Monday, December 7, 2009

November 2009

Rest In Peace, Sonya

November was a month of downs and ups, starting with the loss of our sweet little blind dog, Sonya. She had been doing so well on the heart medication that we thought she would keep going for another year or two. She suddenly got very ill at the beginning of the month and it turned out to be renal failure, in part from the heart medicine and diuretics that were helping her heart, but also due to old age and a weakened immune system from all the health problems she had over the last few years.

It was so hard to let her go. She had a great life for her first nine years, running around in the hills of Newfield NY when we were hiking or cross-country skiing. And she was such a trooper about going blind two years ago and then being relocated to a different country.

It's the first time I have been without a dog in 26 years and it feels very strange. But it will be easier for us to travel now, so we are not going to rush into getting another dog any time soon.


November was also a traumatic month for thousands of people who were affected by devastating flooding, particularly in the western counties of Clare, Galway, Cork, Kerry and Tipperary.

Floodwaters poured over this wall at the grounds of St. Flannan's College, a private secondary school in Ennis. This is usually a grassy lawn and parking area.

Ireland is a watery place. Not only does it fall from the sky almost daily, but there are rivers and lakes everywhere. After a few weeks of moderate rains that completely saturated the soil, there was one particular day of intense rain that fell for hours and hours. Many of Ireland's rivers, like the Shannon, are tidal, and there happened to be a super high tide that day. So there was no where for all that water to go, and rivers all over western Ireland spilled over banks and retaining walls and filled towns and cities with several feet of water.

The town name Ennis comes from the Irish word inis, which means 'island'. The town is surrounded by the River Fergus, a tributary of the River Shannon. A higher flood control wall is being built next to the river, but it is not finished yet and the river flowed down the main street of Ennis, or as it was dubbed by the local paper, Vennis. (Someone else took these first four photos - I took them off a Facebook site.)

These businesses were severely flooded - bad timing with Christmas right around the corner. Insurance companies here are saying that with climate change flooding will become more frequent, so of course they are going to raise the rates for those in currently affected areas.

I took these daytime photos about 5 days after the flooding started. The water was still very high - right up to the bottom of this bridge in Ennis.

The River Fergus is now Loch Fergus. You can see how high the water is on the trunks of these submerged trees.

A schoolyard and tennis courts in Ennis.

Thanksgiving Party

After a tough month, everyone needed a lift so we decided to have a Thanksgiving party. Originally we thought we would have a small sit-down dinner, but it turned out everyone wanted to come to a real American Thanksgiving, despite the fact that it was a Thursday and no-one here has the next day off. Before we knew it we had 30 guests and were scrambling to borrow chairs from the neighbors!

These folks were quick off the mark and got to sit down while they ate.

Other people were still lining up for food.

After dinner and dessert (pumpkin, apple and pecan pies!)we had a music session around the fire - alternating old-time with trad.

Ballybeg Wood

We recently discovered Ballybeg Wood, a nice area with walking trails just a few miles from our house.

Partridge berry

Happy News!

At the end of November, after two rounds of interviews, I was offered the position of project manager at the Irish Seedsavers Association. I am delighted to finally find a suitable position for my background and experience, and Seedsavers is an amazing organization that is doing very good work, preserving and propagating the fruits and vegetable varieties that have been historically grown in this country but are in danger of being lost. They also run a very comprehensive range of classes and workshops throughout the year. My first day on the job is Wednesday, December 9.

Check out Irish Seedsavers' website for more about what they do.

I'll be driving about 30 miles each way to my job in east Clare. I bought a little 1998 Nissan Micra, which gets about 40-50 mpg, for my daily commute.

And on another happy note, here's a picture of my daughter Monica and her boyfriend Matt, on the California seashore. They recently relocated from Santa Monica further south to San Diego, where Monica is studying at the University of San Diego.