Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 10... the Stones of Ireland...

It seems to me that Ireland has an intimate relationship with stone. I suppose if it didn't, the ruins that we so admire would be long gone. The Galway region I am told, has a particular fetish, every where you look 3 foot high stone fences fill the landscape. I didn't think much of it at first, but then the sheer number of these - the miles and miles of them ... and to think that each stone was laid, someone's hand touched each and every stone. These are not apparitions of the earth, but intentional, mindful, thought out stones that have been laid in order that they maintain their stability, define a boundary, protect the animals, perhaps even give a purpose to the stone!

As you cycle through the region there are literally hundreds of "ruins", although there is no real way to tell if they are from 2000, 1900 or 1800 or beyond. Billy the Tour Guide explained that many were abandoned during the Great Potato Famine.

The picture above is a ruin that apparently dates back to the 1400's if I'm not mistaken. It's across the road from the Croagh Patrick. That mountain (Croagh = Mountain in Gaelic?) is an honoured and religious place which many people come to and climb as a pilgrimage.

The Irish use stone to build homes, fences, monuments, to hounour their dead.

On the tour in the Dingle Peninsula, there were "beehive" shaped buildings that date to B.C. that they are now preserving.

The Irish's relationship with stone is such that on the Aran Island, Mother Nature even spits the stones back at the land by virtue of the ocean. You are warned not to walk along a certain part of the coast there as you could get hit with a stone!

I wonder at the stories that could be told about these ruins. Whose lives happened here, whose deaths, what joys and sufferings? The landscape of Ireland speaks to me of endurance, of an impenetrable spirit that will last .... like the stones that so define them.

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