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.
Tag Archives: life
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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”.
Sometimes it feels as though there is a permanent art bonanza taking place in our home. The shelves are cluttered with paints, crayons, indoor chalk, outdoor chalk, paper, crêpe paper, colouring books, glue, markers, stickers etc. You get the picture! Paintings and drawings are proudly displayed on the dining room walls. Patio stones are coloured in vibrant colours with chalk. Our weekend mornings usually consists of fresh pots of coffee and doodling.
The kids have a serious addiction to all things involving arts and crafts. They didn’t get it from the side of the road either. Art is in the family. Their grandmothers are artists. I grew up surrounded by canvases, oils, gouache paints, charcoals, pencils, erasers, paper. All these things bear memories for me – the smell of freshly pared pencil shavings, the shape and feel of my mother’s special erasure, the rubbery sensation of dried oil paints on pallets, piled high on wobbly tables, the somewhat pleasant smell of turpentine. I loved going into my mother’s studio and snooping through the old photographs, catalogues and notebooks. Sometimes I left feeling overwhelmed as I did not always understand the personal topics of her work at my young age. Most of the time I left feeling like I had gotten to know more about her. When I was a teenager, my mother started an art school, which became very successful. There was a flow of people through the house day and night. Her studio was expanded and a dark room was built. I loved the quiet intimate darkness in there and loved watching my mother dipping and dunking negatives. I can still remember the smells of the chemicals. There was also this massive old school printing press. That was a hit with everyone. Classes were held for children and I thought I had the coolest mum. Sometimes I even sat as a model for her drawing classes. I think I grew to love classical music from this because it was always played in the background.
My mother is building a new studio at her home in the countryside and in a way I am jealous that my girls will be able to explore this. Hopefully they will have as many memories of their grandmother, as I do of my mother. Although my children do not get to visit my mother’s studio as often as I did as a child, I think it is important to help them develop an appreciation and love for art. Kids love getting messy and exploring with colours and textures. It’s a great way to learn. Most of all, I love watching them develop new techniques.
Olwyn is now learning how to draw circles. She holds the pencil for dear life and scribbles, scribbles, scribbles. Markers are a no go with her as she has a tendency to suck the ink out of them! She points at all the paintings on the wall saying “Seren do that” or “Olwyn do that”. Other times she likes to make her own impromptu teething ring!
Seren, who is three and a half, loves drawing happy faces, dogs, lions and balloons. She sits happily at the table until every inch of paper is coloured in. It’s great to see her concentration and how seriously she takes it.
We often visit the National Art Gallery with the children. They are still a bit too young to parade them through the entire gallery, but there is an excellent space for children to draw pictures. Here we all sit happily for an hour, the girls scribbling to their hearts’ content. Daddy usually has a cat nap because it is so warm from the sun light flooding in. In another year Seren will be able to take part in the art classes that are held here. It teaches young children how to read the paintings in the gallery.
I am an academic at heart, not having tapped into the artist in me when younger, and our home is crammed with books and words. My children love books but I want to pass on to them some of my experiences I had with art as a child. Although I don’t have a studio, I can try to keep painting and drawing alive, and nurture in them a love for all things creative.
Do you encourage your children to be creative? Is it important for you to have art in your children’s lives?
Today started off at 5.20 am with Olwyn crying to get up due to those troublesome canines bothering her. They have bothered her now for near on three months and they are still a no-show! Poor thing. Olwyn goes around with her fingers permanently stuck in her mouth and leaves puddles of saliva in her trail. Anyway, I settled Olwyn and put her back to bed at 6am. I hopped back into bed and fell into my slumber only to be woken by the bright-eyed Seren sitting beside me at 6.20 am, proudly announcing “I had a really nice dream! It was about lions!”.
Needless to say, my good intentions in writing my research paper today were not fulfilled. There was a major dose of fatigue today! It is seven weeks until I give my first “professional” paper. The attendance to the week-long conference is in excess of 500 people. Gulp! No pressure. However, I was no closer to a finished product today than I was a week ago. The thoughts of sitting down and poring over books seemed torturous. I had to give a tutorial in the early afternoon though so I had no choice but to go into the office.
To add to that, it was actually a beautiful sunny day and all I wanted to do was stay home with the family and enjoy the garden. I called it quits after the tutorial and headed home. Alas, the sun was now hiding (Murphy’s Law) but we still got to enjoy the garden. Seren and Olwyn found a little snail and were intrigued at this little creature, who carried his house on his back. We sat on the bench in the reappearing sun for about ten minutes marvelling over the snail, touching his tentacles, watching him crawl. It was the moment of the day! I am so happy to have witnessed this.
I made this for dessert for our Easter Sunday feast. Yes, it has taken me a month and a half to post it, but better late than never! It was to die for. The chocolate was so rich. I used O’Connaill’s organic chocolate, which is made in Co. Cork. The smell of the chocolate alone was enough to send me into a cocoa coma.
The chocolate really acted as a launch pad for the floral-citrus flavours of the cardamom. This spice changed the mousse into a luxury, which was sinfully delicious. I loved crushing the cardamom pods in the mortar, releasing the smell throughout the kitchen. The kids loved sticking their noses in to experience this new smell.
I poured the mousse into little Moroccan tea glasses. It was great because I could prepare it and put them in the fridge the day before. This saved on time the next day amidst the frenzy of cooking three other courses.
Chocolate & Cardamom Mousse
2oog good-quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
100ml single cream
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon caster sugar
half teaspoon cardamom seeds
(this serves 4 people)
Break the chocolate into a glass bowel suspended over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir often to make sure that no lumps form.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, egg yolks, sugar and cardamom seeds.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
Fold the whisked eggs into the chocolate mixture.
Pour the chocolate mixture into individual glasses and place in the fridge for 1 hour or until set.
This recipe is taken from Homemade: Irresistible recipes for every occasion by Clodagh McKenna, 2010
Of course this would not have achieved without the help of my two trusty
Then it was seriously a case of death by chocolate…