Ireland Rocks

 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.
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

How did I ever pack before Packing Cubes??

Today I packed for my trip to Oregon.  I must say, I am a huge fan of packing cubes.

Omg. I love these things. Here is a week’s worth of stuff, including beach clothes all ready for the suitcase.


When I get to the hotel, my pajamas and robe and all the stuff I need for a shower is in one bag. My hoodie and long pants and long sleeved shirts and jeans are in another bag. My underwear is another little one. Shorts and tops in another one. Shoes in the red one. All I have to do tomorrow is pack toiletries and my ukulele and I’m done.

I love how, if I have to open my suitcase in a public place or if, god forbid, my suitcase were to break open, all my stuff would not come tumbling out all over the place. I would just have to pick up 5 neatly organized bags.

I throw an empty one in and use it for laundry, and when I get home, I just take my bag to the washer and dump it in.

You can get them here:

The reviews of these things sold me. There isn’t a bad review in the bunch. The medium-sized ones are by far the most versatile.  People get positively rhapsodic over these things, and now I totally understand their rhapsody.

I deeply appreciate things that are beautifully designed for function as well as aesthetics. And while packing cubes might not be beautiful objects, their function certain is.

(The last time I got so excited about a thing was after I spent $80 on a dish drainer. I still love and appreciate that dish drainer, by the way. I reviewed it here.)

But aside from packing cubes, I am getting so happy thinking that in 2 days I will get to see my little Obie and my daughter and son-in-law. They are in the throes of buying a house right now and things are getting difficult and frustrating and annoying.

I am really hoping that our being there will help and support them. They were hoping that all this house stuff would be resolved by the time we got there, I know, but stuff happens.

It’s the way of stuff. Life is just stuff and stuff and more stuff. We can’t control stuff, the only thing we can control is how we respond to it, right?




#Reverb10-Catching Up

Cover of "A Million Miles in a Thousand Y...

Cover via Amazon

How the hell did I get 5 days behind in #reverb10?

No matter.  In the next few days I’m going to see if I can catch up.

It’s funny about these prompts.  I read them each day and my mind goes totally and absolutely blank.  But then I open up 750 words, (which, by the way, has turned into my very favorite “Resistance Dragon” slayer lately), and I start  rambling about how the reverb prompt isn’t doing it for me, blah blah blah and before I know it, I’ve sussed out something on the topic.  (Miracle.)

Like today.  The prompt is to write about one thing you’ve come to appreciate most in the past year.

It didn’t ask for a list of all the things I appreciate, (thank god, because that would have been one hellava list) but rather, something I’ve come to appreciate, meaning, I have never appreciated it before, but now I do.

And the thing I came up with is TRAVEL.  I started to really like travel this year.  I’ve always been a reluctant traveler in some ways, preferring the comforts of home, preferring to spend money on fixing up the house rather than on hotels and airfares.  But this year, traveling to Asheville and then to Yosemite ignited something in me and I’m now I’m dreaming about learning Spanish this year and then traveling to a country that speaks Spanish someday and having …adventures.

I think I can trace this new-found appreciation for travel back to the book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and Miller’s idea that a character is what he does. To make a more interesting story of your life, he says, you have to go out and do things, and have experiences, and make things happen. It made me aware of my root-boundedness and my need for a bigger container.

It also planted the seed in me that I may have a bigger mission in this life, and in order to find out what that might be, I need to to have more, and more varied experiences.

I think it’s variation more than anything else that I crave now.  It’s not that my life or my experiences are bad, it’s just that I seem to be on a REPEAT mode. The same thing(s) happen every day, every month, every season, every year.  And unless I make a concerted effort to break it up, to change it up, I could continue playing this same song until the day I die.

For me, travel is a surefire way to break things up and get out of my cozy little comfort cocoon.


December 13 – Action When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

Before I talk about my NEXT STEP, I want to talk about my trip to New York City this past weekend.  Two weekends ago I was sitting on the couch, in my pjs, chin-deep in the Sunday NYTimes, when I saw the MOMA ad for the Abstract Expressionist show.  I screeched, waking and alarming G, who has never really gotten used to these unpredictable outbursts whenever my “enthusiasms” get triggered.

Anyway, what for me was just a pie-in-the-sky, albeit verbalized “wish” to see these paintings, became for her a mission: “We need to plan an adventure!” she said, and immediately started Googling hotel rates in NYC.

But we did not drive into the city and stay over (Plan A), but rather, took a Benedict’s bus which departed the Beiter’s parking lot at 5 AM on Saturday, setting us loose on the city by 11 AM. (Plan B)

We hoofed it over to MOMA, ate lunch in the cafe, and then for the next hour I sat and visited with my old and dear friends: The Motherwells, the Barnett Newmans, the Rothkos, and the Pollacks.

I sat in front of a Barnett Newman painting called The Voice for a long, long time, listening to it, communing with it, falling in love with it.

I sat in front of my dear old friend, Pollack’s One: Number 31 and allowed myself to get sucked down into it once again.  Deep, and deeper  into the rabbit hole I went.

I have loved these paintings since I first saw them, a young, 20-ish woman, no knowledge of art, or art history at all.  Back then I was squired around many museums, taught what to look for, and how to appreciate.

But from the first moment I laid my eyes on these paintings, I knew them.  I didn’t need to read Clement Greenburg, but he helped. I understood immediately that these paintings were meant to evoke a spiritual response in the viewer, in me.  Later I would sit Zen in austere zendos and experience this same feeling, but back then, I got my first taste of a meditative state in this museum, in front of these paintings.  MOMA was my zendo.  And now, after many, many years, here I was, back on my “cushion.”

This prompt is about making ideas happen and I was encouraged by these paintings to do just that.  The audacity of these artists to paint a vast canvas with three shades of black, and another one all red with just the narrowest of lines to slip through…This audacity has fueled my bravery to make things happen, even if my ideas seem impractical or ridiculous or audacious.

This year I intend to learn Spanish. I have asked all the relatives to donate towards the Spanish version of Rosetta Stone for my Xmas gift this year.  It is my hope that my journey into a new language will open the doors to new places, and new and varied adventures. It will be a start.


(These next prompts are for tomorrow:

December 12 – Body Integration This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

December 11 – 11 Things What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

December 10 – Wisdom Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?)