We never expected off-grid blogging to be easy, but it turned out to be the single most challenging aspect of our trip.
Little lakes inside our tents, patchy mobile connection, no running water, no loo, rampant jet lag, hip injury, but electric plugs – oh please….
Our hungry laptops had us struggling to provide. Without power we feared they would become weak and easily die.
We had pondered the off-grid dilemma long and hard. Claire lives off-grid year round at her home in New Mexico; so surely it isn’t such a big deal. She and Chris collect energy from the sun and store it in underfloor batteries for use as electricity around the home. Wi-fi and the sun allow Claire and I to work together, despite her off-grid-ness and our many degrees of separation. These technological advances help us keep our collaboration alive.
Soft folding dashboard solar panels might keep our laptops charged, but would they work in such a resolutely unsunny climate ? And what of bike power…. it works for making smoothies and projections so might pedal power keep our cameras, laptops and blogging practice alive?
In the end we opted to plug-in at Marble Arch Caves Geopark HQ, council offices, campsites and country hotels and used a wee dashboard plug (little inverter in the cigarette lighter) for on-the-go top-ups between charging locations.
Blogs are an ideal way to record, share and reflect on project adventures. And we shared DREAMING PLACE with family, friends and a world wide audience….. veraciously!
Keeping the hardware topped up became a matter of supreme importance. Should we make supper, sleep, experiment, search for a plug-in or make connections?
We are the first to admit that blogging got a bit out of hand… this time… and we did it in the face of significant adversity – Our dongle rarely worked, so that was a waste of money, we were operating in mobile-coverage shadowlands in the X – border zone, hoteliers were mean to us, the Geopark HQ were kind but couldn’t share their internet and we were miles from the nearest cyber cafe… yet we blogged and blogged and blogged.
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?
We find that campsites cultivate philosophy. Rushin House Caravan Park on the emerald shores of Lough MacNean just outside Belcoo in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark is awash with the stuff. It runs so deep that in times gone by the inhabitants sensibly build their houses on stilts. The shimmering waters of the lough preserve the oak timbers of a bronze age homestead. Perched on its artificial island or crannog its inhabitants were safe from the erratic surges of philosophy that are prone to flood this special landscape.
Listen here to our favourite Campsite philosophers, Barb and Len from Calgary, Canada..
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?
There are reputed to be a hundred names for snow, so why not a 100 names for rain.
Drizzle, slush, fine mist, cats and dogs, golden rain, relentless drizzle, hard rain, pissing it down rain, lashing it down, splashy rain, fine rain, drenching rain, just a shower, slashing it down rain, driving rain, artificial rain, acid rain, wet dog rain, prayed for rain, gurgling into gutters rain, on and on and on rain, cowardly rain, emotional rain, childhood rain, steam up ya specs rain, bleary rain, frozen rain, dreary rain, drumming rain, sprightly rain, nifty rain, curious rain, whiplash rain, wet laundry rain, welcome rain, refreshing rain, summer rain, coming down in buckets rain, bank holiday rain,dream rain, mean rain, drenched to the skin rain, clear the air rain, sluice rain, dishwater rain, rivulets of rain, radio rain, damp rain, spotting, rain over the sea, bountiful rain, put the sandbanks out rain, raining somewhere else, beach holiday rain, distant rain, sun and rain, turning to ice rain, turn your back to the rain rain, mythical rain, crystal rain, can’t find the keys rain, make lakes inside the tent rain, fun rain, run for cover rain, battery damper rain, splashing rain, filthy rain, fat drops of rain, surging rain, filtered rain, vertical rain, be-jewelled rain, sou’ester and oilskin rain, sprinkling rain, storybook rain, boot filling rain, beating rain, timely rain, cancelling rain, statistical rain, micro rain, miraculous rain, sploshing rain, pear drop shaped rain, slanting rain, beautiful rain, staining rain, thirsty rain, sprinkler saver rain, bucketing down, pouring and pouring rain, more rain, costly rain, swimming pool filling rain, shelter under a bush rain, water off a ducks back rain, thirst quenching rain, polluted rain darling rain, best rain, lip and run rain, break the drought rain, biblical rain, Irish rain, soaking rain, wash out, darts, weekend rain, fairy rain, good for the land rain, pitter -patter, flood rain, bullets, rain coat rain, hill top rain, fill bucket quickly rain, fat rain, wet rain, cold rain, nasty rain, wide-brimmed hat rain, frightening rain, sizzling rain, stinging rain, hot rain, under canvas rain, God given rain, bouncing rain, patient rain, giant’s rain, wants to go back home rain, delirium inducing rain, mega rain, freezing rain, timid rain, glorious rain, drought breaking rain, special rain, horrific rain, blinding rain, don’t go outdoors rain, horizontal rain, fickle rain, timid rain, burning rain, southwesterly rain, milky rain, rained like this yesterday too rain, yellow rain, sleepy rain, seeping rain, excuse of a rain, call off a BBQ rain, light rain, shower of rain, Wimbledon rain, tea-break rain, narrow rain, drip into your eyes rain, stormy rain, instant noodles rain, melted snow rain, rain around a speck of dust rain, co2 rain, sulphurus rain, nice rain, settle in the seedlings rain, blank rain, car roof rain, kind rain, fresh morning rain, Monday morning rain, sick note rain, trench coat rain, slippery rain, dreary rain, stick your hair to your forehead rain, baby rain, feisty rain, come and go rain, dream rain, rice grain rain, Spanish rain, planters rain, thirsty rain, full rain, black rain, tropical rain, steamy rain, drenched to the skin rain, cruel rain, drought breaking rain, pouring rain.
Phew… how many RAINS is that?
What does gaelic rain sound like? ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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 .
A novel technique for “fast dreaming into place” is to interview people, places and things.
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.
However editing is a risky business and dangers lurk in every corner. When using our data we must make careful choices, so that we can expand the world of knowledge and perception in an ethical way.
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!
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….
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.
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.
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.
While inhabiting the MAC Geopark, we’ve chosen to keep our accommodations simple. However, cooking on a camp stove and eating out of storage bags and boxes has not cramped our culinary style. Good food (especially good veg) is one of the luxuries that we have chosen to sustain during the project. (Some of you who’ve been following our blog closely may have already surmised this!) In fact, we believe that culinary choices deeply affect our experience of place on several levels: 1) the physiological affects of different foods on the body; 2) the experience of place while cooking and eating out of doors instead of inside a house or restaurant; 3) the experience of eating food grown or produced in the local proximity……and there are many other levels I’m sure.
How does food affect, create, or influence your experience of place?
Have you ever found yourself inhabiting another person’s dream?
Well that’s exactly what happened to us one rare bright and sunny morning, when through a series of surreal events, we found ourselves dreaming in the posh front seats of John McAllen’s dream cars – a classic red Jaguar and a jet black Porche with cream leather seats.
These DREAM cars were brought to us at Knockninny jetty as we cooked our porridge. Part of John McAllens’ love affair with danger and risk-taking they are two of just nine fast cars that he owns. Though they are good looking vehicles their allure for him is less about beauty and more about the “danger flavours” he craves.
“There is no such thing as courage,” he says, “There is either fight or flight and I always choose fight.”
For him experiencing the exhilarating edge of danger is a kind of dreaming. Along with his single engine airplane and other fast cars these two cars are just some of his “danger dreaming props”.
On this same sunny morning we were able to update our “Alan Count“, having met 1-John McAllen. (John is a descendant of the Allendes via a shipwrecked sailor of the Spanish Armada . The original Allendes changed the name to McAllen to blend in with their new country of Eire) And 2-Alan of the lovely cottage and canoe, who has already been referenced on this blog. So that take us up to five Allens so far….. and how many Macs?
Dave Scott is a bit of a gem – I met him on a hill top on my “go see” visit to Marble Arch Caves Geopark last year. During DREAMING PLACE, he invited us to dinner with his wife and son and gave us a precious set of maps. He also invited us to accompany him and a group of kids from the Gortatole Activity Centre to Innishee, an island inhabited by crows on Lough MacNean. Listen here
Before swimming back to the boat Dave invited us all to look for chert tools on the foreshore. We squatted down and soon tools were popping out of the gravel like smarties. Claire and I dream of spending time with the the mesolithic people for whom the area was home some 7-8,000 BP. It is believed that Ireland was not inhabited by humans ’till the end of the last ice-age. So the chert tools probably belonged to these original inhabitants. We left our finds with the collection belonging to Gortatole Activity Centre.
Later on in our travels in the Geopark, on the shores of Higher Lough Erne, next to a Jetty at Crom we found even more prehistoric flints including a blade-like tool. I carried the blade in my pocket until I gave it to a young farmer from Galoon island who admired it. All his life on Galloon island and he never found such a thing. The blade is safe in his pocket, close to home.
The cave systems at Marble Arch Caves are infamous among potholers for their fickle ways. They can be dry one minute and very very wet the next; wet and of course highly dangerous.
Boho (pronounced Boh) caves were very very wet on the day we were invited to descend them. Even our guide, Les Brown, who is chair of the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation that operates from Marble Arch Caves Geopark, was astonished by the quantity of water roaring from its mouth. He was quite impressed.
From this photo I’m not sure if you can really appreciate that there is a whole river coming out of the rock, a whole river running right over what would normally be dry land. It can take as little as 10 minutes and up to 24 hours for rain to flood these caves. Conditions in these caves are dramatic!
You see, these limestone lands are literally full of holes and rain running off from mountains and out of bogs can literally pour back underground through numerous sink holes the moment it leaves the skies. Naturally the Marble Arch show caves are very closely monitored, water flows are measured around the clock and dangerous areas roped off. In “wild caves” where there is no monitoring equipment it is much more dangerous and caution and familiarity with the caves are key to safety.
Sadly because of the big river coming out of this Cave we didn’t get to explore Boho caves. Instead we contented ourselves with interviewing Les at the back bar (a carefully created cave-like room) of MacKenzies in the potholers bar.
A hydrogeologist and adventurer, Dr. Les Brown is chair of the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation and afficionado of potholing. In one of his stories he was buried alive in Ethiopia and in another came across porcupine quills in a cave. This is where drawing overlaps with dreaming. We drew a porcupine in a cave in our collaborative drawing the day before we met up with Les.
Hot and thirsty from our bike ride between Dowra and Blacklion, we happened upon the most hospitable old lady. She scuttled around the back of her cottage when she saw us; we were worried we had frightened her.
But in a moment the front door swung open and we became her privileged guests. We stepped over the threshold into her world of radio, scrubbed flagstones and a dresser packed with tea things and Easter cards.
Would we like biscuits, sandwiches, fairy cakes? Listen to our adventure by clicking play below for tea with an old lady. For us this was a fairy story….of hospitality to strangers.
In fact there are so many common spotted orchids dotted around the place, it’s hard to find a place to dream without squashing them. But though this orchid is seemingly common here, in other locations they really are rare because modern agricultural practices threaten their native grassland habitats.
Through conservation schemes, some farmers in the MAC geopark have agreed to take special measures to protect and nurture this native grassland and it is a wonderful thing to see. Much of this agricultural land is farmed organically like this plot belonging to Ignatius.
The hay from these special meadows smells like heaven. And I’m going to rustle up a little audio piece we recorded at the farm of Ignatius McGuire so that even if you cannot smell heaven you can hear about it. Listen to Ignatius on mowing here.
Ignatius himself is a rare breed. He farms his ancestral homelands in the way of his forebears. He is bursting with energy and scything really is a joy to him. His enthusiasm is contagious and he soon has Claire and I swinging the scythe.
It goes without saying we are very impressed. Even more impressed because this man’s vision is ecological in a big way. We can imagine 10 men (that is the traditional number to work a field) out there mowing and competing with each other for speed and skill. He is really chuffed that we are keen on learning his skill and invites us back in August to help him.
Shannon Pot (important site in the Geopark) was probably quite midgy (full of no see-ems) in the mesolithic. Late one evening as we slathered ourselves with natural bug repellent, we also worked out why some people are born with the potential to grow long floppy hair!!
A prehistoric roundhouse nestled behind the Geopark’s GortaMcConnell view point near Marble Arch Caves hosted our first Cross border Exchange.
We invited local artists from Visual Arts Fermanagh to bring an object or idea from their lives or cultures to share with the original inhabitants of a prehistoric roundhouse in the limestone hills close to the Eire/N.Ireland border.
Five artists trekked to the site carrying a gurgling baby plus their chosen objects: a brass key to bleed radiators, a mug with a frog on it and a red enameled teapot. A blue tin kettle, an antique china teapot and a beautiful retro enamel red teapot attended our tea party but embarrassingly we were missing the TEA. Both of us had forgotten to pack it! How did this happen?
We have done The Exchange many times but never never with lightening, midges, a baby, and a real campfire. The novelty hopefully made up for the lack of real tea and a the campfire lit to keep the midges away felt kind of homely.
We discussed the importance of tea and hospitality over a delicious tea substitute, an infusion of fresh raspberries. If the custom of offering tea disappears could a whole culture collapse?
Myriad lakes, rivers, canals, drainage ditches, streams and rivers meet together in the counties of Cavan and Fermanagh to form a truly extensive watery network linking these ancient lands to the Atlantic Ocean at Donegal bay.
Today inward and outward flow of people, animals and things mostly happens by road, rail and air. The axis of the world has shifted.
We gather wild garlic for pesto and the four of us (artist/musicians Susan and Alan and Claire and Anna) stand on the wooded shores of Lower Lough Erne chatting.
The evening lake is quiet, but tomorrow we’ll take to the lough in Alan’s double kayak, a flotsam score washed up on the shore. There is a round crannog type island we want to visit. We must tie a scarf onto a tree or we’ll not find our way back to the slipway of a ruined monastery. Alan tells us to head straight out then let the breeze blowing in from the west whisk us around the back of the island. It sounds so easy. Susan says the island vegetation is very dense and it’s not easy to enter the woods. For us it is a place of dreams.
Since the end of the last ice age some ten thousand years ago this waterway has brought international traffic and trade creating a rich infusion of culture, peoples and things. We try to imagine the hustle and bustle of the waterway in a different time as we stand on the shore of the lough on an early Christian slipway made by monks as part of their shoreline monastery. Today this slipway gives access to a pristine waterway, seemingly deserted, more scenic view than international trade route. However now, this beautiful lough is at the centre of a farsighted cross border initiative that will revitalize these Geopark homelands.
From the beating heart of Ireland boats, tourists, places and things will help to re-float the economies of Eire and Northern Ireland. It is a glorious shared vision or aisling (Irish Gaelic for dream).
One of the subthemes of our “traveling residency” is slow travel.
Through the generosity of people here our dreams of experiencing slow travel within Marble Arch Caves Geopark are becoming reality. We have rowed a Cott (a traditional boat of the area) and a rowing boat, walked the lanes, hills and footpaths, paddled a Canadian canoe, gone swimming, and of course ridden our bikes. It often seems quicker to swim or take a boat from one island to the next rather than driving long way round on roads. Some local people still use the waterways for local travel including trips to the pub. But most islands are now linked by bridges.
Today we are visiting some beautiful Irish horses and hoping for a ride out in the sunshine close to the peaceful Crom Estate. Horses are still very much a part of Irish culture in both the North and the South – something we really want to connect with.
We had tea on a narrow boat during our sojourn at Derryvore Jetty, just across the water from Crom Estate, where we have been dog-sitting. “The Puzzler” is a very fine contemporary narrow boat painted in traditional colors and fully kitted out. She runs on “red diesel” and her appliances are solar powered. In the winter her little stove burns wood gathered from local woodlands. Her owners, Andrew and Sally Rawnsley use their bikes to travel into towns and villages to buy fuel and provisions and they run a blog of their own. Visit their blog here.
DREAMING PLACE is an experimental project by Anna Keleher (Devon) and Claire Coté (New Mexico), investigating dúlra – ecosystem; dúchas– heritage; aisling – dream. Based on an ancient Celtic tradition in which the land remembers everything, the project explores “dreams of place” and how lands speak through dreamers.
I believe the work you do really helps people to value what is important about their place in space – keep it up.
-Dave Scott, Gortatole Activity Centre Facilitator, N. Ireland
I'm loving the sounds, smells, textures, and virtual visuals of Radio Dreaming! It's a 'mini-vacation'!!
-Gale Picard Dorion, NM
A wonderful project, reconnecting to and listening to inner/outer Nature is crucial in this time of ecological and ethical crisis.
-Colin Donoghue, NY
I just listened to Radio Dreaming and I enjoyed it so much. It was really beautiful and soothing to listen to because I could sense how "in the moment" you guys were through your voices. I need more stuff like that in my life; Inspiring and interesting and a bit higher up on the cultural ladder that my usual forms of entertainment.
-Jessica Scott, OR