CIRCLES and LINES

I love a good circular walk. One that starts somewhere, takes you all the way around, maybe one where halfway you come across a pub and have a pint, and then before you know it you’re back on track and end up back at the starting point, back to the start with a different perspective. Coming full circle is very appealing.

A while back my uncle Pete invited me to go for a walk with him along the banks of the Shannon, past University of Limerick and out towards Clonlara. And mid-sentence while Pete was telling me about the time he took a rock band from Limerick to the Soviet Union, he turned on his heal and started to walk back the way we came. I was bit stunned, and though I followed, I asked him after a while, did he always go on walks that were in the shape of a line, and explained to him how for me it always feels so wrong to turn backwards, how I much prefer a circular walk. Pete shook his head and said ‘I used to be that way too, but its very limiting, not all the best walks are circular, and anyway, ‘it’s a completely different view on the way back.’ And he was right. With the river now to our left, the sun now on our backs, I noticed things Id missed along the way, and the walk did feel completely different. Perspective changed, conversation flowed, we came back to the starting point and finished with a pint in the pub.  Perfect winter walk.

So I started thinking about circles and lines. And how sometimes we forge ahead and other times we do a u-turn. And how some life decisions come to us complete, fully formed, easy and full circle how other times decisions appear as painful u-turns… Oh how we resist them. Oh how often would we do anything to avoid going back the way we came. We’d even prefer to go round and round and round rather than turn on our heal.

So here are some thoughts, musings and eventually some songs on the art of walking. The shape of a walk, and where our walking takes us and decisions that shape our paths.

Killeen Lough

"and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - TS Elliot

Meeting fellow artists is always something I enjoy and thanks to Orla Flanagan at glór I've had the opportunity to meet several Irish artists on this adventure in Clare. Eleanor is a bright button of a woman an actress, a free spirit, a drama therapist, whose meandering conversations jump from poetry to nature to religion to politics to spirtuality in the blink of an eye.  There's no subject off limits and she's as wide open as the sky on today's perfectly symmetrical rounded date 17.7.17. 

She told me of a woman she knew, and how this old woman met her husband in Leitrim and I thought she meant up in County Leitrim but no no no, that's the name of a townland in Co. Clare. County Leitrim? Ah no thats far too far away, Eleanor explained, everyone back then they married where they could walk.

"Its like a Monet painting isn't it? It is.

"There's story of a missing girl, who got lost at age of three. She was never found. She must have drowned.

Now there's a pilgrimage road here that goes all the way from Ennis to a well. You see there, there's where the well would have been. St John. Kileen Lough.

Ill take off my shoes. Ha, Look at them, darting around like tiny blue fishes at our feet, the dragonflies. fireflies. time flies. sun shines. And theres the crescent moon against the crisp blue. Now this here, this was a convent from the last king of munster Donal Mór Ó Brian 1190. 900 years on and the ruins are still standing. Abandoned 700 years later. Crosses with a circle around. It all comes back to the circles. Nádúr. Nature. It all comes back again. 

 

Lough Avalla Loop

I Starting Point: The Green Road I Finishing Point: back at the start I Walkers: Orla, Diarmuid, Freya, Lindsey, Niamh, Polly, Lucy, Luis, Norma I Distance: 6km I

A circle walk
shaped by a group of ten
friends
with sticks that dot the ground round bends
our scattered souls brought together by hearts shared
and past memory moments banked
we walk
thick hazel thickets flank
our path.
The weight of the world we all carry sometimes
knowing how easily things can fall apart
down through cracks
where do they end up?
The doubts, the loss, the lack.
Or, perhaps,
if we let them,
things might fall easily into place
like karst limestone landscape
where wild orchids grow unexpectedly
at the roots
of gnarled mossy ancient trees
in a fairy fort
two thousand years ago
things fell into place
the seeds blown away
and now the belted galloways
chew the cud
gazing up at mullach mór
tongues lick at the shape
of the squished birthday cake
wrapped in tinfoil
marbled with love
bottle and Cork cheese
smoked salmon carried
to a Clare hilltop
for us, ten ancient kings, a feast,
At our feet below the debris and skree
remind of how things can fall, crash, break so easily.
But how a ring of friends
forms lines of invisible threads
ropes to hoist us up and out
when we fall or trip into the cracks
along the path.
And when the lines appear
on our faces
another year older
and the paces of milestones come and go
may we pass these markers
walking traveling traversing meandering
along the lines
as if we are a babe in arms
our eyes wide full of wonder
at the possibility of all our milestones yet to come

Go raibh maith agat Norma for sharing this pic

The Green Road

Starting Point: Kilnaboy I Destination: back at the start I Walker: Dave, Musician I Distance: 5km

Starting here- go north for ten minutes you come across the famous house of Father Ted. Go east and there's a magnificent walk up Mullach Mór, - the mountain that looks like a melted squashed cake - go south and you'll reach the quaint village of Corofin. Or, if when coming upon this crossroads you take the path heading west as Dave and I did yesterday there's a really lovely stretch which is, just as its name suggests - Green. And the reason why it is particularly green is because in comparison, the rest of the world around this road is entirely grey. Rocks rocks rocks. Walls made of rocks, ground made of rocks, rocks scattering the path. The Burren in Co. Clare - is a national park of Karst Landscape - which is a sort of natural pavement that stretches as far as the eye can see. The light is particular to this region, so says photographer John. The green road stands out as verdant and lush.

Dave Flynn, Director of the Irish Memory Orchestra, is the other Artistic Associate in glór and him and I were invited to a photoshoot in the Burren to promote the Associate Artists programme.  Dave and I did our best standing and posing among the stones as John tried to make us laugh and not feel like eejits standing under the clouds and the spitting rain among the rocks rocks rocks.  Walkers in their raingear and backpacks passed us by craning necks, curious as to what we were doing with a guitar. A french couple with their grandchild stopped and requested some 'Irish music'. Dave gracefully obliged, hoods up, wind blowing standing around in a little circle listened to a short little jig.   By the time we had finished posing and snapping the sun was coming out and so I asked Dave if he was up for a walk before driving back south to Kerry. A grand stretch it was. Short enough and with a sign for a cup of tea at the end. So we did. Walk with many questions - what has you in Dingle? What has you in Brighton? Playing guitar in rock school. What is it like to be the artist driving a project forward? What it might mean to be an 'artist in residence' - what that looks like. The challenges that you can face. A house with a dog tied up at the gate. A child peeking through front door. Can we get a cup of tea? Yes. A room set up with tea cups and side plates. A tempting concertina. Comparing English and Irish Arts Councils. Pot of tea. Scone. Do you have any butter? Do you have anything gluten free? Bourbon Creams. A suggested donation of €5. Why is it called the Green Road? Because it is. Is that you in the photo? No that's Maureen O Hara and John Wayne. Where are ye from? We're Irish we use miles too. There's a great walk if you stop along the way between Kinvarra and Ballyvaughan. Towards the top of the hill theres a place to stop the car and you get breathtaking views that go all the way out to Galway Bay and you can see the twelve pins. Theres a Chocolate cafe it's a good stop. Don't try their hot chocolate though unless you want it bitter, they make it with pure chocolate. It's disappointing. 

Miltown Malbay to Spanish Point

Starting point: Miltown Malbay I Destination: Spanish Point I Walker: Ed, Artist I Distance: 5km

Grace said last night when she thinks of County Clare she thinks 'no trees' I can see what she means yup. Very little trees round here. fields. yes. walls. yes. ups and downs. cows. bags on our bags. sunshine. cars going  fast. Which is the best side of the road? This side or that side? This side up the hill. That side down the hill. Watch out for the cars. Drivers who give the nod. Drivers who give a wide berth. Me giving the nod. Thanks. Their one finger wave off the steering wheel. Stop now, let these cars pass. take a photo. Cows are very curious aren't they. Let's keep going. Is this the right way do you think? Let's keep going to Spanish Point. Why is it called Spanish Point? Smell of the sea. Scottish memories. Plastic bottles among the stones and seaweed. Hand painted sign and an arrow pointing to an old man sitting in the sunshine, flat cap shading his face, dozing in the sunshine leaning against the stone washed walls. 'Enquiries'

what time is it? think we should get back.

'Stop cath, listen'

'uilleann pipes'

a tiny sound carried on the wind. like a bee. stumbling to greet us. A moment. a tiny distant uilleann piper in his tiny distant caravan, looking out onto the waves playing this tune.

Back we go. what time is your flight? Brisk walk made brisker. One foot in front of the other. narrow road. google maps. We'll never make it. What were we thinking. brisk walk. one foot in front of the other. thumbs up. sign out. no luck. no time.

taxi. 

 

 

 

Setting out

The shape of a walk is a journey on foot towards new ideas. A walking project exploring landscape, borders and song.

As artistic associate of glór I've been invited to spend some time County Clare this summer, what a wonderful opportunity! Clare is one of the most vibrant and beautiful culturally rich places of the whole island - When I think of Clare I picture the unique landscape of the burren and Cliffs of Moher, the beast that is the largest Irish traditional music festival - fleadh ceoil, or surfing in Spanish Point or the the matchmaking festival of Lisdoonvarna... Clare always strikes me as a place with stories. And so, this is my starting point,  setting out on this meandering journey. To traverse new ideas by walking through, about, inside and over Clare.

This blog will be where I host and mull over things that I come across. A sort of live scrapbook. I intend to walk with different people in different parts of the county and at different times of days. Like any good walk at the moment I'm not focusing on the end destination, right now I'm putting one foot in front of the other and having faith that the path with emerges understep.