“An ecosystem is a community of plants, animals and dreams that are closely linked to each other and to their environment.”
(Anna Keleher and Claire Coté ,Marble Arch Caves Geopark 2011).
“An ecosystem is a community of plants, animals and dreams that are closely linked to each other and to their environment.”
(Anna Keleher and Claire Coté ,Marble Arch Caves Geopark 2011).
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?
DREAMING PLACE records a series of river bank happenings from below Cuilcagh mountain. This place has seen…….
…… darkness falling from the sky in a blaze of light.
….. a girl with barefeet who thinks she’s a bee…..
….A tiny man in a waistcoat silouetted against a white horse.
….. an epic game of chess.
…..a safe haven in a hayloft sanctuary.
…. a silver fork dropped on grass.
…. a plane dropping height and crashing.
…. a tadpole the size of a tennis ball.
….. a halo of flies.
….. a knife blade broken in two.
…… a bride who falls down a well.
……..a boy with a catapault kills a small duck and takes it home for his aunty to pluck.
….. 3 sisters, legs mottled with cold jumping on the spot as their mother spreads a checked table cloth on the bank.
….. a tray of oats warmed in the sun is sprinkled into a hollow.
…. a nuthatch drowns in a puddle.
Our 40 day 40 night adventure in MAC Geopark wasn’t exactly BIBLICAL, but we did have a FLOOD (in one of the tents)+ VISIONS (on our blue DREAMING PLACE groundsheet) + VISITS INTO THE WILDERNESS (above and below at Cuilcagh Mountain).
It wasn’t exactly WILD either. Did we say it would be? But hush, there was definitely WILD in it.
Marble Arch Caves Geopark is not really a very WILD ZONE at all. Its not very wild ‘cos you’re never far from a path, a road, a dwelling, a domestic animal, a vehicle, mobile phone coverage, an electrical plug-in, a farm, internet or a pint of Guinness. But when you are close to the wild rivers, bogs, bats, fungi, lichen, mountains the night sky, it does make you feel quite a bit wilder.
It’s all relative huh!?
As a species we aren’t really very wild, but there are lots of bits of wild to us. I’m talking about the wild inside. The Fungi and bacteria and the thoughts and the DREAMS.
And how far does our domestication go? What about the WILD INSIDE?
What about all the creatures that help digest our food for us, and all the other wild things that crawl on our skin and on our eyelashes? The wild inside with its methane production, gaseous exchange and all that. At this point I opened another window and googled THE WILD INSIDE. It has a ring to it doesn’t it? Surely I’m not the first to think those words or to blog them. Click the link below to find out what I found out about THE WILD INSIDE.
Would the wild stuff inside of us make such a distinction between wild and domestic?
So what do we MEAN when we say these words? What value have they? And HEY ARE WORDS THEMSELVES wild or domestic?
“WILD DOMESTIC, DOMESTIC WILD ,WILD WILD, DOMESTIC DOMESTIC , WILD WILD DOMESTIC, DOMESTIC DOMESTIC WILD, WILD DOMESTIC WILD, DOMESTIC WILD DOMESTIC, DOMESTIC DOMESTIC DOMESTIC, WILD WILD WILD”
I saw EELS in my minds eye while dreaming on the shores of our first campsite on the shores of Lough MacNean. I actually saw EELS and I saw TURTLES and I recorded what I had seen on our Dreaming Place Dream cloud data sheets.
That day I decided we should fish for EELS. I am vegetarian, but I’d like to fish for eels, just to trap’em, look at ’em, say hello and put ’em back. Id’ like to try Humane eel fishing. Claire was very enthusiastic when I told her, for she has fished for eels in New Zealand and it was fun. New Zealand eels she told me are absolutely enormous. They’re ” As fat as your arm” over there, she said.
To trap EELS like this we’d need a horses head like in ” The Tin Drum” or at least some tuna and a sock. But oh I don’t think that would be fun and a sock with a dead mouse in it is about as far as we’d like to take this… so we went for a cycle ride hoping to find a dead mouse that had died ” a natural death”!
Anyway, the eel fishing stayed as a vision like the one I made in our dream cloud.
I also drew the TURTLES I’d dreamed on another dreaming place data sheet. Claire has a special relationship with turtles, so I showed her my dreaming place postcard straight away. When we were at college Claire brought a small stone turtle with her to give her inspiration. Claire moves very fast and does a lot, so her turtle inspires her to take life at a slower pace. In her home state of New Mexico there has been a tradition of eating the turtles as they gather in the wetlands.
” TURTLE TIME / TEA TIME”
Turtles would have been “tea” over many thousands of years for the “original peoples” of the MAC Geopark home waters and the other myriad loughs of counties Cavan and Fermanagh. Turtles might also have provided a tasty treat for otters, lynx, seals, golden eagles,bears, wolves, fox, fish and badgers.
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.
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.
It always strikes me that Geology doesn’t recognise political borders. For this reason I elect Geology for the Nobel peace prize.
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.)
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 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)
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
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?
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!
Out paddling with Claire, in Lower Lough Erne, I dreamed the story of the Great Paddler in the Sky. It felt momentous, but it happened easily as I listened to the sound of my paddle stirring the starry waters of the lough, over and over over and over….I watched as my paddle spun the sky into a silken thread over and over, over and over.
The Great Paddler, spinner of galaxies, tornadoes, whirlwinds, whirlpools. The Great Paddler who taught the lake people how to travel, how to spin, how to dream. The Great Paddler who propels us into the future.
Listen below to paddling at Lough Oughter (Sounds recorded from the top of the blue plastic drum in the image above. You may need headphones or ear buds to catch the subtleties).
Bees are a kind of ancient technology, nature’s tireless messengers between worlds. They gather cultures around them and help propagate crops and ideas. Texting and twittering are the great-grandchildren of bees.
The future of our species is inextricably linked to that of bees, so if they don’t survive, even our phones will cease to buzz. (Interestingly, our “buzzing” mobile phones is stressing out hives – learn more here.)
Listen below to bumble bees living in the doorway of Alan’s cottage:
In the Marble Arch Caves Geopark bees continue to ply defunct smugglers routes with bags of valuable honey, even now that the borders between “north” and “south” are open. Honey is a rich prize guarded fiercely by the bees, but even now there are people who happily risk their wrath once or twice a year to steal it from them. Farmer, Ignatius McGuire, shares his family townlands with wild bees and in summer the temptation is sometimes just too great.
Listen to Ignatius McGuire describe the delights of honey from the field here:
Or ponder the importance of bees dreaming with Kaylynn TwoTrees in her article, “Nature’s Dreaming”………..
“Regeneration comes from dreams, where the energy from a sense of possibility is stronger than the fear of the unknown. So even today, as the bees are struggling for survival and hives are collapsing, a taste of honey or the hum of bees in my garden re-enlivens my belief that the sound of nature’s dreaming is the hum of bees and the audible activity of the hive…..”
Looking for the beesong audio to share with you I discovered this file of Susi playing her violin while we washed up. Lucky us…. So here it is. Click here and you will understand why it belongs to this post:
Bees are also extraordinary architects, the makers of honeycomb, which forms their hive. Honeycomb is a product of the living system of the beehive, a collection of hexagonal wax cells built collaboratively by honeybees in their nests or hives to cradle their young and store honey and pollen for winter. We are intrigued and inspired by the geometry of the bees and often spot honeycomb hexagons along our journey. This game of “Honeycomb I-Spy” actually began several years ago on another journey…..to hear and see more click here.
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…..
A great technique to Fast Dream ourselves into place is to meet with Experts in the field. We like to visit them in their natural habitat and in this case Biodiversity officer Rose Cremin chose to share her expertise with us in the education room at Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre.
As well as finding out about butterfly transects and red squirrel ” hotspots” within Marble Arch Caves Geopark, we hope to learn how a biodiversity officer like Rose operates. What science does she do, what are her concerns, which creatures does she work with?
Our first encounter with her is a delight . She’s so nice and she shares her really posh hand cream with us before we switch on the recorder
When we meet with the experts we are naturally keen to learn about their specialty, but as artists we are helplessly curious about all sorts of other things. So Rose herself quickly became the object of study; an interesting specimen that given close attention we might learn from. We are intrigued as to how different experts gather their data, what specialist kit do they carry to help them in their work and what they wear into the field. And how does their specialist apparel compare with our own. What can we learn from them that will be of value to our own DREAMING PLACE field work?
Kit is something that we obsess about a teeny bit and this is because kits feature strongly in our practice. Click here to find out more about our Exchange Kit. One of the things we are doing in our research is to put together a DREAMING PLACE toolkit for people wishing to delve deeper into place.
Like the gait (or jiss) of a butterfly our Dreamers‘ attention wanders all over the place, we need to be experts to anticipate it. The gait of our attention is erratic and today it has alighted on Roses’ cream waistcoat, which is lightly fuzzy. The textured material is ideal for attracting ideas and we hypothesize that ideas might be burr-shaped. “Does she wear a furry “burry” waistcoat for collecting specimens we wonder?” At the close of the session with Rose we retreat to the car to scratch away with pens at our sketchbooks to release our ideas.
Rose proves to be an inspiration to us and we decide to visit her again, this time in her own environment at the Town Hall, where we ask to see the equipment she needs for her work with butterflies. Here she is demonstrating usage of some of her specialist biodiversity toolkit.
We know we’re not the first to invent the idea of a dreaming potion……how could we be? Well its hardly an original idea is it? People have been dreaming for donkey’s years, people have been wanting to tamper with dreams since time. There are always going to be those who want to dream differently themselves or affect the dreams of other Humans, Animals and Things.
The complete requirement for DREAMING POTIONS through history and prehistory, must have been immense. Rather than buckets full of potions it is more appropriate to talk of A SEA OF POTIONS. There have been just so, so many humans, pre-humans and proto-humans, dreamers all, some of whom at some point will have wanted to change the quality, quantity, content of their own dreams or dreams of others.
That’s so many dreamers wanting a potion to enhance their dreams. – A potion has been sought to DREAM MORE INTENSELY, DREAM BETTER, DREAM CHILDREN, DREAM DIFFERENTLY, DREAM FOR OTHERS, DREAM FATTER, DREAM FASTER, DREAM THE FUTURE, DREAM WILDER, DREAM IN TECHNICOLOUR, DREAM LESS. DREAM SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS, DREAM WHERE TO GO NEXT, DREAM BACKWARDS, DREAM THE ANCESTORS, DREAM PLACE, DREAM PROSPERITY, DREAM DREAMS, DREAM WHERE THEY LEFT SOMETHING, DREAM THE NEXT MEAL or maybe just DREAM MORE full stop.
Thats soooo many off the shelf and bespoke DREAMING POTIONS for the many varieties and classes of DREAMERS with their many and distinct DREAM REQUIREMENTS. It seems impossible to even begin to think about them all. But we can at least begin.
I have heard that marmite is a good dream potentiser and it has worked for me. A bit of toast and marmite at bed time.
To take a tiny whiff from a small selection of the probable potions is to be assaulted by the heavy stink of crushed, pounded, squeezed melted, seeds, plants juices, minerals, extracts, organisms, fermentations, secretions, oils and incantations. These potential DREAMING POTIONS are so powerful, so intoxicating, so overpowering as to render even a sturdy dreamer completely and utterly DREAMLESS.
We can’t document even a tiny proportion of all potions designed to affect DREAMING. It just can’t be done. Its too tedious, scary, mad….. to do in a lifetime. So though we won’t document Marble Arch Caves Gopeark dream potions we will make a LIST OF SOME DREAM POTION CONSIDERATIONS and we will think about making our own.
If you intend making your own DREAM POTIONS you might like to consider the following.
Ingredients, quantities, smell, taste, consistency, toxicity, addictiveness,storage, availability of ingredients, appearance, know how, price, method of mixing, sell by date, potency, distribution, functionality, container, recipient, exlusivity, time taken to make, legality, time to repose, quantity to take, effectiveness, dilution, mixing bowls, social stigma, side-effects, availability to the consumer, secretivity, desirability……. gloopiness.
How have all the potions that have ever been shaken, stirred, sampled, gifted, smuggled, tasted within the lands of what is today Marble Arch Caves Geopark changed the pattern, shape and texture and history of the landscape of dreams?
Are you an adventurer teaser, deep delver, descender, tunneller, get swalloweder, explore underergrounder, catch sighter, day benighter, holey moleyer, badluck frightener?
Are you a squeeze througher, death defyer, dive downer, swim upper, happy go lucka, good time smuggler, listen to the darkness in silencer, truth weazler, get scared by nuffin’ er?
Are you a bravehearter, underworld dreamer, mole tamer, knee crawler, luck bringer, light swallower, gone undergrounder, bearer of prayerser, night reveller, dark hounder, rights of passage saver?
Are you a cavern punter, into the wildernesser, fear fighter, just passing byer, wanna be blinder, vision questioner, fast believer, pitch blacker, potato snuffer, slide by nighter, fear flunker, stagnencey stirrer?
Are you an Alice in wonderer, downderryer, badger terrier, earth enterer, otherworld finder, fast believer, pitch black minder, caver saver, light exterminator, hyena trainer, edge througher, never guess whoer?
Are you an illegal stiller, underworld tiller, albino signer, drop downer, paddler to other worlder, see in the darker, bear scarer, little deather, pure air breather, landmark dealer?
Are you an imagination brewer, leach purveyer, excitement seeker, porqupine squiller, fashion slayer, lifestyle illuminator, bat trainer, land of deather, light transformer, future healer, cave reader?
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.
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.)
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.
A BIG THANK YOU to all the contributors to our mobile library!
Welcome to the DREAMING PLACE mobile library. It traveled with us throughout our “traveling residency” at the MAC Geopark snuggled up against the wall of the van and up against our bedrolls at night as we dreamed. If we had continued our fieldwork beyond 40 days and 40 nights, our library would have continued to grow, ever expanding with gifted books, borrowed books, bought books and acquired pamphlets, papers etc. We used our library as a traditional reference source to look up an unknown plant, bird or flower or to explore the source of local place names or meanings of Irish Gallic words. Sometimes we selected books to read from at night or in our camp on sunny days. And who knows, perhaps some of the library books’ contents crept off the pages and into our dreams as we slept next to them in the van…..
Our mobile library really shone when we needed inspiration for our collaborative drawing and it was pouring rain outside – too wet to go to the source out of doors. In these moments we reached for a book and allowed information to filter into us and out through our drawing pens.
***Wondering about the stuffed animal husky? That’s our Dreaming Place mascot, brought from home by Anna to assist her Ice-Age Dreaming.
Find out more about Anna’s Ice Age Dreaming here .
We record these exchanges with hand-held digital audio recorders; we edit the interviews on our trusty Macs and curated outcomes meet audiences in a number of ways: via audio blog, exhibition or radio broadcast.
Dreaming Place Interviews are a way of gathering valuable “data”. How we treat this data is very important to us. An interview is both a resource and a powerful tool that demands rigorousness and respect. Outcomes both directly influence the progression of individual projects and the general direction of our collaborative practice.
Over the winter months we will make careful transcriptions of our Dreaming Place interviews. We archive the recordings to keep them safe and warm inside our hard drives. The data we have gathered at Marble Arch Caves Geopark is gold dust to us and and choc full of potential.
Listen in to our a clip on “Crossing Borders” (Barb and Len are from Canada and were fellow campers at Rushin House Caravan and Camping Park, Belcoo, N.I., MAC Geopark).
~ THANK YOU! ~
Our deepest thanks to the people, places and things of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark for hosting DREAMING PLACE. Your generosity helped create a wonderfully fruitful project with an exciting future. Our 40 days and 40 nights at Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark was really productive as well as an enriching experience. Thank you for helping shape DREAMING PLACE by sharing your wisdom, specialist knowledge, places, things and good craic with us.
As you know, our fieldwork is over, but we are still blogging…..so join us at our blog here to continue the collaborative adventure!
We are also in the process of creating a short radio series with the multitude of audio recordings from our stay at MAC Geopark and we are working on venues to exhibit our collaborative drawings from this traveling residency.
We will keep you posted as the project develops. We hope you will stay in touch with us as well! We plan to come back to “your neck of the woods” one day!
Continue reading here….
Talismans are an important part of our DREAMING PLACE toolkit. Talismans are objects of power with the capacity to change our perspectives. So we like to give talismans of found or modified natural materials to our participants to act as guides. The talismans act to influence or transform their experience. With a pony hair bracelet or a piece of string fashioned out of soft rushes as guide to an experience, the world becomes new.
Something curious happened to us at Crom Estate. Cradled in the mossy lap of an ancient oak tree close to the Crom Estate church we literally became “human talismans”. A happy shift in scale and perspective….
Are dreams wild?
To help us discover more about Wildness we posed the question, “What is wild?” to Martina Magee, Geopark Development Officer and Education Director for Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
Listen to Martina’s response here:
On the theme of WILD….During an interview with cave geologist Les Brown he spoke about WILD CAVES…..which intrigued us. He explained that Show caves such as Marble Arch Caves (Marble Arch Caves Geopark) and Kents Cavern (English Riviera Geopark) have been altered to accommodate visitors, yet wild caves remain unmodified by humans and retain their essential wild nature. Find our recent post with Les Brown here.
We dreamt our collaboration into existence with 4 legs, 2 noses and 2 x 6th sense.
During our traveling residency, we “dreamed the world” in our own collaborative image by encountering two headed animals.
A two headed, two armed kid on the ferry cavorting up on deck in spitting rain alerted us to our double headed state;
a donkey with two heads watched us pass from an emerald field,
a double yellow kayak held us in its smile,
we laughed and cried,
the twin cultures of Cavan (Eire) and Fermanagh (N.Ireland) welcomed us,
we walked a bridge linking two cultures,
we spoke and were silent,
we dreamed by day and night,
we laughed at the double entendre,
we met Geopark officers from both sides of the border,
we listened to two trees kissing,
we remembered and we forgot,
we caught the landscape gazing at its reflection,
we experimented with ancient and modern,
we followed a bifurcation,
we walked a ridge joining two borders,
we looked east and west,
we ate breakfast side by side,
we spoke and listened,
we matched-up splitting images, played at duppies, captured mirror images with our cameras while the hills reflected in the sky,
we heard the drip, drip of water as it echoed into a cave,
we dreamt double,
we learned of old and new traditions,
we drew from twin imaginations,
we did science and art,
we pedaled sister bikes,
we heard how Bridget and her dad saw two houses where there was once one and thought they were tipsy,
we learnt Gallic and English names of towns and people,
our nostrils smelled in tendem,
we followed two rivers,
we minded and not minded,
we saw through the looking glass,
we worked with dual purpose,
we dreamed up past and future lives.
Anna and I with Seamus and the two of Johnny McKeagney’s sons
I expect some of you will have heard about the Cathal Bui festival in Blacklion, (Eire) and about Johnny MeKeagney, author and illustrator of In the Ould Ago? A shop keeper by trade, Johnny McKeagney had a passion for people, places and things and spent many years of his life literally “drawing out the past”.
We’d just begun our own collaborative Geopark drawing, when we first spied Johnny’s book “In the Ould Ago” in Enniskillen castle museum bookshop. The detailed pen and ink drawings and large format of this incredible book SPOKE OUT LOUD TO US. And now we badly needed a copy to help “fast dream us into place.” Most urgently of all, we wanted to meet Johnny, naturally. Sadly, Johnny is no longer with us, but happily, we can all know him through his work. We had the good fortune to meet his sons, pictured above at the Johnny McKeagney tribute evening.
Our collaboration with Marble Arch Caves Geopark comes with lots of perks, and the best thing is they actually SUPPLY US BOOKS…..!!! We love them for that…. and we know that this will make you all a little envious. You see, a collaborative project like ours works as a kind of exchange. We are fond of Exchanges as you know. Our project is funded by National Lottery through Arts Council England which means MAC Geopark gets us and Dreaming Place for free. In return they provide us with contacts, experts, books, lifts, maps, free entry into show caves, amazing PR and stuff like that.
This appealing and informative book is choc full of detailed observations of Marble Arch Caves Geopark heritage… and even some dreams. Our admiration for this man has grown as we too have been invited into strangers homes for tea and chat and have drawn our vision or Aisling.
Johnny’s book shows him to be full of curiosity, love and respect for his homelands, its people, places and things. A tireless documenter, he forayed out into the twin counties of Fermanagh (Northern Ireland) and Cavan (Eire) gathering heritage “data”, even as he grew sick. Like us, he was uncertain at first how to share this “data” with others. Eventually plumping for a hand illustrated book. Much of his work was achieved from his own Dreaming Place: his bed.
As heartfelt descriptions of Johnny McKeagney’s work by Séamas MacAnnaidh and others filled the tribute evening, we began to better understand the breadth and depth of his fieldwork, drawings and the process of presenting it all to a wider audience. We related in particular to the reflections on the challenge of presentation, as we face a similar conundrum with our own drawings and fieldwork.
Listen to an audio clip from Séamas MacAnnaidh’s tribute below:
We recommend In the Ould Ago to anyone and everyone interested in Irish culture, oral history and the creative presentation of a place, its people and their material culture.
Making and sharing tea is an important tradition in many parts of the world. And Tea culture is very much alive both at Marble Arch Caves Geopark and in our own arts practice. Tea has even taken protagonism in our Exchange project. And hey wasn’t Asterix’s magic potion TEA?
Tea leaves are also used as an oracle; to tell the future. On the Crom estate in Marble Arch Caves Geopark there lives an old lady who practices the art of reading tea leaves.
Listen here about this 90 year old fortune teller.
In own projects tea is always drunk a lot (redbush mostly). Likewise in the territories of Marble Arch Caves Geopark tea is drunk heartily on both sides of the now invisible border. What stories does our lovely second hand shop Teapot have to tell?
And the potency of Tea? We think some of the potency resides in the water used to make tea. This golden water from a spring already looks like tea. Water straight from the earth is called “Slap Water” in Northern Ireland, used to wash dirt-covered potatoes just harvested on the way in to the house (described to us in a conversation with a local farmer).
And of course TEA is a strongly uniting factor. Many activities in Eire and Northern Ireland happen around mugs of steaming tea. Forget Irish Whisky and Guinness! Tea gives rise to good chat and hell, it gives rise to some proper good craic.
This magic frog prince tea cup came from Germany. It changed raspberries into tea when ordinary tea was accidentally left behind on our Exchange project field visit.
Being an artist is thirsty work sand there is nothing like a cuppa to turn a new campsite into home. We usually fill our thermos with hotwater for later a comforting cuppa in the day. Our essential tea kit as illustrated below consists of:- bikes for fetching water, table for brewing, kettle, soya milk, insulated cup, camping stove. How much regalia. And a bowl for washing teacups.
We were invited into this narrow boat for tea at Derryvore jetty near Belturbet, Eire. Find out more about this craft, its people and animals via The puzzler blog.
Oh and this is the kettle that lives in MacGrath’s Cottage, at Killykeegan nature reserve, on Marlbank Scenic loop close to Marble Arch Caves. It is a small visitor centre with a hearth and a turf fire. Bit dusty but sure it will still make a good cuppa
And in the rain there is nothing so good as a cuppa tea.
Life without tea would be faster, but it would stop being extraordinary.
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.
Listen to Anna and Claire on Dreaming
DREAM word list by Claire and Anna
Tread softly because you tread on my dream.
An unfulfilled dream
Wouldn’t dream of ….
In the land of dreams
In my wildest dreams
If pigs could fly
In your dreams
With head in the cloud
Broke my dream
On cloud nine
In cloud cuckoo land
The … of my dreams
Dreaming with your eyes wide shut
Off with the fairies
Palace of dreams
Channel of ideas
Pie in the sky
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.
Strange to be sure…!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.