Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On Finding an Irish Peacock Butterfly on Croagh Patrick

An Irish Peacock Butterfly, photo taken on Croagh Patrick, County Mayo Ireland (c) Alice McMahon White September 2008

Written today in about two hours, after waking with a head full of words. Please forgive the rawness, and the serious tone of this piece. The butterfly should teach lightheartedness and joy, and it did. The powerful and ethereal experience of the butterfly encounter two weeks ago in Ireland only took a moment, but changed my outlook on everything. So, I think it deserves a bit of weight in the telling. :-)

Feileacan na Péacóige

On Finding an Irish Peacock Butterfly on Croagh Patrick

(for Steve)

A fourth journey to Erin

My love as guide

Threading the needle of existence

Grace found

On Maigh Eo's ancient sacred mountain of Celt and Christian

Rough stone path of pilgrim hardship

Nature turning tides at our feet

Stark splendor

Set soul and spirit free









On ascent in the mystical place

Overhead, a breathtaking


Scarlet - violet rainbow

Seasons of impending joy announced by

Frail and fragile fairy dust wings


Begging a dance

She pauses to drive the thought home

Perfectly still


Sits for a time


To meditate on sun warmed rock -

The creature's only embrace?

Or simply trusting

Accepting in faith

The spirit capture

On descent


As travel inevitably will

Filled up and overflowing

To contemplate

Our dream awake muse

Celebration of coming home


New life unfurling

We pause to warm ourselves

In a lover's embrace

On stone

In brilliant sun

Breaking through cloud

(c) Alice McMahon White 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ireland September 2008

With Steve on Galway Bay

We're nearly over the jet lag now, and almost back on Chicago time aft
er spending close to two weeks in Ireland. So I thought I'd post a bit about the journey before I'm entrenched in reality again, and forget the impressions that explain the ache I'll soon have to return. I've seen some great places on past trips over, but I'd have to say this trip to Galway, Westport in Mayo, and Dublin was the best yet.

The trip was planned months ago with my sister. She always travels to Ireland w
ith me, and does the driving on "the wrong side" while I look at the landscape and tell her when to STOP! Carol loves the country of our ancestors as passionately as I do, and we enjoy planning the trip almost as much as the trip itself. Unfortunately two weeks before we were scheduled to fly, her son broke his leg and needed surgery, it was not a good time for Carol to travel. He's doing better now, but we couldn't postpone the trip because of reservations for accommodations, so my husband Steve was able to get time off of work and came along instead.

It was Steve's first trip to Ireland, he's not as Irish as I am, but he felt at home right away and now loves Ireland, too. This trip, he did the driving on "the wrong side" while I looked at the landscape and told him when to STOP!

The first two nights were spent at a b&b in Galway. I wish we'd had more time there, 2
nights were not enough, especially since I had several myspace friends I wanted to meet.

We had good weather in Galway. The college of Galway is in session, so the students were all out enjoying the sun on shop street, along the River Corrib, and at Galway Bay, and I got some fantastic candid shots to use for my next series of Beatles inspired works. A bonus I wasn't anticipating on this reference gathering trip!

We were fortunate that Colm Mac Con Iomaire, the violin player from Dublin group The Frames was in Galway for his solo CD release party our first night in town, on the third floor in an intimate candlelit venue at Busker Brown's pub. Colm's playing is otherworldly, and we bought his new disc. We were so jet lagged we left as soon as the performance ended and didn't get to speak to Colm or the Frames guitar player Rob Bochnik, who was there backing him up.

Our second day in Galway we took a bus tour through Connemara and visited Kylemore Abbey and gardens. Lovely and well worth the trip. That evening back in Galway we met my myspace friends, artist Dahlia and violinist/violin maker Paul Bradley. They were both delightful and led us to some of the best music we found on this trip.

Saturday morning we drove to Westport in Mayo and it was the perfect place for touring the west. There are many Mayo people who settled in Chicago and they look for paintings from the area, so I thought it was time I spent a week there. We had a two bedroom apartment over a beauty salon in town, a perfect place in a location close to all the pubs, including Matt Malloy's
- of Chieftains fame. I could swear I saw "himself" there on Saturday night - but it was hard to get a look as the place was swamped with Hen and Stag parties besides tourists like us. :)

Westport won the Tidy Towns competition for the third time the week we were there - and
the place was busy with festivities to celebrate and even a German film crew was there one day. I'm quite sure it was a well deserved award, as I'm certain it was the loveliest town I've ever visited!

While we were in Westport, we visited Croagh Patrick - where the faithful have climbed to the summit for centuries. We did climb, but nowhere near even half way up. The view back to Clew Bay was spectacular and I had yet another close encounter with a butterfly, this time an Irish Peacock Butterfly, according to my friend Lynsye, and it even posed for a photo on one of the jagged climbing rocks of the sacred mountain.

Sainted hubby Steve braved a long drive out to Achill Island - without doubt the most beautiful
place I've ever seen on earth. There were miles of deserted bog lands - not even grazing sheep or birds to be found. There was the castle tower of Grace O'Malley, the Pirate Queen of legend and also an upcoming Irish film. The cliffs on the island were a spectacular sight, with views back to Croagh Patrick and Clare Island, a fine sandy beach and craggy rock breakers, and many many sheep. I'm always glad to capture sheep images. Strangely the paintings of sheep are a sure sale every time. The most haunting place on the island was the deserted village at the Slievemore mountains. Some 80 - 100 deserted stone cottages can be explored in the mile long area, and tombs dating back 5000 years. http://www.achilltourism.com/deserted.html

We drove to Clifden town in Galway and spent the day, and another day hiked along the fantastic grassy sand dunes at Bertra, at the foot of Croagh Patrick. This was another harrowing trip as a rain storm suddenly appeared out of nowhere as we were far out from the coast on this strip of dunes connecting an island to the mainland.

We spent one afternoon at the Clew Bay Heritage Center and Westport House, a stately old mansion with gardens. Some days were spent exploring the town as we had a rainy spell while there, Ireland had a rainy summer. But we also had some sun each day, with rainbow
s and the glorious clouds I love to paint!
Westport, Mayo, Tidy Town 3 time winner

We spent the final two days in Dublin, and again wish it was longer, not so much for the city, but to take day trips around the east coast, which I have not seen enough of. In Dublin, we spent time on another glorious Saturday in City Center, O'Connell street, Temple Bar of course. On a drizzly Sunday and our last day in Ireland, we took a commuter train south of the city to the seaside town of Bray. We returned in the afternoon to visit Grafton Street and St. Stephen's Green, and a few of the old traditional gem pubs like The Swan Bar, the Long Hall and the Stag'
s Head Pub.

Cappuccino, a good read, and a sketch of Westport. Great trip indeed!

During the trip, I gathered thousands of photos to keep me in Irish references f
or a long while. I may just start a Flickr page as well, too many great shots to share here on myspace. I did do some sketching, mostly in the pubs, but one on the street in Westport. I played my bodhran (Irish drum) at Matt Malloy's! Steve played guitar at a session at Blouser's Pub, Westport, to the tune "Sweet Home Chicago".

Yes, the pints went down easy after drizzly days, but maybe a bit too easy! LOL. Still recovering. Steve is finally off the Harp and onto the black stuff. He's hooked too. We shared many meals picnicking outdoors or in our flat, which was nice because we saved money, and we both get tired of restaurant food quickly. Local fresh made breads, cheeses and meats are delicious and i
t's always fun grocery shopping in a new country. Our meals out were generally pub food, soup and sandwiches or hearty stews. Our biggest splurge outside of Guinness was cappuccino and chocolate. Yum!

Fad saol agat, gob fliuch, agus bas in Eirinn.
"Long life to you, a wet mouth, and death in Ireland."

I missed you Carol! Hope to go to Ireland with you again very soon! Yes, you too Steve! ;-) Now I get to go twice as often, right? Well, maybe if I sell lots of sheep paintings...

Over 100 pictures from my Irish trip can be seen on my Flickr page here:

Finally, here is a video I found about Grace O'Malley, The Pirate Queen. It was filmed at many of the places we visited in Mayo, Murrisk, Newport, and Achill Island. Enjoy!

"One of the most famous women in Irish history is Grace O'Malley. She is also known to history as the Pirate Queen of Ireland. She lived from around c. 1530 to c.1603.

Grace was the daughter of the chief of the O'Malley clan. The O'Malleys controlled most of what is now the barony of Murrisk. The O' Malleys were a great seafaring family and taxed all those who fished off their coasts. Their leader bore the ancient Irish title of The O'Malley."

This video is a bit overdone, but it gives you the feel for the wild area better than still photos.