Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Acting like Adults

Day Twenty-five: June 27th

We had one more brunch with our gathered family at Janet and Finbarr’s.  There were homemade walnut cinnamon rolls, kugel and scones—Janet is a master baker—delicious quiches, sausage, fruit, and loads of coffee and tea. Everybody ate to bursting. After breakfast Jevon’s friends from medical school followed Liam to the water’s edge where a small stone pier lay low to flatten out the rocks.  Liam threw in a last handful of Jevon’s ashes and about ten brave friends followed Jevon one more time into adventure.  They had stripped down to skivvies and lowered themselves quickly into the sea for a screech-filled swim around the stone point. 

Brave swimmers

Before leaving this week’s group we corralled them all in the kitchen to sing a video-taped rendition of Happy Birthday for Irene who turned 21 this day.  Posted on Facebook she could see all of her cousins, uncles, aunts and new babies and hear good wishes for an official adulthood.  The process of saying goodbye was a long one; many times the goodbye was also an introduction as often happens with a big group.  Just saying goodbye required a number of questions and conversations.  

We left to return to the Ring of Terror.  Though there were as many coaches full of tourists as on our first day, at least we were going in the same direction as they were. They proved valuable sweepers, sending all oncoming traffic scurrying to the pockets of refuge off the side of the road. We will never go against the current on that road again. 

We traveled through Killarney National Park on our way to Ennis, the largest town in County Clare and another well-known sweet spot for traditional music.  Killarney National Park is gorgeous.  Parts of it seem as wild and remote as anyplace on earth, yet five kilometers away it resembles the manicured grounds of an estate.   The scenery was enticing but the press of flesh at all turnouts was enough that we didn’t stop except for a brief look at the Torc Waterfall.  Steve waited a long time to get a shot without a flamingly bright orange-jacketed rock-hopper. 

Killarney National Park

Torc waterfall

We checked into our B and B, the Clare Manor, hauled our stuff inside and went walking around town.  This was a Saturday night and the narrow coiling roads were full of young people.  The women wore very high heels and very short skirts.  There is a new fashion trend which I think is a little bit clueless in effect.  Imagine the pleat that allows movement in pencil skirts pulled around front to reside in a place of pride — dead center.  As these young women walked they flashed a signal which I wonder if they were aware of.  Young men in packs of threes smoked and leaned against walls, rugby shirts and khakis and posturing.  Steve described the town as a river of pheromones in flood.

The bars were so packed it was exhilarating to enter them with the only goal of seeing how far you could penetrate.  There were no tables within view of the sliver of space in which to pass. The revelers were of all ages.  Brogan’s Bar coiled around and through rooms for a full block width, some inside, some outside— full of smoke.  We finally found one bar around ten o’clock that had one table and a quiet bar.  Within a half hour the place was full of people. By far the most numerous were in two separate bachelorette parties.  One group of twenty women were all dressed to the nines, the bride-to-be wore a Miss America sash that read “Future Mrs.” The other bachelorette party theme was quite fun.  They all wore headbands and granny dresses, tie-dye and elephant legged pants.  A prettier all-age group of hippies I have never seen.

The scene at Cruise's Bar

Steve and I called it quits when we realized we were screaming at the top of our lungs to hear each other.  I guess I am at the other end of the “Adult” spectrum, unwilling to work so hard at fun. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Celebrating Jevon

Day Twenty-four:  June 26th

This is a picture of our beloved and unstoppable—yet tragically stopped—nephew Jevon.  At the age of thirty Jevon died in a bicycle/truck accident. He was only in the second week of his residency as an emergency room doctor in Little Rock, Arkansas, straight out of medical school.

Today in Castlecove, County Kerry we had the privilege of celebrating his life in a place he loved passionately.  This photograph captures him on a much-visited rock by the sea, at the home of his aunt and uncle, with the friendly Ally, one of Janet and Finbarr's three border terriers.  This wild and rocky shore has a strong effect on a person;  it is both calm and lively and everything here feels right again.

Here is another much-loved photo of Jevon with his mom Alida and our daughter Irene at one of the family reunions in Maine.

It is wonderful to have fifty plus people gather together to remember a young man that was so full of life that he continues to inspire those who knew and loved him today and every day.  I am not exaggerating when I say that in his thirty years of life Jevon lived more than ninty percent of people in a lifetime.  The concentration of Jevon-love at this memorial was huge, and the presence of Jevon was felt by all.

We celebrated his life with silence and then sharing, a whiskey toast, ash-scattering, a reception of tea and sandwiches, a sit-down dinner at the Westcove house, and into-the-night music, singing, and dancing in the Stables.  About twenty young friends of Jevon's from his medical school days in Dublin came for the celebration.  They brought with them the love, acceptance, and spirit of these important friendships.  I think the students at UCD were a perfect group to understand and totally accept Jevon and his Jevon-ish ways.  He was absolutely in the right place.  These good friends, his cohort from medical school, are all so impressive; the event was filled with the smartest, most multi-talented, and fun young people one could ever hope to launch into the future of good and smart works.  Jevon would have been in that company.

Jevon's bench

We were always confident we would have Jevon with us, that at each event as a family—as it rolled out over our lives—he would be there.  He was family and he loved family, and all kids, and most pets.  As Alida said this week he cared not only about what you thought but why you thought what you thought.  He asked about the core issues in your life.  He made us think.  He sought out those he loved—he always asked to come along, he always thought up something fun to do.  I think we took him for granted but I don't believe he took us for granted.  He was a completely unique refreshing out-of-the-box thinker and dispenser of love, humor, and mischief.  He was Coyote or Kokopelli, a trickster and a creator.

He was a comet.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sedentary layers of rock

Day Twenty, Twenty-one, Twenty-Two, and Twenty Three:  June 22nd, June 23rd,  June 24th and June 25th

Let me say that on these days I did and I plan to continue to do as little as possible.  Some blogging, some birding, some reading. I am reading Amy Tan's Fish Saved From Drowning—thank you Marcia!  Mostly we talk to friends and relatives all morning, move ourselves outside in the afternoon for some small unambitious field trip that involves the least amount of driving.  Then we enjoy the ever better and better dinner attempts and spend the evenings in more talk, some alcohol, puzzles, and music.  Steve's sister's husband's sister's husband's sister's husband Martin is a versatile and accomplished keyboard player in Irish traditional music and Steve and he are having a blast playing together on some nights—joined by Joe and his guitar and Joe's brother George's banjo. It is a laid back, slowed down bit of our vacation, meaningful and memorable.

Martin, Steve and Liam

There is no news here.  Only catch-up and the chance to be a family in affectionate proximity.  Nothing to write home about. Best of all it is all set in this gorgeous corner of Ireland.  Every ten steps warrants another photograph.  I will try to refrain from overwhelming you with too many pictures because you might become too envious or devote the rest of your life to figuring out how to move here.

There is a beautiful small stretch of white beach, a vast tidal area, and rocky promontory making up Derrynane Bay.  This has almost satisfied all of our needs to sightsee for a week.  It is within 5km of the house, so Ring of Terror driving is minimal.

The rocky promontory and its sheep. 

The white sand beach at Derrynane

Meadow near tidal flat and a marsh orchid

We traveled a trail set up in the woods surrounding the Derrynane House grounds, another neighboring manor house and its holdings.  Some one had set out fairy houses all along the trails for children to discover.  There was also an amazing arch of an old rooted tree with a wall propping it up.

Mattea opens up a whole new world

One day we visited Staige Fort east of Westcove up in the hills below a long-distance trail called the Kerry Way.  This "fort" or family/royal enclosure dated to 300 AD and was minimally interpreted and sturdily restored. I enjoyed the full access to walls and far views afforded by this high platform.  The first fort we had seen was Caherconnell back in the Burren.  Staige Fort was a little smaller but due to the lack of official interpretive fuss it was more interesting and evocative of the time and the feeling of security it must have imparted to its residents.   

Steve and the more mobile of our group hiked up to the ridge after touring the fort.  Note the ring fort below, to the left of Mattea's pink hat.  

This week is all about family, and beloved friends and how important our time is together.  With memories of Jevon and the revisitation of some of his favorite places, favorite foods, favorite activities (except no bicycling here, thank God) and his favorite people—we have gathered to celebrate the future.  This future is full of new additions that are just beginning to make their connections to this beautiful place.  

Mattea, Tobin and young Landon 

Joe with grandchildren

Ramble at Derrynane Beach

Every day some group of us would travel by foot to the nearby home of Joe's sister Janet and her husband Finbarr.  They have beautiful views and a little harbor for their boats, including a curragh that three people can row at one time.  This activity was in much demand by visitors as the sea is often calm and the nights are light until late.  This is where tomorrow's celebration of Jevon's life will take place.  There will be whiskey, spoken memories, and ash offerings back to the land and sea.   

Janet and Finbarr's beach

Latest addition to the clan, Shay, in Liam's care (Finbarr's oldest child, though child no more), Landon and Joe.

Jevon's bench, placed atop one of Jevon's favorite spots, a cliff top that hugs his aunt and uncle's home.  Alida is helping Tobin read out the plaque.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

To the Manor Borne

Day Eighteen evening and Nineteen: June 21st

Georgian sensibleness: Westcove House

The view from the house

Alida Evans, Steve's sister, and Joe, Alida's husband,  have rented a wonderful complex of buildings for this week-long gathering.  We are all here to enjoy a stunningly beautiful sea and shore region —a place our nephew Jevon loved deeply and felt as home.  The first night Steve and I cooked dinner for Joe and Alida, their son Ehren and his wife Birgit, and their two kids Tobin and Landon.  Also here were Birgit’s sister Sabine and her husband Helle, their two kids Matthea and Ellie, Birgit and Sabine’s parents Karl-Heinz and Hildegard, and Birgit’s good friend Bettina and her husband Mark.  Alida and Joe’s good friends Jim and Patti from Wisconsin and Patti’s daughter Emily, and Emily’s partner Joe, and Joe’s daughter Annabelle sat down to dinner.  The week would only grow more full, swelling to at least thirty for dinner.  Steve and I had it easy with only seventeen to feed. 

Dinner was consumed with thoroughness so it must have been alright.  Monica, Alida and Bettina

This place is called Westcove House. A manor house built around 1740, it is furnished in old Austrian hunting lodge furniture from the 18th century and beautiful chinese paintings and ceramics.  It is old world luxurious.  On the grounds are a converted stable where most of the kids and parents are staying. Also converted to lodging is a garden cottage.  There are boats and kayaks in a stone boathouse and the grounds extend all the way down to the sea and surround the cutest harbor on the planet—Westcove.

The view from the tiny Westcove harbor back up at the house.

As Steve and I were second to arrive we got to choose the room where we would sleep.  We chose two rooms with twin beds and an adjoining passage.  The view from these rooms is stupendously pretty, towards the sea and the big trees.  As you can see from the photos it was not a huge stretch for people to start calling me Princess Monica.

My mantel with nice ceramics and monkeys

My princess bed

My princess footboard

The 18th century armoire, though I cannot believe it, except for its obviously old lock.

Armoire panel art. By the way, these were taken with my revived phone!

The view from my bed

Passage between my room and Steve's, he also has a Hunting Lodge armoire.

The rustic monk's quarters, all he needs. 

The first full day here, a day of rest—Sunday, I pretty much stayed in the deluxe digs and caught up with email and the blog.  It felt great to not pack so much in.  Stephen and a good portion of the family went on a hike above a cove west of Westcove, shown here:

Beauty and rocks, beautiful rocks, everywhere you go. 

Family hike

Ehren and Tobin

Steve and Tobin

The gained summit

Blogger at work while other people are being social in the living room. In background are Joe, Helle and Birgit's sister Sabine.  Note more Jameson.