Monday, April 29, 2013

Kilfenora Céilí

The Kilfenora Céilí Festival was held this past weekend. I'd been looking forward to it for months since I found out this winter that it would be happening while we were here. Jubal and I decided on attending the Saturday night session at 10pm incase the open air afternoon one the next day was cancelled due to weather... But maybe the Irish don't believe in canceling anything because of weather? Certainly not a Céilí. We rested up all of Saturday afternoon, ate our dinner and then headed out. I had a feeling that I knew what the hall would look like as I had been to one before in the same town 14 years before. Sure enough, it was the same. The barn off of Vaughan's Pub. It was warm, lively and lit in a festive way. We enjoyed our Bailey's and pint as we looked on. Taking photos and videos of the festive dancers. Looking around, I swear I recognized a man I danced with 14 years ago.

Back in October of '99, I was pulled onto the dance floor in order to fill a spot in the set. The patient man shouted various directions to me and he led us in a series or turns, taps, twists and whirls. It was the highlight of my semester that fall. I went home that winter working on two small oil paintings for my senior thesis of dancing céilí figures. Later they would be accepted into my first juried art show in Wiscassett, Maine. I always loved that music and couldn't wait to try it again. This time, here in the present of 2013, I was much more skeptical of myself. Even when a small man maybe in his late 60's wearing a light blue cashmere sweater with a peak of red and white in his shirt color poking out, highlighting his cheeks, asked me to join in to fill a set. Ah no! I couldn't and mess up everyone's dancing. I would watch a little more and maybe next time I would. The whole time as Jubal and I watched on, we kept exchanging looks and telling each other we'd take lessons. We really wanted to give it a go but could see it looked very complicated.

As we enjoyed the last bits till we were almost too tired, we walked out of the barn happy thinking about those steps and the tunes. The same man with the cashmere sweater passed us outside under the lights of the pub and asked if we had had a good time. I turned and said we did and suddenly asked him if he knew of anyone who gave lessons. He stopped then and there and said, "you want to learn do ya? Well, this is what you start with," he turns me around so we're facing the same way and proceeds I tell me what foot I start with and what foot Jubal a starts with. It's a count of 1-2,1-2-3. He then shakes our hands and introduces himself as John Vaughan and points to the pub saying, "that's me. Just leave your name inside about lessons. Now, Rachel, if you do this every morning and every evening as your waiting on your tea to boil, you'll know it all. Oh and this step too." He then takes my arm and walks me around in a circle in count of 2 into a set of 8. There. That was it. I told him how 14 years ago I was here brought by the late Michael Greene and did he know of him? "Michael Greene of Ballyvaughan? O course I did. Very nice man. Very good friend of mine. Great man... You were a student at the college!" "I was, I was. Michael brought us here once and I swear I recognized a man inside just now I danced with. "I'm sure you danced me!" I told him how I once saw a man lift his leg greatly every time he stamped back down and how Michael was so annoyed and called him a "right jackass!" Over and over. Michael was such a warm friendly man, I remember being surprised at his disdain over this man's style of dance and laughing in bewilderment. He did look like a jack ass actually. The man told me then, that you never want to lift your leg. It's not the proper thing to do. You keep them low and subtle like.

He shook our hands again. Again squeezing our hands so hard, you couldn't feel your fingers for a few seconds and we promised to come back the following day. It was wonderful to be there again and that one interaction with John gave me a great spark. So far, talking to people here has been my favorite thing, next to eating cream of course:).

My kiss

Today I participated in National Plant A Kiss Day from Doolin, Ireland. While on a short trip to Connemara last week, we found a small beach outside of the town. We spent a while collecting various shells. Long skinny ones I've never seen and huge barnacles. I was pretty smitten with one shell in particular. It was a tiny round one so worn that it was pale and starting to show that glorious shiny under layer. I took some time last night to do a watercolor study of it. I've just now left it in the bathroom stall at McGann's Pub here in Doolin for someone else to enjoy. Maybe they'll leave it there. Maybe they'll take it home. Either way, I hope it brings some enjoyment to someone's day. The note at the bottom reads, "if you shall find this painting, please take it home. It's for you. oxox"

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Jubal and I took a little side trip down to Dingle last week. Our first one outside of our little cottage in Doolin. Dingle was such a delight. The landscape, the building, the colors, I could go on and on. Here are a few of my favorite pics for that trip.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Week Two

We are really settling into our new routines of sleeping in late, cooking a big breakfast, setting off for the day somewhere local, coming home and cooking dinner & building a fire. We've been delighted to find the local music happening every night in at least 3 pubs. But as we get home each afternoon, & cook together, have a fire going, we don't feel like leaving. We pour more wine, discuss our trips we'll take around the country, friends we'll visit and enjoy the local paper or a book we brought along.

As of this past Saturday, it was officially one week that jubal and I tied the knot. Still looking at each other and saying, "I can't believe my luck that I found you" to each other. Although for months we have been planning this trip here in Ireland, it really hit me this past week what actually being here means to us. It's not just a time of taking time off work and traveling in an ideally cool place. But really getting away from everything familiar and routine and focusing on being together. We realized today just how much time we've spent together this last week. Doing everything together, nearly. We're very good at it but it takes work sometimes which is a good thing. Every few days we get our internet fixes by going to McGann's Pub here in Doolin where they have free wifi. It's very dark inside but they always have a roaring fire going and the people behind the bar are so friendly. Our first visit there I left my favorite green water bottle there by mistake. The next day I went back for it and the women remembered it was mine and she had washed it for me the night before.

Something I'm really enjoying and becoming better at is talking to people and asking questions like do they live in the area, have they always lived there, where can you rent a video, and other random things. I'm finding that you ask one question of someone and all of a sudden, you know so much more about them. Reminds me of a certain lady I know back home by the name of Mom <3. The thing about being in such a beautiful, historic setting is I want everyone I know and love to be here too. I've been picturing planning large family trips back here with both our families. Last time I was here in 2007, it was on a 10 day solo trip that I planned a bit last minute. I drove the entire bottom half of the country and barely talked to anyone. It was ok though. That trip was just all about clearing my head and being in a place I missed and loved. But I felt such an ache to have my family with me then as I was here alone. Traveling alone though can be invigorating and challenging. I got my fill of it and am so happy to be here with such an amazing partner who is just as happy to be here as I am. And he's got more Irish in him than me! So far I only have a wee smidge but it's such an important smidge! Oh, and that smidge would come from my mother's, mother's father's side. Otherwise known as Scanlon from County Clare. I'd really like to find out more of this name. I've been reading that I may not be able to find much more out about the family as some of the best dates to look for are around 1900 and I'm looking for 1790.... I'm going to give it my all though. I'm also pretty determined to find out more about my Bingham name. Which now I can call my maiden name. I've always been extremely proud of our Bingham name. However, back in 1999 while I was going to art school here just down the road a piece at the Burrern College of Art, another post for another time, I discovered a book called the Mayo Bingham's. I researched the meaning of this book a little bit and even purchased it (I'm so ashamed to say I've owned it for 14 years now and still have not gotten around to reading it!) But! It's main focus is about a man named Sir Richard Bingham from England whom the Queen hired to send over to Ireland to wipe out villages.... There is a village on the Belmullet Peninsula in Co. Mayo called Binghamstown. And in December of 1999, I took a bus up from Ballyvaughan to this little 2 mile of a town just to see what it was all about. The lady whose B&B I was staying at suggested I knock on the door of the oldest Bingham in town. Telling me that if no one answered, to walk in and yell.... She dropped me at the door, and I could not bring myself to do it. Instead I walked the length of the town and combed the beach for shells thinking to myself, what the hell am I doing here and there is no way I can tell anyone my name. I was also 21 at the time and kind of timid. These days I like to think I have a little more confidence. Jubal and I are planning a trip up to Mayo soon and I'm going to be more diligent about inquiring after this name and see what happens.

I'm not sure what this next week will hold for us but a side trip either north or south is in the works. This afternoon I got in touch with my dear Irish friend who is also newly married and living in Dublin. We will be meeting up with her and her husband and I cannot wait to see her! It's been 6 or 7 years since I saw her last. Also other meet ups with friends are in the works that I haven't seen for 14 years. Really looking forward to that as well.

It's going on 11pm and I'm not nearly tired enough. The sun has been setting here around 8:45pm. We sleep till 9-11 and drink about 3 cups of tea a day. It's wonderful. But it must be all the fresh air, sights, and talking to strangers that gets me to sleep at night because this mattress is very much the opposite of our mattress at home. Something that puts an extra cozy layer on for us at night (in addition to the two duvet covers & each other) is watching the reflection of the fire on the walls as I fall asleep.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Week One.

We're here! I can't believe it!! Jubal and I left the day after our wedding ceremony in Portland. We said goodbye to our families and friends for three months to come here to Ireland to... Relax, explore and drink cream and Guinness. At some point during the weekend, I was asked by my oldest nephew, and ring bearer, Addison, "so.. Why three moths? I mean... Why not like two weeks or something, but three months?! Geeeez." My answer, "Why not!"

After landing at the Shannon airport on Monday morning at a startling 5:35am(!), we retrieved our car and attempted to make our way through Ennis and then to Doolin. I was completely COMPLETELY wrecked, tired, useless, could not keep my eyes open. I have no idea how Jubal managed drive and find our place. Oh and we stopped at a few food stores to collect staples and peat to burn.

After driving past the road three times, we managed to find our place and settled in. I think we've nearly caught up on our sleeps that we were falling behind on the last week.

We've know been here three full days and have managed to visit Galway, the Burren, cook a few meals, hear music, go for drives and visit my old stomping grounds. Many more to share with Jubal. More and more I can feel that Doolin was absolutely the best place to park ourselves.

Our cottage is located on an out of the way hill in the middle of nowhere in Doolin. Expansive peat bog in front of us with a walking trail and donkeys, horses and cows and sheep near by.

We've really been enjoying going over last weekends events, making our plans for the next three months here in Ireland and not working:)

Here's some of favorite pics so far...