UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

One morning, before the conference began, I had time to wander around the UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden at the edge of the UCLA campus. I was so glad I could go and was amazed at the difference in vegetation between that of Europe and that of California. Even though there is a certain roughness to the plants, obviously designed in such a way due to harsh climate and to enable their survival, I still found a beauty applied to them. The garden was superbly kept and I was surprised at how underused it was. There was hardly a soul about while I walked about. There were only squirrels for company. I hope I captured some of that beauty in these photographs.

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I had never seen so many cacti before! I loved the many varieties and their shapes and sizes. Some looked positively lethal!

I  came across this beast of a thing, which kind of left me in awe. It was a tree but had spikes on its trunk. I loved the symmetry of the spikes and the leaves. I decided to give tree-hugging a pass this time around.

There were many plants with vivacious colours such as these Californian poppies, which really brightened up the place.

When I think of bamboo I am reminded of the fight scene which takes place in a bamboo forest in the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Tall, vibrant green forests of the stuff. So I was amazed to see the bamboo below which has red berries, red rimmed leaves and is a smaller variety. It is known as Heavenly Bamboo.

Heavenly bamboo

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This plant’s leaves felt so thick and surreal, almost cloth-like in texture. Some trees were very surreal. For instance, the tree on the left reminded me of a hand sticking up in the air, in salute, and the tree on the right made me think of the mythological character, Medusa, who had a head of snakes for hair!

              I enjoyed watching the tortoises sunning themselves on the rocks in the stream and watching the world go by. Well for some, I guess :)

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Spring is sprung

We are nearly done with Spring in Ireland and we all keenly await the beginning of Summer. I feel like I missed out on most of the good weather, having had my head stuck in my books. Here are some photographs of the woodlands.

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California Dreaming

Last August, when I gave my first paper at an international Celtic conference, a great opportunity arose from it for me. I was invited by a professor to give a seminar in UCLA at another conference in March of this year. Of course, I accepted his offer on the spot! What a fabulous opportunity! The last few months have been spent writing and preparing for this and it was a nerve-wracking and stressful time. Hence, the absence from WordPress. My life was taken over by this. Thanks to my supportive husband, I was able to throw myself into the deepest depths of textual transmission and stemmatics (huh?!). There were many a late night spent in the 24 hour postgraduate reading-room in university and coffee and sugary sweets were a staple. There were many a time when I felt like throwing in the towel and trusting my own work and lacking confidence in my ability to present my work. But my supervisor and my husband were very supportive and egged me on! The hard work paid off  and I pulled it together in time. The seminar was successful and I had positive feedback. Unfortunately, I did not get to see any sights and sounds of Los Angeles as I was only there for three days. But UCLA is a great campus and I loved being there. Here are some photographs.

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Westwood Boulevard

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The iconic building Royce Hall, UCLA, this is where the conference was held!

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Royce Hall's Italian Romanesque style made it feel European!

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The reception for the conference was held on the balcony which faces Powell Library

LAX - Next stop Rome, Italy!

After my whirlwind trip to LA, my next stop was Rome for a week-long workshop, but I’ll save that for another post :)

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Up the airy mountain, down the fairy glen …

Fairy ring in Deer Park, Dublin, with Dublin Mountains in the background.

I went a walking and came across a fairy ring! The title of this post is from the first line of a poem written by William Allingham, which we had to learn in school.

On my way to work today, while passing through Deer Park, I came across a fairy ring. I have not seen one in a long time. I am aware of the fact that these rings occur as a result of a naturally occurring phenomenon, but there is still an aura of mysticism about them which makes me almost nostalgic for an era that is coming to an end in Ireland. Well, in the cities anyway. Nowadays, we cityfolk are all too busy to notice nature around us and are too easily distracted by work, deadlines, finances etc. However, in rural Ireland, fairy folklore is still rife.  

When I was young, there was a field behind my house in which there was a fairy fort.  Of course now, there is a housing estate built on top of it. The myth was that if one put a bottle of milk into the centre of the fort and left it there overnight, the milk would be rancid the next morning. We never played inside the fort for fear of being kidnapped by the fairies or ill-luck befalling us!

The Fairy Ring by George Cruikshank

The belief was that fairy rings were created by fairies dancing at night. The ground within the ring was considered dangerous. It was not thought  a wise decision to build upon this land. There are tales in Ireland of roads being re-routed to avoid building upon a fairy fort. Ireland is strewn with ancient structures such as these forts, megalithic tombs,  hawthorn trees etc. and the common belief was that it was best not to destroy them as the fairies would curse those who disturbed them.

What always disturbed me were the folktales which related how fairies would kidnap children in the middle of the night and replace that child with a fairy look-alike.  Irish literature is full of these incidents. William Butler Yeats writes in The Stolen Child:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Instagram photo of the fairy ring with gloomy trees

However, on a  more uplifting note, I also came across snowdrops, which herald the true beginning of Spring.  I love the way the drooping flower looks like a lamb bowing its head!

Galanthus ‘snowdrop’
 
 
 
 
 

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Drawing

This is a little picture that Seren drew yesterday. I have been watching her develop her little tadpoles and smiley face techniques for a while now. She was always so proud of whatever she achieved on her own. For the last while Seren has been obsessed with colouring in large sheets of paper in a series of different colours and has abstained from caricatures. However, yesterday,  while I had my back turned, I could hear her chatting to herself while she was drawing. She seemed extremely involved and her sister, Olwyn, watched on curiously.  When I looked down at what Seren had drawn, this little person looked up at me. 20120214-215009.jpg

 I was told “this is Grossmami (a.k.a. Seren’s grandmother, who is Swiss). She is standing in a tunnel, where she is sheltering from the rain. The sun is coming out and a rainbow has appeared”.

I don’t think anything beats (for me anyway) watching a child grow and develop his/her ability to communicate and express him/herself,  be it through dance, drawing, painting, talking, singing, writing etc. A child’s imagination is a beauty to behold.

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Paths through mist

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I had a beautiful walk to work today. A heavy mist lay on the ground as I made my way through Deer Park. There is something magical about mist and the way it envelopes everything in its midst. The trees seemed like apparitions in the distance. Beings came through the thick curtain, as if emerging from an otherworldly realm.

I came to a fork in the path and it made me reflect on where I am in life and the paths I have chosen to take. For what purpose and to what end did I chose a specific path? The path I am on now seems particularly tough. I question myself is it the right one, not only for me but also for my family.

If I had not a care in the world, I would not fret about what path to choose but I want to make sure that the path I take leads to a better life for me, my husband and my children. Lewis Carroll makes it seem so easy in Alice in Wonderland. Alice comes to a fork in the road. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire cat. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then it doesn’t matter.” But every action causes consequences, and one must weigh all options and outcomes.

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Sometimes when Peter and I are up past midnight, while the children have been in bed for hours, and we try to complete assignments or write a chapter, we chuckle to ourselves. We may have chosen the right path but it sure wasn’t the easiest one. As the Zen proverb goes “The obstacle is the path”.

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Sock puppets

I got the bright idea into my head the other day to make sock puppets with the kids. Considering that today was a rainy day, it provided me with the perfect opportunity to make them. Besides, I knew there was a special reason for keeping those odd socks.

The kids were very excited and intrigued when I told them that I had a button box. They loved sifting through the various types of buttons and choosing which ones to use as eyes and noses for their puppet. I roped Peter into making a puppet too. The table was littered with buttons, thread, felt and other bits and bobs.

After much finger pricking, and misplaced buttons, my little fellah, Mr Snufflepig, came to life.

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I had great fun playing with him and the girls. They were totally convinced that Mr Snufflepig was real and carried out conversations with him and gave him kisses and cuddles. It makes me appreciate what a genius Jim Henson was.

In the meantime, Peter was still sitting at the table, tongue stuck out in concentration, creating his little protege,
Mr Ruffdog

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I did make the children laugh but I will never be as good as Kevin Clash, what a legend!

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