SPECTACULAR SKIES

“Our mind is a limitless sky, and we can only be an albatross flying in the vast expanse to occasionally discover the joys of sublimity!” – Avijeet Das

“Bursts of gold on lavender melting into saffron. It’s the time of day when the sky looks like it has been spray-painted by a graffiti artist.” – Mia Kirshner

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.” – Anton Chekhov

AN ANCIENT FRIaRY IN KILLARNEY

Muckross Abbey, Killarney

It is with great enthusiasm that on this very wet November morning I finally sit down to write another blog post.  Life is busy and it travels very fast.  Lots of nice things have happened during the summer and the beginning of autumn.  It has been a most beautiful, warm and sunny summer season here in West Cork, very enjoyable to have door and windows open and to practically live outside, this I adore!  We have had good days and bad, one of those was Ian’s fall, but he has healed well and is back in good form now.  He has been busy designing and making a glorified Zimmer frame which will help him not to have another fall.

 I have attended a short course about biodiversity in West Cork run by WILD WORK and facilitated by SECAD, which I thoroughly enjoyed and learnt from.  It was run locally in a most beautiful natural setting, there was also an online part to it.

But right now I would like to share some photos and chat about a visit to a Franciscan friary which my daughter and I visited during September.  We were on a rare outing; in fact, we had been given the chance to go away for a weekend while Ian’s daughter Anna and her partner came over to be with him.  To say that I enjoyed that weekend is an understatement, and it did me the world of good.  My daughter Tjorven’s company was lovely as always. 

So, we visited the interesting Muckross Abbey in Killarney which according to the Annals of the Four Masters was founded in 1448 as a Franciscan friary.  It is situated on the site of an earlier monastery which was built by a Saint Fionan in the 6th century.  It’s remarkable that the site is still so well preserved keeping in mind its turbulent past, but with many repairs and restructuring it stands well preserved today.  The building style is Hiberno Romanesque.  In the embrasures of eight of the windows of the dormitory are fragments of wall paintings, this is not very noticeable, and I regret that I did not see this, only read about it later. 

In the middle of the courtyard which is surrounded by a vaulted cloister stands a magnificent ancient Yew tree.  It is thought to be as old as the abbey itself.  Surrounding the abbey is an old graveyard and yew, beech and other native trees. The church of the abbey also contains some tombs, one of them seems to have a rusted handle!

We visited in the late evening and the place gave us that special feel that goes with observing ruins, thinking about the life the monks will have led, the stillness of the peaceful and natural surroundings felt by us now, and yet knowing what violent encounters those monks would have had over time, being driven out, returning and rebuilding, to be finally driven out in 1652 by Cromwellian forces. 

This was just one of our exploits during out visit to Killarney, it was well worth spending the time there, but more of that in another blog post. Here follow some photos that speak for themeselves.

Muckross abbey lies peaceful in its natural surroundings, a beautiful memorial of the monks who spent their lives there.

THOUGHTS OF AUTUMN

Summer has been long, warm and dry, how lovely it has been this year and still it continues though it is almost the end of September. The beautiful warm sunshine illuminates the now autumn colours. Day by day the leaves are turning red, yellow and all shades of brown. Pungent scents fill our lungs, it is a delight to our minds and souls.

My sister and I were discussing food for the soul the other day and while giving it deep thought I know what it is that often feeds my soul; it is what I find and observe in nature, meditation on it and thankfulness for it.

Last weekend my daughter took me to Killarney in Co. Kerry and one of our plans was to walk in the national forest which is one of the remaining ancient forests in Ireland with many native trees. The two days we spent there were very restorative. The beauty of the trees laden with their seeds at this time was what inspired us, we talked about it, it made us cheerful and light-hearted. We rested for coffee and cake at a thatched roof cottage and sat out in the sunshine with leaves lightly twirling around us, our conversation deep and yet full of excitement at being in a place where we felt not a care in the world.

This delightful cottage where lovely coffee and cakes are served

Though this was the first time I had a break since before covid time, I have gathered quite a collection of photos over the summer that are now waiting to be used and written about in my blog. So watch this space! (I will as well 🙂 )

A LITTLE DETOUR

Bantry Bay

Yes a little detour in this remote part of Ireland is always exciting to say the least, I knew that I was going to do it, I knew that I was going to take photos and I also knew that it was going to be a lovely break. So after my appointment in Bantry I drove into a little side lane off the N71 and followed it down to the rocky seashore. Magnificent views of Bantry bay with the Caha mountains in the distance greeted me. I strolled along the path leading beside the air-strip, quite a few people and dogs were walking there and one man had his fishing rod out into the sea. The rocks were colourful. The air smelled of seaweed and was very fresh. Somewhere far away I could hear a blackbird singing, one of my favourite birdsongs. When I walked back to my car this last view surprised me, I thought that I could easily have been in Canada probably because of the lovely pine trees. Peaceful and at the same time invigorating, this little diversion to my day gave me plenty, I realised all of a sudden that I had been doing an exercise that my recently bought book on photography in nature advised me. That is, spending 10 minutes in nature, breathing deeply, really observing nature, taking note of what you see, hear, smell and how that makes you feel, how that affects the photos, and all that even while I often spend much longer in nature, but then I probably don’t always take it in so intensely.

View towards Shrone Hill
Sugarloaf mountain to the left
I’m actually totally in love with these mountains and hills
Beautiful Bantry Bay
This view gave me much pleasure

This book I am currently using to inspire my nature photography, only just started it and finding it helpful and enjoyable. (translation title… Grip on creativity, developing your own style in nature photography).
It gives me a new perspective on the endless photos that I take. It is mainly about creativity. I will talk more about this book when I have read and practised a bit more of what it teaches. Here’s one of my try-outs.

IN THE ABSENCE OF INTENTION

It’s kind of beautiful to sit inside a bus and see a city from the windows. Yung Lean

The other day saw me taking the bus up to Cork city, it had been two years since something like this happened and it excited me more than a little. A bus ride always reminds me of travel and of course that is what has been missing in most of our lives and especially in mine. The unromantic reason for the journey was an hospital appointment, but I did try to look upon it as a little adventure, and yet I did not expect to feel so free and refreshed by walking through the city, it had not been my intention!

The colours on this cold by crisp January day were vivid, it pleased me very much.
There have been colourful changes in Cork city, much more eat and drinking places outside, very continental
This was the time of day when not that many people walked around
The river Lee and the quays never changing, always there
I came across some very contemporary architecture, that was interesting too
Striking colours and lines
River Lee is also the homestead of the many gulls

It was a journey of necessity, it turned into a pleasant and relaxing experience.

I DID NOT LOOK FOR SIGNS

It is the 26th of December today and we are only moving towards the end of the year – so no I was not looking for signs of spring, it’s a little too early and as well as that I am trying to rein my energy in. Every year about the beginning of January my energy peeks and, like a run-a-way train, it is hard to hold it! So no I was not looking for signs of new growth but nevertheless I found fresh young plants growing all over the place. It was a mild and sunny day, beautiful weather for a walk. I woke up feeling full of the joys of life and found that the birds outside had similar thoughts, the sounds of the sparrows, the starlings and the crows was overpowering for some time during the hours of brightness. So here I was trying to experience the darkness of midwinter in order to get into the fullness of my energy once the new year would start and get going, but similar to what nature seems to be doing lately my internal clock seems to be a little mixed up. Hence I forced myself not to look for signs, signs of new growth, signs of an early spring.

This is such a typical view of West Cork, old trees and meadows ~ beautiful!
Looking towards the hills and part of the town of Skibbereen, so nice to walk here.

I have not written or produced many blog posts during the past year, something that I have missed doing. I know that it is partly due to a changing pattern, first with the lockdowns, and then with being out of the habit. With practically staying inside the home, garden, our little town and just the very immediate surroundings. I have to use a lot of imagination to be inspired to keep writing. During the year I started researching more of the local history and joined the historical society. We explored one village recently which I found very interesting. I hope to continue with my research of local history and of reading the old maps of the area. And writing about what I find or learn.

Wishing all my friends, my family, all my dear followers here on WordPress a really wonderful 2022, filled with good health and happiness.

And thank you all for your great support for my blog.

MORNING WALK AT LOCH INE

The light at the forested area around Loch Ine was subdued and the sun was missing from this lovely scene but that did not take away from the beauty of our walk. Across the lake we saw the early morning swimmers, a group of women who swim there right through the winter. I did not touch up my photos, the colour of the water here in this photo is really how we saw it, how it was. And it was beautiful and special, I think that it was a trick of the light.

My daughter Tjorven had invited me to go on one of her morning walks and I am so glad that I accepted, we had some great mother – daughter chats, lightly as we are both wanting to use time in nature cheerfully during this frustrating time of covid.

Bare gnarled branches, looking like some rheumatic old creatures, line the lovely country lane.

The lake, which by the way is a salt water lake, narrows into a creek just along here and the water was like a mirror just then.

We saw catkins growing on the hazel tree, some different species of ferns, many of them, fungi and one lone snowberry.

Ebony the collie came with us and was off the lead for a little while, a very obedient young dog she is.

Our surroundings are so beautiful, it is good to enjoy them as much as we can.

“Take a quiet walk with mother nature. It will nurture your mind, body, and soul.” A.D.Williams

AS I LOOK OUT MY WINDOW

This morning over breakfast my attention was drawn towards the hills and I noticed a change in their colours. This lead to a pleasant conversation over our coffee, a positive change from our usual topic of… what’s going on in the world… so we were discussing what makes these hills change colour in the fall. It is a well known phenomena in these parts. I first remember seeing this in the landscape around the village of Glengarriff, a seaside village lying a bit more to the south of here on the Beara peninsula, it is almost surrounded by quite high hills, Sugar Loaf being the highest at 501 metres, and I remember, while I spend time there, that the hills took on a beautiful brown in the fall. Not only that but the lower lying parts would show a most beautiful beige, almost blond shade. And why that was is easy to explain as it is of course due to the foliage of plants growing on the slopes and higher up changing their colours.

The view through the window from our breakfast table
A closer look at the colours (as good as my camera could get it)

The colour palette of browns is very attractive, browns like sienna, russet, or burnt umber are surely seen in this autumn landscape, and during the winter the shades might be darker, like deep coffee brown which is a rich, dark shade. These ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) but called bracken around here, are a very wide spread fern in Ireland, they grow all over the hills and tree-lined roadsides, they even came growing in our garden. I think that it is the damp weather that makes them thrive so well. They are beautiful especially when their leaves unfurl, or like this in the autumn season.

Another close up towards the hill that separates the town of Skibbereen from the Atlantic ocean

In this photo the grasses, which have the lighter colour, can be seen higher up on the hill. These grasses of which I do not have a photo at present, are very beautiful and growing along the road at the slopes of Priest Leap mountain also in Glengarriff, they give the best show of all our surroundings when it comes to colour. I am trying to think what the best way is of describing their shade, it is between straw, cream and beige, you could almost call it blond! It is very bright and light and gives the landscape a wonderful glow.

Yes, that is how I remember seeing them, a wonderful glow that is very easy on the eye.

SURPRISES IN A LATE SUMMER GARDEN

Not having worked in the garden for over a week, I am being surprised and delighted with all sorts of late summer growth. Our pumpkins (if indeed they are pumpkins) have really come on well, apart from having the most beautiful flowers, they have a subtle scent, and then there are the actual pumpkins that keep appearing among the foliage and surprise me with their fast growth, spreading over paths and over our bit of lawn, they are a joy to behold and I am thinking… pumpkin soup! In Gozo, while we were there, I used to make it often. The shops there are full of pumpkins during the winter and they sell these in slices so that you can buy a fresh supply everyday, it makes the most delicious soup.

The flowers are almost golden, such brightness cheering up an overgrown and sometimes tired late summer garden.

Pumpkins surprising me everywhere between the foliage, and many more in the earliest stage of development. If the weather stays kind then we should have a good harvest. Last year I saved seeds from a pumpkin that I used in cooking and these plants are the result. They actually don’t look to me like the orange pumpkins that I know but we’ll see what they turn into. It’s an experiment. The little yellow one came up as Lemon summer squash on Google.

A willow herb (epilobium hirsutum) that came growing beside the patio has almost totally covered the path down to the rest of the garden, but this wild plant has been so beautiful all summer and it has attracted so many insects. The large daisies were a gift from a kind neighbour, these will be lovely in the border next summer, they grow well here and multiply fast. The oregano I grew in an old bottomless bucket and it’s given us much joy all summer. A lone rudbeckia flower has a beautiful dark pink colour, and a tiny little bumblebee is taking nectar from a marigold.

Above are the variegated oregano. Some marigolds, one of our wild purple marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris) and the wild scented roses have finally flowered and show some lovely red rosehips now. The gladiola is flowering for the first time and that was another nice surprise for me. The mallow I had planted this past springtime and it’s nice to see how this has spread and flowered all summer.

A little word about our variegated oregano (origanum vulgare) plant. I planted it about five years ago, it flowers during august and it attracts an enormous amount of insects, from bees to hoverflies, a variety of bumblebees, butterflies, ladybirds, drone flies, and many more lovely creatures. Oregano stays green all winter long although it dies down a good bit, the climate here is mild in the winter (so far so good) and that is why the plant survives so easily. Until I looked it up I never realised that oregano is a plant from the Mint family. Looking at it closely I can see it alright. It is a culinary herb but I don’t use it quite enough, I usually leave it to the insects.

Another nice surprise is that several young plants are now appearing by themselves, from experience I know that they will survive the winter and will flower beautifully next spring and summer. So far I have come across borage, foxgloves, comfrey, and feverfew, too many of them to leave them all grow, all of them self-seeded. Last year I had several evening primrose plants, but this summer they did not show up. My kale plants that I grew last winter is also self-sowing and some young plants appearing here and there. Last month I have planted some autumn leeks and they are doing well. Our potatoes were a disaster so hopefully next year better. In the next few weeks I will plant some more winter vegetables when I get to the market to purchase the plants.

Plenty to think about and to plan, the garden, as ever giving us much pleasure and also quite a bit of work, but that is good for me.