Jet Lag


Andrew recording Sean Nós singers in Carna. Andrew is the one with the cap....)

There is nothing like a parking ticket to remind one that we are back. How about two parking tickets. Both Bob and I got very hefty parking tickets for parking where we always park outside the Celtic Swell in West Seattle. Apparently, one is not allowed park there after 11.00pm. Just fine. There are no parking issues in Carna…..) ugh….

Yes we are back.  Double ughhhhhh

So we have a couple gigs coming up and the first Sunday Ceili. And there are a few other things to talk about. But I decided for my own sanity, I need to post some Irish pictures from the trip and tell a few more details about some of the places we visited…. Needless to relate, I could have easily stayed.

First, huge congratulations to our Ceili member Raizel who has completed her final project for high school graduation – she focused on Ireland and the impact of the diaspora on a new generation. She has subsequently been accepted into University College Galway where she ail study for the next four years. Well done Raizel. You make us proud…..


Lively session of Irish music in Carna County Galway - pipes, banjo and guitar

In Galway city, we met with several people who used to live in Seattle and how now reside in Ireland. SOme traveled long distances to meet up with us and we shared tunes and stories for an afternoon that is still very fresh in our minds. Then last week, I met Danny Riordan here in Ballard. Its a small world. Fishing between Galway and Seattle has always been very connected for a bunch of Connemara men who frequented Alaska  quite a bit during the mid to late 80s and who still show up every now and then. Connor Byrne drove from Dublin to play in the old pier in Galway. It was a cold windy day and but for the swans and the sails in Galway Claddagh, we would have been hard put to enjoy the space. But the people who showed up and contributed were fabulous.


Background of Galway Claddagh with some of the wild swans of Coole... Get up the Yard

Frank Fahy helped find the Pier Club and arranged the refreshments…. not a stone’s throw from Eyre Square. We supplied the music and dancing was provided by the Seattle Irish Dance Company. It was a day to remember.

Monthly Céilí

Thanks everyone for a fabulous céilí today. Great music and dancing. The children had a ball as usual. Thanks too for the volunteers who set up and cleaned up afterwards – many hands make light work. I loved the double brush dance that was performed today. Next time we will perfect a new set and begin steps for the Galway Set.

We will continue the monthly ceili and revert back to the first sunday of every month as before.

I apologize for not following up with more pictures from Ireland since I got back – it has been way too busy at work – not to mention the jet lag. Congratulations to one of our Irish scholars and a Ceili dancer – Raizel, for being accepted into University College Galway – she will move in there in mid August and attend for 4 years. Super opportunity. Galway is a great city to complete undergraduate collegiate work in. Not far to the west is the best Irish culture anywhere.


Lovely sun-drenched rocky shore in Connemara to remind us of the past few weeks.



Durty Nelly’s

It’s hard to leave Ireland when the sun is shining. Blue skies, light breeze and 65` makes it the best place in the world. But there was a bleak windswept rainy day last week when I was ready to jump over the Cliffs of Moher…) I purchased a book of legends and myths nicely illustrated in Celtic embroidered style sheets for my little boy. I will enjoy reading it with him- Cú Chulain, Ferdia, Setanta, and Brian Ború.


The Cliffs of Moher on a good day - Liscanor Stone slabs in the foreground

It’s not easy to jump off the cliffs – because the wind blows so hard from the seaward side that there is more danger of being blown under a tour-bus than making it to the floor below. According to legend, it takes roughly 10 days for the body to show up at Lahinch Beach. Maybe next time.


Established in 1620, Durty Nelly's is one of the oldest public houses in Ireland

I stopped at Durty Nelly’s beside Bunratty Castle today on my way to Shannon. I love Durty Nelly’s because it is at once unequivocally Irish and still you can meet people there from all over the globe. I spoke to people from Brazil, China, UK, France, Lithuania, Canada and of course Wisconsin. Does that count as USA? Bunratty looked intense in a strong southerly breeze that showed the Munster and Ireland flags fluttering animatedly.


Ireland Flag and Muster Flag flying spiritedly atop Bunratty Castle

People are beginning to think about driving back to the cities and work – after the long bank-holiday weekend. How can work and Bunratty be reconciled. I just got an email from a very large and industrious company in Seattle asking me if I was back – exhorting me to attend a meeting in the 21st century…. Arghhhh! In Carna the festival committee is already planning next years’ events and making notes of the highlights of this last few days and nights. What music and dance. We are so lucky! I am fixing my calendar for Carna next year too. Seattle meetings will just have to wait.

Tonight the pubs will be quiet in Carna. Tigh Meaic and Moran‘s will have a moment to catch their breathes – at least until next weekend when another festival will get the ball rolling all over again.


Conversation, Irish and English at the Zetland Hotel - it used to be a fishing lodge in a past life

A conversation overheard at the bar last evening. At least 263 young boys and girls leave Ireland every day. Weddings are popular around Christmas and New Years because that is when there is a high chance that friends will be back for a while – could attend the wedding party. I see it at Shannon today. Young people leaving for Australia, France, Germany, UK. There are a lot of broken hearts in Ireland tonight.

I plan on keeping up a post when I get back. It won’t have fresh pictures from Roundstone or Carna each day – but there will be thoughts and ideas to share. I will close out this trip with a sunset viewed over the Shannon estuary. A giddy kingfisher walked webbed scratchy prints out onto the slimy sunlit mud ever mindful to confuse the geologist a few million years from now who might try to decipher his fossilized imprint.


A lone piper casts a penny shadow into Joyce's murderous Shannon to anchor his soul until another sunset

And just when you think its over… the miracle of miracles. I am finishing up a piece of writing for that not-to-be-mentioned industrial company in Seattle when I am distracted by whistle and vocal sounds – Where is the Ring I gave to Nancy Spain. There are no speakers in this sparse room by the airport so I went into the restaurant to see what was going on. Nothing. I was making my way back to the room when I heard Uilleann Pipes in the room beside me – it was a meeting room. I squeezed through the door to find a class in session with 35 students from a university cultural class from the Ohio valley being entertained and educated in the art of Irish music. It was none other than Mickey Dunne the famous traveling piper. A few minutes later it was dueling pipers – Mickey is a good friend of many people in the Seattle Piping community including Tommy Creegan, Michael Cruite and Phil White. In fact he had been in Dingle two days ago to get a reed from Cillian O’Brian and they were both talking about this Cork piper traveling around from Seattle. So I was the traveling poiper in his eyes – since Mickey is from Limerick. What a treat. Only in Ireland.


Mickey Dunne, the traveling piper playing for American students in the room next door

Needless to say, a grand time was had by all. We played several reels, jigs and hornpipes and afterwards chatted about how in a modern world the traveler can be the learner as well. Ó thuaidh!


The best of fun in Caiseal last evening. The theme of the Joe Heaney Festival was to highlight and acknowledge the next – a new and vibrant -  generation’s inherent talent and their intimate connection with the culture that Joe made famous. We advanced that idea by inviting local musicians and dancers to help flush out our final performance in Caiseal. It was a resounding success and one which we could not have anticipated from Seattle. But first, a short segue to the classes and culture in Carna.


The Féile Cómortas Joe Éinniu was held at this new hall - Áras Shorcha Ní Ghuairim in Carna

Andrew signed up for sean nós singing class, and I signed up for sean nós dance class. It was a fabulous experience for both of us. Andrew walked away with a whole new appreciation of how sean nós singers frame and deliver their songs thanks to Rosie Stewart who taught the class. Meanwhile in the school hall across the way, Róisín Ní Mhainín was exquisite in her timing and teaching. I learned six parts of the reel step and seven parts of the traditional jig step. Róisín’s profound knowledge of true sean nós techniques and her ease with passing it along to beginners was remarkable and everybody in the room learned a great deal.

Andrew and I stopped in at the church in Carna where a funeral was taking place for a 97 year old woman. The whole village was gathered for a celebration of her life. It was Saturday of a long bank-holiday weekend and people are happy to be out and about in the day. Lots of promise in store. Workshops in dance, song and story are due to wrap up around 2.00 pm. After that there will be a session for singers in the local bar. Already people are packing in at Tigh Moran in hopes of hearing their favorite singer.


Róisín Ní Mhainín with dancers in the sean nós jig step at the Joe Heaney festival in Carna 2013

There were singers from many countries around the world. A list was drawn up and it was soon realized that the session might have to be continued later in the evening because there were so many famous contributors. No argument there.

We adjourned to Tigh Meaic’s for lunch. Tigh Meaic must be the best bar in Ireland, hands down. We ordered soup and brown bread to start and were about to dig in when Mick O’Brien and Páraic ‘Ac Donncha showed up and we were dragged into a mighty session. Mick was playing his fabulous B set and Páraic had to tune the banjo down to join him. Bob brought out his bodhrán and they were joined by a Spanish guitar player who was passing that way. Mick is the finest piper in Ireland today. To hear lively reels and set pieces (he played Ennis’ Morning Thrush) in Tigh Meaic’s before noon on a sunny day – that’s living.


Mick O'Brien, Páraic 'Ac Donncha, Spanish Guitarist, and Bob Howell driving a 
soon afternoon session in Tigh Meaic's in Carna at the Joe Heaney Commemorative Festival, 2013

After the session, we all adjourned to Moran‘s to catch the first half of the sean nós singing. Andrew was in the thick of it – recording as many artists as possible. Alice was enjoying a glass of Guinness with her mom at the counter while Liz had her camera in full operation to capture the music and performers.


Andrew, Alice and Liz capturing Sean Nós singing in Moran's Bar, Carna

It was hard to drag ourselves away from the Carna events. We made our way back to Caiseal and the local Community Hall to set up the stage area and sound system for the Carrigaline performance at 8.00 pm. The hall was empty until mass was over. Then people streamed in. A cup of tea, some sandwiches and the entertainment got under way. We were delighted and surprised by the young dancers that joined us. It was a thrill to have seven sean nós dancers from Caiseal, aged 11 through 18 who were simply brilliant. Then Christina, one of the best dancers in the community who has been dancing for more than fifty years got up and danced a lively jig. Andrew sang brilliantly, Alice was on fire and the hall was acoustically vibrant. We were once more taken into this community and made to feel completely at home. Later in the Zetland Hotel across the road, we played more music and dance with the local dancers while people chatted and mixed stories with laughter and ease. The best of nights and it was late when we made our weary way back to the pier at Cloch na Rón and to bed. Some were packing for the imminent trip to Shannon and there were sad goodbyes. But more of that tomorrow. Alice said goodbye to Roundstone. Tears also in CLifden. She and Liz are headed to Ennis to be closer to Shannon for the flight out in the morning. Welcome back to Andrew, Bob and Diane in Seattle as we prepare to get on a flight at Shannon.


Croí na gaeltachta (heart of the Irish speaking areas). Last evening in Carna was the highlight of our trip. The opening ceremony for the Joe Heaney Commemorative Festival coincided with the lifting of the cloud cover and the brightening up of the sky. It had rained all day before that. We lit a (rather smoky) turf fire and tidied up our files and the kitchen, but eventually cabin fever got to us and a few went for a wild and wet walk on the beach known locally as Port na Feadóige (tune for the tin whistle – poorly translated to Dog Bay on the sign posts). Naturally, we had it all to ourselves but for a few soggy hares, happy seagulls playing in an upwelling breeze, and diving terns.


Windswept cuspate beach of precious sand and seaweed - Port na Ffeadóige

I managed to capture some angular abandoned feelings with the blue boat of Caiseal. Soon after, I was interviewed on Leitir Fraic Radio and broadcast to local radio stations – about our trip and the final gig in Caiseal Saturday night. There is a lot of excitement about the visiting band from Seattle and the Seattle Irish Dancers. It’s hard to think that we have one final gig left on this trip. Caiseal abú!


The blue boat of Caiseal captured thoughts of better days and leaving for brighter lights in far away places

Driving the winding roads to Carna, the sun was going down on our gathering also. We realized that we were going deeper and deeper into the landscape of Irish culture. Carna is different from any place else in Ireland. People here have an energy and pride about whom they are and about their keeping of the language, the music and the dance. Sean Nós is at home in Carna. It appeared also that we were at home in Carna. The uncertainty and lingering doubts about whether we would be accepted into their community was lifted when we saw the widespread publicity in their village. It was soon impressed upon us that they were welcoming us with open arms and were glad to have us perform at their premier weekend of the year. In fact, we got welcomed as if we were visiting family. Seattle is at home in Carna.


Joe Heaney poster alongside Carrrigaline posters in the village of Carna prior to the bank-holiday weekend

There was wake and funeral happening also in the village. People were out. The church bells rang out a plaintiff peel and men in the local pub lifted their caps in respect of the dead. The conversation was muffled but audibly Irish as I inquired where the open events were taking place. They answered me back in a broad brogue dialect that forced me to listen carefully. I find that the longer I hear the language the easier to comprehend. By nights end I was at home. I am very aware however that my dialectic roots derive from Kerry and makes me an outsider here in Carna. It might be a small town with a few crossroads, but things are spread out over bog and bay. Eventually, when I got there a little late, it was just in time (Irish time) since people had been chatting and hanging out with each other for ages before the call to attend.

Everyone in town is excited for our performance Sunday evening. Having made our way to the opening ceremony, I found standing room at the back of the hall from where I could capture some video and photos. It was a remarkable event all in Irish of course and highlighted the talent of a new and burgeoning generation of speakers singers and dancers. I don’t think I have ever been so impressed with musicians as I was with the teenagers of Carna last night and their outstanding performances in front of cameras ad strangers. Watch for Breadan O hIarnan and his fiddle playing – he is the best sean nós dancer I have ever seen. He is only 18 years of age and immaculate in his talent and style. But there are many more like him in this tiny foothold of natural culture in Carna.


Rapt audience at Áras Shorcha Ní Guairim in Carna for the opening ceremony of Féile Joe Éinniu 2013

The Seattle Carna connection was prominent in the presentation as Carna people claimed Joe back to themselves but acknowledged the tremendous importance that Seattle and the University of Washington was for him in his life’s work. I will add links to You Tube video of this performance when they are available from the official site. After the speeches, the singing and the sean nós dancing, everyone retired to Tigh Meaic‘s and there was spraoi (wild time) until the wee hours.

Today, I woke late. The sun is shining again over Cloch na Rón (Roundstone) bay. I was awakened indeed by a rather animated gathering of excited fishermen on the pier outside my window. They are heading out on the Rosyln Anne, for a long fishing trip on their day off.


Preparing for a weekend fishing trip out of Roundstone

Tide dictated that they leave before 9.00 am. It is a good time to rise after a late night in Carna.  All is well with the world. The blue has passed. Packing has begun. We will play our final gig today in Caiseal Community Hall and help raise funds for the local school gym. After that, people are heading to Shannon. I can’t go there yet. It’s like leaving family all over again. Mo ghrá sibh. As  write this last few lines, the Lady Siobhán yellow fishing boat with Maidhc and Seán aboard arrive back from their morning’s work. They stop off at the floating dock in the bay  where they stash their haul of live lobster until the buyer arrives in town on Wednesday. Those lobster are headed for expensive dishes in Paris next week, fresh from Roundstone. I will be at a meeting at the University of Washington discussing a paper for the nanotechnology conference. Life is sweet moment by moment.





Omey Island

Tide and time wait for no man. We are reminded of this frequently in Roundstone. As we approach the last few days of our trip while watching the fishing boats settle into the floor of the harbor twice a day. We are reminded that May is upon us. Men show up for work here when the moon facilitates their exit to the fishing grounds. Carna is closer to the tide than the plough.


Fishing pots, ropes, floats and assorted gear await the loading for the next tide at Roundstone Pier

The tiny island of Omey is separated twice each day from the mainland when the causeway is inundated by incoming seas. Yesterday low tide was at 3.3.5 pm. We made our way past Cleggan and Claddagh Dubh along the narrow roads to make the crossing. It was a glorious day. Sunshine and light breezes, filled with lark and starling song accompanied us on our journey. We had to pull over three times along the way for photographs and to oogle over a black-faced lamb. April in Ireland is perfect for lambs, wild primroses and unspoiled light. As we began the walk across the causeway a heron swooped low in welcome gait.


Omey Island is connected to the mainland via causeway that is under water twice each day

The sand is solid  underfoot yet effortlessly gives ease of tenure to our toes. Boots are over kill for this part. But soon we are glad we wore them when the beach gives way to wild windswept dune grasses and rocky crags of  wave-cut platform. A pair of seals watch us from a safe distance beyond the headland outcrop. We are in a trance by unexpected tide pool colors and vivid ecosystems that are welcome reminders of the exuberance of wild places.


Colorful tide pools on the rocky outcrops of Omey Island make eye-catching photograph material

The eye is enticed to follow the veins of Connemara Marble that rush along the crags and soon we are a long ways from the causeway and the incoming tide. We wander here and there wherever the colors or the seascapes take us. Will we get cut off? Can we make it back in time? There will be another low tide in 16 hours – but that might mean an overnight…. we are not in tune with this timescale as are the local people. Which way around the island, north or southwest. We opt for the latter and make haste to retrace our steps.


Cruach Island lies due west from Omey's craggy shore

A last few pictures to the west and we retrace our steps for the causeway. The tides is encroaching rapidly, but we make it in good time. Wise words from the lady in the fish shop that morning. Don’t delay too much with the scenery – that will be there tomorrow – as if we mightn’t.


The Causeway to Omey Island is inviting, but caution needs to be taken of the incoming tide

Safe on the landward side once more, we say good bye to Omey for this trip and head back along the bog road. A low sunlight paints a warm texture onto the orange grasses over turf and the Maumturks turn soft blue in the middle distance. I am planning a quiet evening by the fire in gentle turf-smoke with a good book. We stopped once to view the spot where Barry painted his Bog Road in Connemara piece. Barry walked with us today. Tomorrow he heads back to his home in the UK.

bog road from clivedon

Bog Road in Connemara (B. Lowenhoff, 2013)

Weather is expected. We are in two minds about heading to Carna or to Cleggan.

Get up the Yard!

Cailín Imleach

We sailed from Roundstone to Caiseal with and on the Cailín Imleach last evening with a descendant of the Earl of Roden ( who is Lord Jocelyn Roden today in Roundstone. Tides and wind were favorable as we headed out of Roundstaone Bay. Low clouds hung over the Maumturks threatening showers as we slipped gingerly across the bay.  It was a treasure at sunset to see stony fences, a ruined church building and a very old graveyard slip by.

Cailin Impleach

Sailing from Roundstone to Caiseal with the Cailín Imleach

While drivingoutside Caiseal today I happened across this poster….


Carrigaline and the Seattle Irish Dance Company playing the Community Hall in Caiseal

Caiseal is the local holy well near Roundstone

Get up the Yard!