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Pilgrim Tales: The Brazilians and Kelly

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“Belleza!!”

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

“Erphff”

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

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

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

“Bellezzzza” say the Gods.

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

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

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

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

“Hellllll ooooooo!!!”

The pilgrim moves off the track and onto our campspot.

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

“Anna” I say.

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

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

“What’s youuurrrrr naaaaame?” asks Kelly

“Mark” says Mark.

“I looooove yoouuu Maaaarrrrrkk !”

” I love youuu Kelly!” says Mark.

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

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

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

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

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

And off Kelly trots into his neat little future.

“Preacher man” says Mark

“Millionaire?” says me.

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

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

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

“How are you doing”? says Mark.

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

” You okay Kelly?  I ask.

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

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

“Buen Camino Natural people” says Kelly.

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

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Pilgrim Tales from the Camino: Roxanne, Chupito and the dream cloud vision

Roxanne and Lisa

“Hello big dog¨.

A gentle giant pads into our field of vision as we enjoy a perfect afternoon on the lakeside at Logroño. And two German girls with monster rucksacks shout out a cheery “Hola”.

“How’s your dog like the Camino”? we ask them.”Roxy’s not used to long walks” replies the tall one in Spanish.

“Her feet feet are a bit sore, so we’re taking it really slow “. Mmm… its not so easy to do the Camino with a dog then?”

“Camino hostels won’t take Roxy so we sleep outdoors under a kind of a shelter… its called A TARP?” she says TARP in English. We nod.

“Oh yes we know… a  TARP.

“Great” we say”, but your pack must be heavy with all that dog food”!

“My parents wanted me to bring the dog,she’s mine. They weren’t happy for me to travel alone, so they told me I had to take Roxanne”.

“She’s a lovely dog” we reply as we pat Roxy’s wide head. Her eyes roll upwards to meet our touch.

“Buen Camino” we say by way of goodbye.

“Buen Camino” echo the girls as Roxy pulls them sharply towards cool lake water.

“Oh I wish we had Ghyllie here”  says Mark.” I miss him sooo.”

We  meet up with Roxanne and Lisa again on our way into Burgos. Roxy is pleased to see us.

“Where’s your friend”? we ask .”Friend?… Oh she was just someone I was walking with. She’s German and so is my mum so we chatted a while then we went our separate ways.

Roxanne is the kind of dog that protects sheep in Italy and she keeps us closely bunched together while we have a lively chat all the way from the city limits into the centre. What are her motivations for coming on the Camino, we wonder. Lisa has a happy home, she says, living in the country with her parents, dogs and  horses. She helps her dad out with forestry, but…

“I am a dropper outer” she confides. “Really”? “We are genuinly surprised.

“I can’t stick anything, I start things, but I leave, I don’t know what I want to do and thats why I’m on the Camino”.

“Yeah” says Mark “You can forget everything else but the walk” for The Camino has this effect on him.

“No, it’s the exact opposite”, says Lisa.”Travelling on my own gives me time to think. My mind is full of home, my family, my problems. I’ve had lots of time to go back over my life and think about it. Its a real help”.

“But you haven’t dropped out of THE CAMINO,” we say.” Bet your parents didn’t think you’d stick it out”!

“Yeah they’re really surprised, they can’t believe it”.

“You see your a sticker outer now. You’ve changed” I say. Lisa tells us she wouldn’t have been here now had it not been for a stranger she’d met along the way.

“I left my car at Somport in the Pyreneesand began to walk but I hated it. After just a few days I wanted to leave, just stop. It was awful, but I met a German man, a pilgrim. He was very stern. He gave me a BIG telling off.

“Your life is too easy,” he said ” You’re a really spoilt kid, when the going gets tough you just drop out. It’s disgraceful. Life’s not like that, you’ve got to put up with discomfort and persevere. Stop making a big fuss, pull yourself together and get on with it. People don’t want to hear your moaning.” “So I gave it another go.” Lisa smiles and we laugh together.

“I have that man to thank. It was just what I needed. He was right and here I am”.

“You must be proud of yourself “we say and tell her how brilliantly she’s done. We feel as proud as parents. “You are an inspiration to my younger self!” I say.  

Chupito and Marlene

We are eating lunch on a pleasant hill-side under pines when a girl appears with a donkey. Our eyes follow their slow progress down the hill.

“Why d’you reckon they’re going contra-flow? I ask Mark. “I dunno” Mark replies. ” She’s got dreads” I say.

“Yeah” says Mark.

“I’m going to say hello” I say as I leap to my feet sandwich in hand ” I’m going to find out her story”.

I dash along the hill-top barefoot. Great they’ve stopped on the track for a chat with some pilgrims. ” Wait” I shout . ….  as the pilgrims hand her something and part. I call out to her  in Spanish as I make my way down the prickly incline. “I want to say Hello”!

The girl is in her twenties, she has light leather sandals and a lime-green day pack. She looks a bit bewildered. I jump out onto the trail in front of her like a bandit.

“Can I say hello to your donkey”?

The donkey is one of those big dark brown ones with soft eyes and he’s laden with a traditional set of woven paniers, he is un-startled at my breathy approach. “Can I give your donkey a bite of my bocadillo”? Velvet lips are reaching gently for my sandwich.

“Here” says the girl and hands me a piece of the crispiest toastiest sun-dried bread flipped out from under the pommel of the saddlepack. “This is better for him”. I feed the toast to the grateful donkey.

“What’s his name ?” …. ” Is he a donkey or a mule?

” He’s Chupito and he’s a mule” says the girl.

She is patient and kind though, she says, they’ve met more than 600 people in the six weeks they’ve been travelling from Santiago and they all want to pet Chupito. She says she is Marlene, is French and No she doesn’t live on the Camino.

“This is just a” viaje- a trip!

She tells me how she bought Chupito in Andalusia.”He was “muy barato”she says repeating the words “muy barato”very cheap for emphasis. Poor Chupito, it turns out that the price was low because he was deranged. He’d had been badly treated and didn’t trust anyone.

“He was actually really dangerous when we set out” says Marlene. But we’ve been together all the time, we trust each other and he’s a very good mule now.”

“But… what will happen to Chupito at the end of your journey ?” I ask, concerned.

“He’s  going to live at a monastery run by Buddhist nuns! The nuns are really kind and they’ll care for him in a meadow they have there. ”

We smile with relief at the happy ending of Chupito’s tale.

Marlene opens her palm to reveal three gold coins. LOOK I’ve got money. ” she says “I’m going into town for a COFFEE”!

The Camino Dreamcloud Vision

It’s late evening and our map shows a campspot  between us and the autopista. An all-terrain vehicle is raising dust further down the trail.

¨I think they´re going to camp there. Let’s go to the next camp-spot.”

We watch as two men get out of the truck and mosey around the campspot. “What d’you think they are doing?”I ask Mark.

“I dunno” says Mark.

Soon they are back in the car and making a new trail of dust back up tthe hill towards the setting sun. They turn around at a huge stack of barley straw and once again descend the hll in our direction.

“What’s going on?” I say, as they drive our way.

As they pass us they stop and hang out of the window to apologise for raising such a dust storm with their comings and goings.

“Have you seen the boy and the girl? Says the tall dark-haired guy in American English. “No! ” Which Boy and which Girl”?

We are puzzled.

“The ones with a horse and a dog” they say.

“We haven’t seen any teenagers walking the Camino.”No” we say. ‘We haven’t seen them with a horse and a dog.”

Driver and passenger turn, so they can look back up the hill. Small figures are coming down the trail.

“They’ll be here soon. We’re their support vehicle” say the men”.We’ve been down to check out the camp-spot. It’s nice and quiet.”

“So…. who are THEY”?  says Mark curious “What’s their story?”

“They are two teenagers with really severe behavioural difficulties. The idea is they have each rescued an animal from an animal sanctuary in Andalusia and walked with them along the Via de la Plata pilgrim trail to Santiago.We’re piloting a scheme to see if we can help kids with these kinds of problems. If it works then the government will roll it out. They’ve been walking for six weeks. There’s a social worker with them, they are camping along the route and we are carrying the gear, food and so  on in the back-up vehicle”.

The back of their vehicle is full of stuff.

“So..um…where are they walking to”?

“Oh” says the driver who has a grey stubbly beard and sounds German.”They’re walking over the Pyrenees to Germany”.

It sounds as if he’s telling us that the children will be walking over the hill to the next village.

“They are walking to Germany”?We look at each other and back to them in disbelief.

“Yes, Germany, we hope they’ll be cured when they arrive.Oh excuse us, we’ve gotta go they mustn’t see us talking to you.” says the American. “Buen Camino”!

“Buen Camino” we reply.

The driver hits the accelerator and they are gone leaving a white puffy cloud  shortly to be filled by a blonde girl on a snow white horse, a woman with a pack, a spotty boy with an inward looking gaze and a striking blue-eyed dog in a neckachief.

“Buen Camino” we say to them, but they inhabit another dimension and don’t hear us. As they pass by the pony breaks into trot and the girl shrieks clutching the mane. No bridle, no saddle, no collar, a holy-vision bathed in straw-coloured evening light. Our eyes fill with tears at the wondrous beauty of it all.

“I wonder how long it will be” says Mark “before they can begin to trust people again?”

Pilgrim Tales : Serge, Jonno and Charlie

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

“Buen Camino” says the knight.

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

This pilgrim has a pure heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m mixed up” he says.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inhabiting the dream: postcard 29

Geopark view

Geopark view

Tales from the “Camino de Santiago” Pilgrim Trail.

P6150062As we rove the hills, mountains and villages of our “project-lands” around the world we meet with the wisdom and  kindness of strangers.

So too on “The Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Trail” in Northern Spain, Mark and I encounter  many inspiring and interesting people and Mark records their names on a hand-carved “tally stick” as a momento. I have added my own titles to their names to help me remember them.

Daniel the Courageous, Paulino of the Well, Serg the litter picker, Felisa of the Figs, Girl and boy with horse and dog. Mother and daughter Pila and Raquel, Irish politician Paul, Young Lisa and dog Roxanne, Eduardo Keeper of  caves and his Wife.

(and what about the girl and her mule “Chupito”maybe the stick was too short, Mark?)

I’m eager to share stories of some of the pilgrims we have met and I’ll start with the story of Daniel the Courageous.

DANIEL THE COURAGEOUS.

Waves of  barley break over the low-wild hills of Navarra to our left as a we catch up with another pilgrim. There is something about his lurching gait….that worries us.

“Oh my God,” says Mark. “Heart attack?” I reply.  The man stumbles again.  Mark is off…running  to his aid.  “Are  you alright?” he has real concern in his voice. The man is calm “No es nadam, estoy bien,” he says.

“How can we help? ” Mark replies.

“Here.” He passes over our water bottle. “Have some water.” The man is clearly exhausted, dying perhaps, beads of sweat on his forehead.

“What to do?” We look at each other for inspiration.

“Estoy muy bien, muchas gracias” repeats the man quietly, slowly.

A fellow pilgrim is suffering, we won’t leave him to his fate here on the dusty track. Mark asks him again how we can help.  He waves a tube of suntan lotion.  “Gracias,” he says shaking his head. “Estoy muy bien.” “You should rest a bit in the shade, its too hot,”  we say.   The man looks at us sympathetically then extends his hand in friendship.

“Soy Daniel” he says quietly.

We want to hear more so we lean in towards him and watch his lips. “Tengo Parkinsons”  says Daniel. We read his message loud and clear.

“PARKINSONS?” we gasp incredulous.

“But you are walking THE CAMINOOO and you have PARKINSONS ?”

Daniel is on a roll. “Voy a Burgos,” he says !! It turns out that Daniel is walking the whole Camino ,but like us he is doing it in stages.

“Oh my god.” “This is amazing “!! ” You are incredible” we say with English understatement. Meeting Daniel is awe – inspiring. We will NEVER complain AGAIN !!!

We wish him well shouting” Buen Camino” as we  pace off towards the horizon. But soon the violent glare of the sun forces us to stop and we sit out the siesta hours in the shade of poplars.

AND …. after a while who should  come down the lane but our friend DANIEL. If Santiago himself had just caught us up with us we would have been less surprised.  We run out into the sunshine to greet him.

He smiles and  begins to fumble in his bumbag. We watch his fingers struggle with the zip and search for a paper. He hands over his photocopied details in English, French and German.  “I am Daniel. I have  Parkinsons” says the English version.  We fold the paper with his contact details and tuck it away in Mark’s pack.  We want to join Daniel’s fan club.

“We’ll email when we get home ” we say. But Daniel is not finished. He tells us how his motor-biking companions bugged him to visit the doctor when he simply thought he was getting old. He got his diagnosis some years back and decided to do the Camino.

We wish Daniel well as he sets off again. The sun is still way too hot for us so we’ll catch him up later.The funny things is that we never do. Daniel is the tortoise and we are  the hare.

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

Shampoo, a shrine and a pop-up shelter

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

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

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

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

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

Our Camino de Santiago


Wayside campspot

Mark and I  started our” Camino”  experience at Pamplona bus station by a star shaped fort they have there.  A grandfather became our first guide directing us towards a tree with a yellow arrow. The way  may also be marked by a  shell icon.

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If you are uncertain or have ventured off the official route  someone magically pops up to show you the way.  On one of our frequent diversions,  three generations of women were waiting  for us outside their home to point us in the direction of the next “aldea”. They chatted with us as they walked  us over the hill and around the corner to make sure we didn’t get lost, wished us “Buen Camimo”, planted kisses on our cheeks and were gone.

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The  John Brierley guide book to the way of St James has become a bible for English speakers and many follow the suggested stages, making particular hostels more busy than others. Also known as “The Camino Francés” this popular  pilgrim route starts at St Jean Pied a Port in the northern Pyrenees, but you can start your pilgrimage anywhere, from a train or bus station in Spain or France or from your own doorstep.  We met a man who has been on “The Camino” for 12 years and it has become his home. He has walked it 27 times. The pilgrim trail measures just  780k  from St Jean to Santiago so it could easily take  4 -5 weeks.

We spent only ten days and nights on the Camino because this holiday was  a simple ” go see” trip for us. We plan to do the full Camino (Frances) next year and will be allowing forty days and forty nights, leaving plenty of time for excursions and rest days.  You will remember that Claire and I chose this biblical sounding time frame for our DREAMING PLACE project and it kind of suits this pilgrimage,  don’t you think?

P6160079Most  pilgrims we met came on their own and have many different sorts of motivation and stories. I’ll be telling you about some of them in subsequent blogs. Pilgrims of the Camino  generally travel on foot, carrying their own packs and  sleep and eat in hostels.  Some do the journey on bikes and we met a man from Germany cycling  contra -flow, whose pilgrimage had begun in Portugal, he’d already reached  Santiago de Compostela and was going on to Lourdes.

There are a total of around 200.000 pilgrims per year which seems a lot, some use different routes but in any case you only meet a small proportion of these people, so don’t let numbers put you off. Our main challenge was the very powerful sun that shone nearly the whole time,  so we split our day in two parts, resting up in the shade for a giant siesta each day and walking on into the evening. We  really enjoyed the company of strangers and spent part of each day walking and talking with others, we were particularly grateful to them because we chose to stay by the wayside in bivvy bags we missed out on the famed communal meals, which are also great for sharing and exchange.

Many pilgrims show their status by hanging an outsize cockle shell from their back pack.  We carried snail shell talismans to inspire us in the art of SLOW TRAVEL.

Though I was not officially “on project” and  this trip wasn’t conceived as an art work. Our experience of the Camino was deep and rewarding and had elements of DREAMING PLACE. We even carried the Red and Silver DREAMING PLACE mat that Claire brought with her from New Mexico for our Dreaming in Ireland. As the Camino passes through homelands inhabited by foxes, genet, wild cats, European Bison, brown bears and wolves, we further protected our camp spot with drops of lavender hoping to deter any beasties small enough to enter our sleeping bags.  We never woke up with a bison in our bags so it really does work.

As in our off-grid experience in Ireland we came to remember once again the importance of food, water, shelter and  to feel again the kindness of strangers.

We walked and talked with “perigrinos” from  France, Catalonia, Korea, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Spain, Germany, Italy, America and Brazil in both the English and Spanish language.  Our path took us through oak forests, barley fields, olive groves and industrial zones. We saw deer, quails, partridges, hops, barley and many wild flowers. We are in love with the Camino its flora, fauna, diversity and hospitality. So watch this space for anecdotes, stories, adventures and mabye even a song.

 

A kettle full of generosity

“It’s my dream to own a kettle like that!” says Mary-Jane, her tiny frame tilted back to take in the beauty of our family-size kettle which hangs from the pod’s rear hatch. Its brown enamel surface is hand-painted with bright bargee swirls and flowers and it’s slightly scuffed.

Teapot
We are bursting to say “here you are, Mary –Jane please take it as a gift from us; for hasn’t she just given us an envelope with money in it, to repay our visit just as if we are her own children or grandchildren? But we don’t and the kettle stays in our care, ‘cos without it who knows how can we boil water for our visitors’ tea?

Back on the road we decide we will  gift the kettle, but later on when we don’t need it so badly. So when we get back to England it is carefully wrapped and sent over to its new owner, Mary-Jane of Tawny McKelly. So that if you pass by her cottage today or tomorrow asking for “a little water from the tap” just as we did, to quench your cyclers’ thirst, Mary -Jane will say, “You can, Aye, so you can surely, surely.” And then she’ll say, “Are you needin’ a cuppa tea o’ anything?” And when you say, “Yes that would be grand!” She’ll invite you in through the front door and you’ll l sit on the sofa by her dresser, decked with birthday cards and the radio still playing.IMG_8585
“It’s a long way you’ve come isn’t it?” she’ll say and “D’you want a chicken sandwich d’you?”

Travelling with a question

what does it mean to be off-grid

Inspired by the technological challenges of our journey into the wilds of Marble Arch Caves Geopark in Ireland and Northern Irlealnd for DREAMING PLACE, we returned to the island of Ireland early this summer for a new and entirely different experience. This time we carried with us folding solar panels, a kelly kettle and an important question.

What’s does it mean to be off-grid ?

Its always enlightening to travel with a question, it offers a slant, a fresh perspective and gives much inspiration. As we travel  invitations flood in from people eager to share their off=grid lifestyles and ideas with us so we came back with a bundle of recordings  for a final episode of Radio Dreaming.

We are excited to announce that Radio Dreaming Off-grid part 1 and Radio Dreaming Off-grid part 2 is almost ready and will be coming soon.

Listen to “What is off-gridding?  and  Radio Dreaming Episodes 1-4 

Electric car ambassador dreaming

Listen here as sound  recordist Maurice Barnich from Luxembourg, tells how his electric car enhances his vision of a cleaner planet. (Extract from an in-depth interview with Maurice about his e-car)

On-shore and off-shore commercial windfarms are an evident sign of Ireland’s commitment to sustainable energy production.  As  we tour with our pod we look out for  alternative and micro- energy generation. “If only we could photosynthesize.”

Our first stop on the pod tour is at Cavan courthouse. Here you can re-charge your electric car for free while you have your day in court!

A vision for a sustainable future cannot include energy production based on oil shale gas extraction using the fracking process. We support our friends and others  who oppose fracking at Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.

The romance of the road – life in a home-built wagon: a place dreamer pod interview

What is it like to travel  the length and breadth of Ireland in a home-built wagon?

Listen here to find out! (Note: headphones or earbuds are best for online audio!):

Lynne Maguire lives in County Leitrim and works as a cook at the Organic Centre in Rossinver.

Dreaming place with our Pod Tour

Like a faithful pet our little pod follows us to outlying homesteads, castles, museums, lakes and windy hilltops, providing refuge to all sorts of people and their dreams. With its gleaming shell, comfy sofa and tool-kit of unusual props the pod  becomes a vibrant hub of dialogue, music , ideas and laughter.

In the coming months we’ll be creating  Episode 5 from audio footage gathered on the island of Ireland so completing our  Radio Dreaming series. Look out for news of broadcasts on Community radio stations around the world.

A pod party is a great way to make art in outlying areas.

A pod party is a great way to make art in outlying areas.

Place-Dreamer Pod in Enniskillen

Today we are in Enniskillen. You’ll find us in the courtyard at Castle Museum 10am – 5pm. Please join us if you are in the town on Bank Holiday Monday.SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Radio Dreaming Kickstarter Video is LIVE!

Radio Dreaming Kickstarter Video
Almost two years in the making, Radio Dreaming is definitely our most ambitious (and expensive) collaborative project to date.

We invite you to join the final push to launch our 5-part series and Radio Dreaming Pod Tour through Kickstarter. Watch our hand-crafted video and find out how to support our project. Donations from £5/$7 are rewarded with gifts of hand-drawn dream cloud postcards and printed Place Dreamer artifacts.

Go to: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/radiodreaming/claire-and-anna-radio-dreaming

Learning from “The Puzzler”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Exploring methods of slow travel and off-gridding are important elements of our Place-Dreamer toolkit. During our DREAMING PLACE residency at Marble Arch Caves, we were fortunate to happen across a couple of experienced slow travel and off-gridding experts on “The Puzzler” – Andy, Sally and Catkin Rawnsley, who we already introduced to you on our blog here and here. (You can learn even more about them and their slow travels here.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“The Puzzler” is a bespoke narrowboat outfitted beautifully, as pictured below, for comfortable living and traveling on waterways. With plans on the horizon for our own Dreaming Place bespoke travel vehicle (more to come on that soon!), we are re-examining our interviews with Andy and Sally with great interest.

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Using space creatively and effectively is one of the most important (and most fun!) aspects of kitting out a mobile vehicle such as The Puzzler. We asked Sally and Andy what their favorite piece of kit was and this is what they told us this:

As they showed us how each step of their little staircare holds a handy storage compartment. Genius!
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High low ancient contemporary kind unkind

Technology is very much a part of Dreaming Place; the high tech kind, the low tech kind, the ancient kind, the contemporary kind, the kind kind and the unkind kind. Our international collaboration is shaped by the technologies of the past, future and present. So w’e’re delighted to have been invited by Anita McKeown of SMARTlab to contribute to

“The Matter of Technology”- presentation and panel discussion at ISEA12 on Friday September 21st 1:15 – 2:30 at the ABQ Hotel, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

SMARTlab as Claire says “does some really cool stuff”. So together we’ve put together a 15mins power point presentation in which Claire speaks live and I speak via mp3 audio.

The communications technology we habitually use as we work together in our respective rural home places in Devon and New Mexico solve the BIG problem of time and distance. We use Skype for live chats and conversations, dropbox for file sharing and google docs for scripts, idea development, feedback and schedules. Technology enables our project outcomes to travel out to you in your own homes and workplaces wherever you are in the world. (blog hits from 66 Nations in last 90 days) via Radia FM live-streaming, local community radio, our blogsites and website. 

But though technology is the solution to some of the BIG challenges many of us face, often our present-day technologies disconnect us from our environments and sometimes even from our own bodies!

While these technologies protect our bank accounts and the environment from frequent plane rides to and from each other’s home places, too much “screen time”  gives us “square eyes” and makes us feel pretty lousy.

And as Anita flags up in her own presentation online devices and storage systems have a carbon footprint all of their own and are dependent on non-renewable rare earth minerals.

So we are constantly working on how to balance lifestyle with the goals of our arts practice and the screen time required to share our work with diverse audiences. Really absolutely  nothing replaces face to face contact. And our live events are irreplaceable as a potent means of sharing projects with participant audiences.

Some of our best ideas come while we are on the hoof interacting with people, places and things and experimenting to discover how the creativity of our prehistoric ancestors shapes our contemporary cultures.

To be continued….. in our ” The lure of radio” blog on 28th October

Chance Encounters

They are what happen when you are not looking. They take you by surprise. They are “gifts from the gods of the moment.” Chance encounters smell of sweet spontaneity, taste of salty saturation, feel like a hand-carved walking stick, sound like the chirp of the oracle wren and look like the two botanists that we happened to meet on our way up Cuilcagh Mountain. They are offspring of time and possibility, cousins to choice and the grandparents of adventure. They are the fruit of diligent openness after a season of true patience. They are people, places, creatures and things met on roads and under bridges; shared thoughts and coincidental gestures. They are a collision of time, place and invisible intention. They are ground for invention and the willingness to fail or be unseen and forgotten. Chance encounters give rise to shared experience, information exchange and sometimes realizations. While they are born of spontaneity, they require attention to be noticed and can be easily missed or “wasted” if eyes are closed or heads are down while walking the great road.

Slow Travel Vehicles

What we now consider slow travel vehicles are the result of the interaction of place, distance and dreamers of the past. A vehicle’s design and aesthetics are determined by the water, path, bog, or snow that it must travel. Boats and bicycles are “Dreams of Place” created by the agency of rivers, gravity, wheels, the human body and the need to get from place to place.

Campsite philosophers

What is truly valuable?

Canadians with European and Native northAmerican roots chat with us about homes outside our tents one morning at our lakeside campsite, Belcoo.

Maps and DREAMING PLACE


Map: a visual representation of an area; a symbolic depiction
highlighting relationships between
elements such as objects, regions, and themes.
As you can imagine, maps were important on our DREAMING PLACE
traveling residency, in more than one way!

We often depended on them to be shown places and information by others and to navigate roadways, paths, fields, parks and estates.

We mapped our journey in sound and in drawing and in some ways on this blog. We also discussed creating interactive maps as an outcome from the residency. These maps may still be on the way….stay tuned!

But there is really something special about maps that draw on senses other than sight for their creation or perception. Here is one example……

Marshallese stick chart, called rebbilib in Marshallese,
marks the islands and major wave patterns of the Marshalls

“…Marshallese navigational charts are not like our western-style maps; fishermen didn’t use them to measure distance or count miles. Instead, they used them as memory aids, reviewing them before a journey but not bringing them along. It is said that a fishermen would study his charts, leave them behind, and then lie on his back in the canoe, the better to feel the rise and fall of the ocean swells. He interpreted the map with his body memory, not with his eyes.”

Read the blog post about rebbilib by Sue Fierston in its entirety here.

The power of blogs

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.

Is pigeon post a viable alternative?

No 16.DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing


No 15. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing

No 13. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing

How wild? – The wild inside.

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.

http://www.harpercollins.com/browseinside/index.aspx?isbn13=9780061806483

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”

No12. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing



Where d´th´’Tamagotchis go?

Do names pop into your head like rabbits when you are in a new and unfamiliar place?

The names of Crom whisper from beneath stable doors, are wagged into shape by willing dogs tails, pour through doors and windows.

The names below are a just some of those stored in a tiny bud of a cottage that grows from the corner of the big mama wall at the Crom Estate vegetable garden, which is now a National Trust allotment..

Tully, Daily, Murtle, Corbyn, Blake,

Gunny, Sacha, Missy, Percival,

Mickey, McManus, Maisy, Baffle, Mac,

Gaby, Mole, Red, Cally, Flight, Tilly, Joker,

May, Murphy, Angel, Cavan Boy,

Marney, Sally, Torma, Boyne,

Frazer, Archie, Blight, Captain,

Jumpy, Tyson, Glory, Baby.

Don’t forget Baby….. !

They reek of saddle oil, tar, baccy and climbing roses. Who gave these names to dogs, under-gardeners, ratters,stable- boys, conserve makers, ghillies?

Contrast these names now with names from the present day Geopark. Names spoken to people and animals we met at Marble Arch Caves Geopark.

Eugene, Bridget, Jo, King, Ruby,

Ignatius, Malachy, Seamus,

Murphey, Séan, Diane, David,

Catriona, Helen, and Mary -Jane

Never forget Mary-Jane……..!

On the subject of names. Doesn’t a blog really qualify for status as a PET and don´t we give pets  names? (where d´th´’Tamagotchi’s go?). You need to feed, talk, walk your blogs so why not name your blog?….. Go ON… give her a name.

Dreamers toolkit

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

potions
wild strawberries

dreaming into place

ask for water
inhabit the view
collaborative drawing

cooking
documentation



Geology united!

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

Gortmaconnell and Cuilcagh mountain behind

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

Exposed Limestone tunnel Claddagh Glen

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

Cuilcagh millstone grit boulder marking

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

North face of Cuilcagh mountain

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

red ochre from the flanks of Cuilcagh mountain

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

Great Paddler in the Sky myth

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).

No 4 DREAMING PLACE data sheet

No 2. DREAMING PLACE data sheet

Potholer questionnaire – poem

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?

DREAMING PLACE Mobile Library

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 .

Potent brew: our future in a teacup

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?

Exchange Teapot
Teapots are still ubiquitous inhabitants of cottages, palaces, boats and other homes around the world. Tea is an offering of hospitality and good cheer. It is fit for the gods.

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. 

teaboat
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?

tea ingredients
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.

frog cup exchange
Out in the wild kettles can always be filled from waterfalls, so long as the water is boiled for 3 minutes.

Wild Kettle
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.

Tea table
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.

Narrow boat tea
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

McGraths kettle
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.

Inhabiting others’ dreams + 2 more Alans

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.

Inhabing Others Dream, Jaguar

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?

Our Dreamers blog is still active

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.

Dreaming Place mobile studios

We are dreaming ourselves into place and here are some of the  Marble Arch Caves Geopark sites that have become our studio.




Ireland’s pumping heart – a cross border vision or “Aisling”

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).

Slow Travelling the Geopark

Map
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.

horses loch oughter

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 as Dreaming

Drawing has a special place near the top of our now bulging dreamers toolkit! It’s fun and useful and a methodology that travels well.

Collaborative drawing is a way people can dream together. It’s also a valuable way to explore experiences, connections and ideas.

As our drawing grows our adventures deepen. Like the ancient fossilized coral reefs under our feet here at Marble Arch Caves Geopark, the  nooks and cranniess created by our pens are home to interesting and unusual inhabitants. For the time we are here the rich biodiversity of our imaginations and dreams forms part of the wider  Geopark ecology.

Dreams, thoughts and imaginings of people, places and things are part of the distinct ecologies of the planet.

The whole world is a drawing.

Out to a land of childhood imagination in a homebuilt Cott

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

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

Where was your ” Wild wood” of the imagination?

Galivanting on Galloon *audio*

Galloon with Bridget
We are scheduled to meet Bridget McGuire on the Bridge to Galloon Island. It is an appropriate place to meet her, as she is to become our bridge to another time and our guide to her childhood home place, the figure-eight-shaped Galloon Island.

We all three load into the front seat of the van together and begin driving down the road, literally down memory lane. We’ve not gone far before Bridget asks us to stop in front of a gate which leads to the old home of her childhood school teacher. It is a traditional wattle and mud Irish cottage, now partially caved in and overgrown with ivy and fruit trees and inhabited by a herd of cows and a surly bull with a ring in his nose. “Someone must have let the fire go out” Bridget observes and we learn from her why keeping a fire burning in these traditional houses is so essential in this wet climate: the warmth from the fire prevents the walls from absorbing the damp and collapsing.  Her eloquent descriptions and the nuances of her voice describing her sensorially rich memories of this place transport us to a different time.

She recounts the satisfaction of successfully stealing apples in the fall from her teacher (who at times asked her pupils to cut their own whipping switch from a tree outside the school house). And she describes a poignant moment with her father while passing the house during a visit to the island. Press the play button below to hear her story.

Through Bridget’s map of childhood memories and stories, we begin to discover a now somewhat invisible network of people, places and things on Galloon island infused with a potent sense of home. From the local roadside well, their family’s source of drinking water now buried unseen in a roadside hedge, to the “Secret Place” known only to her and her brother, Bridget’s tour of the island reminds us that where ever we go, there are many layers of memories, experiences, hopes and dreams all contained subtly in the place.

As we drive by a hedge we wonder, what secrets does it hold, what dreams of the past?

Good+Good+Good=Better

Good Food Good Sleep

Hot Camp Breakfast

Good food, good sleep and good company are essential for a successful project!

**Today, on Jun 19th, I (Claire) am living it up and eating chips out on the lovely sunny patio at the Knockninny Country House (near where we camped last night)  in honor of my husband Chris Coté and our wedding day, one year ago. Here’s to us on our first anniversary – a wonderful first year of marriage with  many more to come!

Site of Special Interest (SSI) at MAC Geopark

Campmaking on the Marlebank scenic loop We slept two nights this week in the van at Killykeegan Nature Reserve carpark. It was very nice and easily our best campspot so far. Along with McGrath cottage next door, it belongs to DOENI (Department of the environment for Northern Ireland). So we give thanks to them for their generosity. We’ve moved on for now and left no trace.  We hope they will let us use the cottage as a venue to trial our emerging soundpiece in situ.

My (Anna) “Killykeegan dreaming” was an amateur painting in oil of Yasser Arrafat! A strange image that provokes a whole steam of thoughts about borderland  zone:

What part did these highlands play during the troubles with their old cottages and limestone hidey-holes?

-Turmoil – thick history – dark land – swaddled –

During an automatic writing session by a stream on the track to Cuilcagh Mountain,
Claire tried to ignore these dark words rising from the peat next to a stream. The border between Northern Ireland and Eire runs along the ridge of Cuilcagh Mountain.

40th Annual Fleadh, Beleek *audio*

We are drawn to The Black Cat pub by lively traditional tunes drifting over the road. We are met by a wonderful community scene of a lively yet relaxed bit of craic* outside the pub revolving around a group of young players (approx 8-12 yrs old) playing their hearts out with their instrument cases strewn about their feet between outdoor tables and benches.

*craic = fun, having a good time

Listen to the audio blog for this image below:

“Fast Dream us” into Place

People are taking centre stage in our project at the mo and in the human sphere fortuitous connections are fast dreaming us into place. Invitations and ideas for future adventures are issuing fast from potential hosts.

We undid our high Victorian collars just long enough to down our first pint/half pint of Guiness at Blake’s Hollow, an Irish music pub in Enniskillen. Here we were introduced to friends of Diane Henshaw (Fermanagh Arts Officer), who is a gem.

We sat with Catherine Ward, who leads walks for the Fermanagh Ramblers and Jim Ledwith, for whom  “mumming” as a way of life. We will go with the mummers to Knockrinny summit on Saturday to celebrate midsummer (we may have to dress up in straw!). There is also an offer of a walk to Speaking Horse Hill….

And we plan to meet Patrick Murphy who makes straw suits for “ the straw men”.

Now we are off to the 50th Anniversary party at the local cave rescue hut on a mountainside and there is a new blog on the horizon. Later we have the fleadh (pronounced flah) at  Beleek and a whole new network of contacts and intros might open up.

Will pubs be pivotal in our project?

We’ve got a new latitude

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

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

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

DREAMING PLACE sound virgins

Revving up our engines…..opening up our ears….


Unexpected tune created by plucking wool from a fence, Shannon Pot

Recording sounds, interacting with people, narrating our experience

Getting our ducks in a row…..

To bring this project into being we are extending out our tendrils of curiosity – discovering, making connections and interacting with people, places and things. All this sounds nice and perhaps even easy, but for this to actually happen hours must be spent making contacts, coming to decisions, organising plans, setting dates, finding maps, getting directions and meeting with people.

 

Can spontaneity and scheduling have productive offspring?