Stones, Butter, and Stories: Reflections on Ireland

At our opening reading in Cork, Gail reads an essay (Fitzgerald Park)

At our opening reading in Cork, Gail reads an essay (Fitzgerald Park)

Gail enjoys traditional Irish music in Glengarriff

Gail enjoys traditional Irish music in Glengarriff

We welcome Gail Simmons as our guest writer for the next two posts. She will recount memories from her participation in our Ireland Workshop.


by Gail Simmons


Like a moth to the flame, I was drawn to Ireland, but not without inspiration from the mother/daughter teachers Meg Eberle and Kaia Sand. The visual trip spelled itself out in a waterfall of images clicked off with my index finger pressed to the camera release during the sojourn from Cork to Glengariff, then, Galway and Inish Mor by bus and ferry boat. 


Seconds in the mind’s eye captured.


Our main goal was writing – impressions of the mind.  And I returned with notebooks full of journaling, a poem or two and a full prose piece that I read in back of Casey’s Hotel in the seaside town of Glengarriff. The people on the trip connected me to place and to my stories, conscious and unconscious. There was Leanne O’Sullivan’s poetry, the Ogham stones, the Butter Museum and my curiosity about how something as soft as butter could have been transported in big ships without refrigeration.  I found an exhibit with modern dance and ballet right next to the museum.  Across the street, a plaque dedicated to Mother Jones.


 The storyteller Mary Maddison, with her peacocks and delicate Irish teacups, tempted me to feel Ireland through crystals and metaphysics. Marki and I had our fortunes told.  “You can have any man you want,” Mary said and “animals are attracted to your aura.”  She was a beaming Irish woman you wanted to believe.


 Joanne, from Seattle, spent a day with me combing over the traces of Megalithic civilization left at the archeological site Bru na Boinne, north of Dublin.  Our female bus driver from Dublin, a phenomenal historian, confided in me on our walk to the site that she had cancer, but she was too passionate about this place to give up her job.  Clearly, no one could tell its history like she could.


After midnight one night in Cork, Manuela and I sat and discussed feminist politics at the kitchen table of our B & B. She was studying in London and in search of an Island rumored to exist off the coast of Ireland – Hy Brasil.  Layers, brick by brick with words and images conjured and carried her to this place, created fertile ground. There was something so young and modern in her approach that attracted me. 


The last night in Glengarriff, our company ate a sumptuous dinner at a restaurant called Martello’s.  I carried my camera because I wanted to document, savor and bottle the joy of the engagement of time well spent greeting the new, experiencing the old and appreciating the effervescent present. 


I had enjoyed conversations and listened to the deepest longings and thoughts of my group.  The next day, I’d pack my things and board a bus to Galway, a city in a foreign land where I knew not what to expect.  Joanne and I got on the same bus, but the driver didn’t have her name on the list; they weren’t going to let her ride.  I begged him to call the station, which he did.  Finally. We rode together to her destination, Limerick. We’d met in Dublin before the workshop and parted together strangers once again...


This is the first of two parts. Stay tuned for Gail's description of painting her memories, which we will post in a few days....