turf as they need oxygen to survive, this is why a bog performs as a brilliant off grid-fridge. In Ireland much ancient bog butter has been found over the years and some of it is still edible, if a bit cheesy.

Blogs grow like potatoes

This blog has been a long time in a comin´ and that’s because I grew it.

To grow my potato blog I followed some basic steps. the rest down to luck, weather and  patience. It’s taken quite a while to get to this point , mainly ‘cos of all that hard work and the waiting. I had to……..

1. nourish

2. dig

3. furrow

4. plant

5. water

6. mulch

7. earth up

8.wait

9.harvest

10. prepare

11. cook

12. eat

A long time ago a Slovenian man called Franci, a student of Mark’s  suggested I apply my novel research techniques to”the potato”. It is still really important to Eastern European cultures and  I am a researcher of  the agency of things. Let me explain a bit more about how that might work.

The humble potato is a masterful at affecting  human behaviours; it  gathers  culture around itself in a big way, as does say “alcohol” or “the sea”. The potato is the perfect thing he said to study. So far I have not done more than to scrub a potato, cut it up to boil or bake it. I love to eat it whole or mashed with olive oil and black pepper. But who knows. In Ireland as everyone knows the potato is very important and no-one on the island can ever forget the terrible consequences of the potato blight.

In Ireland we ferried  potatoes around in the car back and forth over the border and dipped our fingers into glasses of poitín, the infamous  Irish hooch. I feel a new blog coming on….  but I’ll leave it for another day.

Truffle pig or hound?

Taciturn treat

Richmen’s turd

Upside of underground

Fortune’s fungus

Foundling fodder

Lovers’ liver

Eat in heaven

Purse fattener

Instant portion

Gourmet guest?

Old one

Root currency?

Hermetic healer

Odorous apple

Ugly potato

Not just a Nugget

Dreamers dough?

Hazel cultures

A good way to discover more about prehistoric life  in Marble Arch Caves Geopark is to focus in on the edible elements of place. You can learn a lot, from ingesting, observing and dreaming with plants and things. As a Northern European its a fair guess to say that my ancestors learnt a lot from their interactions with the land. I know it’s obvious,  but its easy to forget that plants have actually helped shaped our cultures. Claire’s family is also of European decent, but she was born in New Mexico where prehistoric peoples have also eaten acorns, piñones and hazel nuts. Claire and I look, listen, experiment and dream to find out more about our prehistoric ancestors and their worlds. We kicked off our

collaboration while studying at Dartington with a “Eating Time Taming Food”  a wide ranging adventure into prehistoric Dartmoor Food ecologies. We  gathered, prepared, cooked and shared wild foods. It was really challenging for us as we were trail blazing our a new Arts and Ecology practice… .. but what d’you know while we were out collecting acorns and worms were gathering in our leaching sacks, Ray Mears was doing the self same thing on Telly, imagine that….Out of the BLUE! processing acorns for food after hundreds of years of culinary neglect!

Neither Claire nor I had telly and we didn’t know about Ray Mears ’till friends and neighbours told us. Only difference was we were making ART and gathering audio sounds! We ended our acorn harvest with a grand tea party at The Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World in Haldon forest Park, where our guests feasted on acorn and honey cake spread with butter churned using the motion of our gait and other ancestral foods.

In DREAMING PLACE at MAC we crunched  hawthorn leaves at Shannon Pot, made  wild garlic pesto and when Hazel reached out and attracted our attention, we whittled its flexible boughs into knives. Hazel is as full to bursting with dynamic potentials which Claire and I are eager to explore. And Hazel’s story is many patterned, it helped with the invention of tents, looms and snow shoes. The first people’s living in these northern climes after the great ice melt collected its tasty fruits to store for the winter months and Hazel protected and sustained them.

What baskets were woven to carry the canny hazel nut and what futures did it predict?

Listen here to Biodiversity Officer, Rose Cremin enthuse about hazel culture

No 16.DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing


Tied to our prehistoric past


One of the ways we  dream ourselves into place is to make string. Yeah it works, twisting natural fibres really does deepen our relationship with our own home place or the home place of another. Here I am at Claddah Glen,  just below the show caves at Marble Arch Caves Geopark in Northern Ireland, collaborating with Iris leaves and sedges to make strong and useful string.

Twining string is truly addictive and provides Claire and I with a quite moment of focus during a busy project. But there’s more…..

We’ve noticed that long leaves seem to WANT to make string, our fingers fiddle and twist  plant fibres into cordage, dextrously, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world! To make twine is to interact with our surroundings in a vital way AND of course we are not alone, twiners come in many shapes and sizes and surprising partnerships give diverse results; wind and dry moorland grass twist together to make a fat loose rope that catches under boulders.

As a species we have grown up with plants, they have shaped our cultures and well,  they make us who we are! What´s more, string is even older than we are…. Who are the “other than human” twisters, loopers, weavers whose cultures has inspired our own?

I’ve made string from bungy old Sphagum moss, Torbay palm leaves, stinking Iris and bluebell leaves and Maram grass, but you can use any plant or other fibre.  Twine is so darn useful, something to sew cultures together.

I think THE most exciting thing we learnt on our DREAMING PLACE adventure was how to spin hay into twine to fasten down hay ‘rucks” keeping them safe from errant winds. The hands of traditional farmer Ignatius Maguire manipulate a home engineered twining crank, an innovation on the implement used by his father, a hooked branch cut from a nearby hedge.Impressed?

No 15. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing

No. 14 DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing


No 13. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing

Dreamers toolkit

Our  evolving Dreaming Place Toolkit – a list in images….
night and day/ collaboration

potions
wild strawberries

dreaming into place

ask for water
inhabit the view
collaborative drawing

cooking
documentation



The land dreams in many tongues


Languages are an important part of the diversity of place.

Climate and conditions naturally affect what languages sound like or how they look.  And so do migration of peoples, cultural expansion, invasion, politics, music and technologies. Sounds made by non-human inhabitants contribute to cultural exchange and communication and so do songs of animals and fungi. Languages are dreams of place!

The people, places and things that inhabit or visit Marble Arch Caves Geopark are very diverse and they have widely different voices. All those tree species, insects, clays and sands, bogs, butterflies and musical instruments – and what about our computers and our cars?…. what a mixture of languages and ways of being. Lots of languages use sound, but lots also are visual, gestural or tactile or a mixture of all of them.

The land dreams in many tongues. Listen here to water re entering the rock at Poll Sumer in the MAC Geopark.

 

Just a pipedream?

DREAMING PLACE dreams of becoming a bilingual project. But is this just a pipedream? Could it become a reality? We’d need a lot of help and support but it’s something to aspire to. Certainly DREAMING PLACE is interested in bilingualism so that is a good place to start. (See below for details of our trilingual cultures). We have an acute interest in Irish Gaelic and the place names have been a great intro.

Each of us, DREAMING PLACE artists belong to not Bilingual but Trilingual cultures, so we are appreciative of the richness a melange of language brings to cultures. We know that the meanings of a place are closely bound to its languages, so that if  a language ceases to be spoken a culture is impoverished. More than that a part of the soul of the land dies. We are interested in language as artists and as people, we are interested to hear what language says about place.

During our project at Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark as visitors, we listened to and recorded some of the diversity of voices spoken in the Geopark.  The voices of people who live, work or play in the Geopark give us a clue to the voices or languages of the past. They are part of its diversity and for us its beauty. We listen with  our parabolic outsider ears!

Listen here to Tommy speak Ulster Scotts. .

The accents, cadence and dialects of English spoken here hold within them the memory of languages that have sadly been lost from right here in the Geoopark. In this category is of course is the Irish Language itself. I am not sure if I should really say that this language is lost as it is still widely spoken as a second language and Irish Gaelic is experiencing a mighty comeback. When you tune into the radio anywhere on the island it is most often this language that is heard. This is comforting so it was surprising when we discovered that Irish it is not spoken as a mother tongue or first language here in the Geopark at all and indeed there are few people who call Gaelic their first language anywhere. But there are still people living in outlying areas of Ireland who speak Gaelic. / Gaelilge Naturally those of you who live in Northern Ireland and Éire know lots more about the languages spoken in Ireland than we do and I am sure passions run high on the subject, but there is much confusion by outsiders like us who live in England or America so I am trying to clarify it a bit via this blog.  Please do post your comments here….. languages other than English welcomed.

For us and also for many local people The Marble Arch Caves Geopark place names are a door into the Irish Language and into the heritage and culture of this outstandingly beautiful place. The old names still hold the meanings given to the land by the people for whom these lands have been home. The townlands are a very special part of Irish/ Northern Irish heritage that we admire greatly and we want the world to know about. You can learn more about townlands in a separate blog.

Anna and Claire Language history:

Anna has spent most of her adult life in a Valenciano (Catalan) speaking region of Spain. Anna is bilingual Castellano (Spanish) and English and communicates in Valenciano with her Catalan nationalist friends.  She now lives in the county of Devon. Devon is situated in England’s  “West Country” bordering Cornwall. People in Devon may speak English with an accent or use a dialect that is a relic of the ancient languages spoken here.The Cornish language or  Cornish is on the United Nations list of “critically endangered” languages and is now only spoken as a second language.

In the part of New Mexico where Claire lives three main languages are spoken. As a minority white American family living in Northern New Mexico, Claire speaks American English. Many people in her region are of Hispanic descent and speak English and Spanish. She lives close to the village of  Questa. Questa is a bilingual Hispanic community. But that is not the whole story. These Northern New Mexico lands are of course home to the original peoples of the area, the Native American Pueblo peoples who speak Tiwa, giving  Claire’s community a very rich cultural heritage of which she is justifiably proud.

The photo is from a little booklet called Name your place (Logainmneacha Cuid Dár nOídhreacht) produced in 1965 which is intended for those wanting to name their place with an Irish language name.

Geology united!

It always strikes me that Geology doesn’t recognise political borders. For this reason I elect Geology for the Nobel peace prize.

Gortmaconnell and Cuilcagh mountain behind

Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark  (click to see  MAC images) is a X= border Global Geopark re-uniting lands, cultures and heritage that have been separated only by human politics and drama. Marble Arch Caves Geopark consists of peaty chunks of Counties Cavan (Éire) and Fermanagh (Northern Ireland) that share a geological heritage (and of course much, much more.)

Exposed Limestone tunnel Claddagh Glen

In Limestone landscapes the bones of the earth are apparent just beneath the surface giving structure and interest. Limestone grasslands clothing this rugged skeleton are home to a vast richness of flora and flora.. A cross-section of the Geopark reveals  a swiss cheese of potholes, caverns and underground streams. Rainwater falling onto boggy slopes and meadows of Geopark uplands filters through the vegetation and leaks into  loughs and rivers carrying wee bits of rock with it as it goes. Rain is weakly acidic and just like coca cola on human teeth it dissolves the limestone as it goes forming pitted and eroded surfaces or Karst landscapes. Calcium carbonate and other minerals it has picked up on its journey form stalagmites and stalactites. (click here for booklet of the Karst of Ireland).

Cuilcagh millstone grit boulder marking

Cuilcagh Mountain rising above the green limestone hills of Marlbank was once part of a much higher sandstone landscape that has all but eroded away. Find out more about Cuilcagh Sandstone here. With its rocky northern slopes and lower slopes muffled in blanket bogs the mountain is home to relict species such as the dwarf willow and starry saxifrage. (link to our blog on starry saxifrage here)

North face of Cuilcagh mountain

Cuilcagh means chalky mountain which the literature might tell you is a misnomer. This is incorrect, tramping on the mountain we did discover pigments or chalks. On the northern slopes of the mountain, where the surface has fallen away in landslips, nuggets of greasy ochres ideal for body painting

red ochre from the flanks of Cuilcagh mountain

can be found. We are sure the ancient inhabitants of these lands were familiar with  these deposits and named the mountain for its “chalks” of many colours. Claire told me that close to home in Questa, (Find out more about geology/history here) Northern New Mexico, a procession of native peoples arrive on horseback to collect pigments from the mountain side each year. We can imagine a similar procession to Cuilcagh Mountain in distant times?

Multiplicity of Diversities – Rose Cremin


Visiting with Rose Cremin, Fermanagh District Biodiversity Office, we began to understand the interconnections between the biodiversity of the dream world, the idea world and the physical world. Hope you can work that one out!

Our time with her spawned many ideas – stay tuned for future outcomes!

No.3 Dreaming Place data sheet drawing

Above and Below

From the the beginning, we knew that exploring above and below ground and above and below water would be important themes for DREAMING PLACE. Not only are we personally interested in these themes, the geology and geography of the Marble Arch Caves Geopark demands it!


These themes both directed many of our adventures as well as our philosophy of the project. We wanted to explore “above and below” with the people, places and things of MAC Geopark. What is so important about above and below?

We are accustomed to experiencing the surface of things the “above” version, but delving into both paints another picture of place. “Below” is also very much linked to exploring dreams, because often to understand the meaning of dreams or understand the “dream meaning” of a life experience, one must delve below the surface meaning and explore the many layers.

To be a “Place Dreamer” is to explore the many layers…..

You can read about our first underground experience with Dave Scott here and a little bit about our wild swimming adventures here.

No 2. DREAMING PLACE data sheet

Wildlife: Photographers

A wondrous sunset is spread out over the Cliffs of Magho tickling the surf at Bundoran to the west. We are cooking supper in the higher altitudes of a post glacial landscape. Our eyes blink, drinking in the glorious colours, but inside our rucksacks, our cameras are blind to the glory.

recording the starry saxifrage Like wildlife photographers documenting rare species we can’t resist snapping away at photographers.

Photography is part of the the biodiversity of Marble Arch Caves Geopark. And along with  drawing, writing, data sheets, collecting audio and blogging, photography has an important place in our “Place-Dreamer’s toolkit.”  (We’ll put blogging under the magnifying glass in a separate blog.)

photographing the photographer

We exchanged shots with Trevor Armstrong; photographer from the Impartial Reporter at the river entrance to Marble Arch Caves. The article on us and DREAMING PLACE in early June attracted lots of attention, and his photo of us acted as a kind of spotters guide for local people who learned to recognise us in pubs and nature reserves.

Happenstance brought us together with another photographer on the banks of Lough Erne. We got chatting with him and his wife at Knockninny and we asked him if he’d take some photos of us dreaming on the shore ….. and here he is doing just that.


It’s real fun to turn the tables and take photos of photographers themselves.  And It seems that the more used to being behind the lens as a professional, the more shocked  they are at the proposition of being “captured on film!” One of “our” photographers flatly refused flat to have his photo taken.

The smell of home turf



The lower flanks of Cuilcagh mountain are now cosily blanketed in revived boglands rich in species who make up the ecology of this very special habitat. Incredibly,  as recently as the nineties this elemental  bog was endangered because of  the commercial extraction of peat for fuel. It looked like a giant carpark (parking lot), a land with its skin peeled back. A lot of TLC later and these “badlands” are again home to a huge variety of wildlife.

We are not experts but the commercial rape of the land by the large turf industry seems like quite different thing from the traditional small scale harvesting of neighbourhood turf for winter fuel. This image shows the peat after it has been cut drying in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark breeze.

Funnily enough the drizzle doesn’t seem to affect the drying process too much.Turf has been burned here since the bronze age and in the Geopark, we noticed burnt mounds that look a lot like burnt peat. (The demands of blogging mean that I may not have time to check all this info so do feel free to comment and correct please.) And a turf fire, as it is called here, is surely the smell of home. Adan a young guy who farms his family homelands on Galloon Island could NOT believe we had NEVER smelled a turf fire, not ever.  He simply rejected the idea, what total deprivation….

We vowed to light a real fire and found an opportunity at MacGrath’s cottage and lit one just for the craic. Our English, Valencian and New Mexican burning experiences have led us to burn mostly wood and never turf. The very idea of burning the earth itself seems strange to us. But it was the first fossil fuel.

I know that lots of you have no tradition of burning turf fuel. So here is a short explanation. Turf is peat and comes from the buildup of mosses and other vegetation where the accumulation of dead vegetation exceeds the decay. The reason this can happen is that in the  wetland environment the mosses are not able to break down for lack of oxygen. The fungi and bacteria that recycle the dead mosses cannot live in this waterlogged environment and decay is halted. Gradually, gradually there is a buildup of vegetation which becomes compacted and swallows up the surface stones and features. Peat that forms in these conditions on the sides of mountains is called Blanket Bog. Lowland bogs are slightly different, but essentially the process is the same. Turf that is burnt in homes in Northern Europe have normally taken hundreds or even thousands of years to form.

 

Turf extraction, as we know, is not sustainable, (mostly) which is why lots of us now prefer to buy non-peat based composts.

 

In these Geopark lands, turf drying in the fields is still a relatively common sight; one that attracts our attention. And many families have a cut in a newly harvested field. They must go down and shift the peat once it has dried and stack it at home. Tur, as we found out, burns almost without flame and is red hot. It burns more like coal rather than wood. We stoked and blew under the turf all night trying to get some flame before we understood the error.

turf

Water gathers cultures *Audio*

Listen to Claire on the Celtic water symbology . (As with all our audio snippets, we recommend headphones or earbuds). https://dreamingplaceproject.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/water-gathers-cultures-blog.mp3

water everywhere
Spectacular rainbow over Lough MacNean from Rushin House Caravan and Camping Park, Belcoo, MAC Geopark had us reaching for our cameras.

water gathers culture
Listen to the lake speak here.  (use earbuds for the full experience).

A cave, a porcupine and a collaborative drawing

river that flows from rock Boho caves

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.

Strange to be sure…!

Guinness Dreams (the source!)

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….

At home in limestone + scything podcast

At home in limestone

The Limestone uplands of Marble Arch Caves Geopark are  home to many rare plants,  insects and bird species. They thrive in the special habitats this rock has helped to create. Find out more about MAC’s limestone habitats here.

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.

ignatius McGuire

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.

ignatius scything
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.

Original midge protection

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!!

Drawing as Dreaming

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.

The whole world is a drawing.

Out to a land of childhood imagination in a homebuilt Cott

With her brother,  the child Bridget (McGuire) who was born on Galloon Island  rowed to the far distant shores of her imagination, home to pine martens and woodcock. To her this was “The Wildwood”  from Wind in the Willows.

We wanted to visit this magic land and set off in Jonty’s  homemade Cott  to set foot on Bridget’s childhood lands.

Where was your ” Wild wood” of the imagination?

Wild Swimming

I am  so enjoying exploring the underwater domains of loughs and rivers and sea. The sweet peaty orange inland waters  of  higher Loch Erne are really different from the crystal cold waters of the Eire’s Donegal Bay….

And we just can’t wait to get out onto the water for an adventure in the Canadian Canoe that has been offered us by a supporter. Just what we dreamed.

Disrupted landscapes are fertile places

Conservationists often look to stablilize an environment, however sometimes dynamic change is desirable.  An eroding rockface streaming with water below Cuilcagh Mountain summit plateau is home to a very rare  inhabitant.

Saxifraga Stellaris  (Starry Saxifradge) is a tenacious inhabitant of these border  lands. As an arctic relic species it has endured here on the mountain since the end of the last ice age.

This Arctic Alpine plant thrives  in a  narrow horizontal band of cool dampness and beautifully disrupted soils. Small rockfalls and  a light flow of water off the cliffs  provide everything it needs. If its present habitat becomes too warm it will try to go further up the mountain… but further upwards it will be too near the drier summit plateau and would not survive.

How long will it endure?

Botanical forray on Cuilcagh Mountain

Robert and Anna below the Cliffs

Robert and Anna looking for the Beech Fern

Chance encounters are a most precious gift and good as gold for our project. As we prepare to set out for a hike up Cuilcagh Mountain we meet botanical enthusiasts Robert and Hannah also on their way up the mountain. They are in search of three rare plants to photograph for a book about the plants of Fermanagh that they are working on, set to be published this fall. They graciously allow us to tag along on their mission and generously share their wealth of botanical knowledge with us along the way.

Hannah and Claire

Hannah photographing the Starry Saxifrage with windbreak help from Claire

We’ve got a new latitude

New LatitudeHere in Northern Ireland, the summer days are lengthy. Dawn and dusk last a long time leaving less dark time for sleeping. The result for us is a misperception of time and a “natural rhythm” of going to bed late and waking up early. However we are finding that this “natural rhythm” creates an unnatural and sometimes cumulative fatigue that crops up at the most inopportune times. While we constantly invite the sun out from behind the rain clouds during the day, we hide from its seasonal luminosity by night behind thin, permeable tent walls in an ongoing effort to go to bed at a reasonable time.

We are staying for 40 days and 40 nights, but days are really long and our nights are really short. How were traditions and beliefs of the past shaped by latitude?

To see exactly where we are on googlemaps, click here.