At first, Ireland looks a lot like northern Pennsylvania, albeit with a few more sheep. But then suddenly, smack-dab in the middle of this sheep field, sits a castle.The brain goes: Wait. Castle?

It’s huge, this thing, and it’s standing here in this sheep meadow, and I’m looking at it from the window of a tour bus with wifi.

Ireland has so much history. Which sounds stupid to say because everything has history, but this history involves Vikings for goddsakes. Vikings, and invasions, and competing god-stories, with the whole mess needing to be fortified and defended and protected.

And rocks are involved. Many rocks. From what I could see, Ireland is basically rocks. Rocks and stones and sheep.
And they’re old, these rocks. And the people of Ireland still have this smell of old on them. Even the millennials with their cigarettes and tight hipster clothes. There’s something sheepy and rocky about them. They seem shy and polite on the outside, but I always thought I could hear something a little edgy, and pointed, and don’t-mess-with-me underneath their lilt.
There’s this constant push-pull of past and present in Ireland. It’s in the road signs in Gaelic, and the narrow medieval streets with their lines of colorful chock-a-block houses, and then out of nowhere, a Tommy Hilfiger store.  Constant reminders of battles, and the urgent need to fortify and moat things, and then: Modernity.
vista
But there’s never getting away from the rocks.
Rocky meadows, and grassy fields defined by them, and cliffs made from them. Abrupt stone castles erupting, without warning, out of the soft grass on top of them. Green grass, soft and sheepy.
Herds of sheep sleeping together, surrounded by low, sharp borders of rocks to keep them in and protected. And maybe to keep other things out? What other things? I don’t know.
So all week, we zoomed around in a big bus with our foreheads against the glass  listening to guides tell us what we were seeing. “Coming up on the left, you will notice a field.” (That was a guide joke.) Many stories of Vikings and invasions. Many cemeteries with graves marked with those ubiquitous rock Celtic crosses.
celtic cross
Whole families buried together. And lots of those graves had new flowers, and signs of recent attention and love and tears and pain, still clinging to them.
sad grave
We toured the ruins of many things made of ancient rocks. There were places where we were asked to imagine that this was the cooking area, and that the latrine.
We went to the castle where the movie Braveheart was filmed.
trim castle

I’ve never seen Braveheart, but it wasn’t hard to imagine that this place would be a casting director’s wet dream. Old. Authentically old. No power lines or any anachronisms to fuck up the scene. You could easily imagine the tips of arrows peeking out of the little slits in the castle wall, or see a right-handed soldier beheading the enemy at the top of a spiral staircase. Blood everywhere. Fires for signals, and cooking, and pyres.

And then, back in town, battle won: whiskey. To toast the dead, to celebrate victory, to numb pain, to douse memories. Memories to be remembered in songs sentimental and dripping with pathos. Songs sung loudly, full-throatedly, drunkenly.

Ireland is old. The food is basic, the sweaters warm, the streets narrow, the vibe friendly. It was pleasant to be a tourist in a place where tourism is the cornerstone of the economy and nobody forgets it.  Tourists are not put up with, they are thanked, desired. Free shipping! Send those bulky sweaters home–on us! We realize you don’t have room in your fancy luggage–no problem!
But in the end, when I remember Ireland, I will remember the rocks most of all.
“And now we are returning to the medieval city of Galway,” announces our tour guide as we roll our ridiculously huge bus down a street that can barely contain it.
I suddenly hear the word “medieval” as if for the first time, and all the images of Ireland I’ve been collecting all week, fit into place in my mind like an ancient puzzle coming together. A puzzle like an ancient stone wall.
stone wall

Ireland Rocks

Posted in Travel

Kiwanda and Kites: Pacific City: Day 2

On the beach this morning a man was making bubbles:

  
Obie had never been on sand. He is not a fan:

  
Save me, Dad:

  
G stayed with Obie while Scott, Emily and I climbed the dune. We are the 3 little dots on the left at the top:

  
We flew the kite, which actually flew itself.

   
 

And G had the mandatory “Outlaw tequila.”

 

We think the baby has pink eye. No picture of this. I read him a magazine. There were pictures of cats in it. I am a good meower:

 

Now it is time to watch the sun set over the Pacific and have a bonfire and eat s’mores. Those pics tomorrow, when we leave here and return to Portland. 

  

Posted in Travel

Pacific City. Day 2

Pacific City is soft sand dunes and dogs and surfers in full hypothermia gear.

Pacific City is icy water and cold beer and hot coffee.

Pacific City is horsehoes and ice cream and Farmers Markets and fire pits.

Pacific City is the US Open and gimlets and burgers on the grill.

This is me practicing my  interpretive dance moves in the horsehoe pit.

 

Getting stimulated.

  He ain’t heavy, he’s my grandson.
  

We are family.  (G is taking the picture.) G has taken all the pictures. I am just learning the “law of thirds.”

  

Boring scenery picture.

  

  

Posted in Travel

Pacific City, OR Day 1

Our VRBO here in Pacific is what Emily calls “fancy.” Scott says that’s just because the cabinets hang straight.

This is Obie’s first time sleeping  away from home. And Dude’s, too. (Dude is the chihuahua.) This is the “fire drill” trip for their Alaskan cruise in a few weeks.

After we settled in, we went to the Pelican Brewery here in Pacific City, hoping to sample some good brewskis and have a little dinner, but it was packed and the wait was too long. So,we’ll do that another day.

This was Obie’s first look at the ocean. He liked the sand.

imageI almost got Haystack Rock to grow right out of G’s head.

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After dinner Obie contemplated the fire.

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Was read to by Ira

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Was hugged a lot

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And eventually went to bed and after just a bit of crying, konked out.

Then G and Scott played horseshoes

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And Em and I watched

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  AND THIS