Wednesday, October 7, 2009

September 2009

September was gorgeous in Ireland - lots of sun and almost no rain for the entire month! It helped make up for another record-breaking wet August. We took advantage of the nice weather and got around to some nice places.

Sean Nos Dancing

Sean nos (pronounced 'shan-noess') is an Irish expression meaning 'old style', and it refers to a free-form style of dancing that is the granddaddy to tap dancing and Appalachian clogging. The dancers wear hard soled shoes that beat out the rhythm to the trad tune being played.

Then there's brush dancing, a particular type of sean nos dance that's done with a push broom, which they call a brush here.

Isn't is so like the Irish to invent a lively little dance using a common household cleaning implement? What would the American equivalent be - the vacuum cleaner dance?

A local village was advertising free dance classes at their tradfest in early September so I headed over there to try my hand, err, feet, at brush dancing. The ad said to bring your own brush. As I stood in the classroom with my brush waiting for the dance class to start, I noticed that everyone else in the class was less than 5 feet tall. Including the teachers. It turns out that I was the only adult in the class.

To add to my embarrassment there were some parents standing at the side of the room to watch their little ones dance, and they probably assumed that I was there with a child until it came time to line up and start the lesson.

A little boy standing next to me in the line clutched his brush and said to me, 'I'm scared.' I said, 'Me too.' Then he said, 'Are your parents making you do this?'. 'No, my parents live in America. I wanted to do this.' He looked a tad disappointed to hear this, then the class then started and much dropping of brooms ensued.

Here are some of the little kids in the class learning the brush dance. (I was in the 'bigger kids' group on the other side of the room):

Our dancing teachers(two brothers) then demonstrated some sean nos dancing:

And then a 75 year old man, let me repeat that, a 75 year old man did some fine sean nos dancing for us:

I've just started taking a weekly sean nos dance class at a nearby community center. Maybe someday you'll see a video of me dancing the time I'm 75 I should have the hang of it.

Galtee Mountains

The Galtees are in central Tipperary, about 2 hours southeast of us. It's a small mountain range that rises up from the fertile Tipp farmlands. We drove over for a day hike one fine Sunday in September.

Looking up at the Galtees from farmland below

Walking up the rocky road, with Galtymor ('Big Galtee') in the distance.

Traversing the bogland to the summit.

This side of the hill is sheer cliffs.

Check out the sheep grazing right above the cliffs! Irish sheep are bred with legs on one side shorter than the other so they can stand upright on steep hillsides.

Views of the Galtees and the valley below.

Go on, Bill, I dare you to stand on that rock.
I double dare you!

Now my turn - uh, this looks a bit scarey!


Taking a cookie break on the way down

Views of the Knockmealdon mountains in west Tipp

Hello and Goodbye to Willa

Our friend Willa, who spent some time with us in August, spent a couple more days around Ennis before flying off to rendezvous with some friends in Poland and then a few days in Portugal before heading back to Pennsylvania.

We spent a day driving along the west coast of Clare, from the beach town of Kilkee to the lighthouse at Loop Head.

Brrrr! Bill and Willa went swimming in the rock pools of Kilkee harbour, despite the cool, cloudy skies.

After the swim we walked along the cliffs of Kilkee.

The sea beats against the base of the cliffs, forming sea caves like this one.

Eventually the sea erodes completely through the cliff, forming a sea arch and then ultimately a sea stack, like these. There are building foundations visible on top of some of the stacks, from when the stacks were still connected to the mainland. Ireland is visibly shrinking!

The water in the foreground goes right under the ground at my feet and out the other side.

Cool wavy rock formation with tiny people on top.

On the Atlantic edge

An impressive sea arch at the Bridges of Ross

Willa on the sea arch

The lighthouse at Loop Head. This is where the River Shannon meets the sea.

You can see four different sea arches forming along this section of the coastline.

Contemplating the void

Cottage Gardens

I sowed a lot of annuals from seed this spring, and the flower gardens are still really lovely with cosmos, nasturtiums, calendula, bachelor buttons, dahlias and annual lupines in bloom.

The veg garden is still producing, but we notice growth is slowing down now that the days are getting shorter. In this part of the garden you can see purple cabbage, a trellis of sugar snap peas, kale, leeks and salad greens.

Flower power!