I’m a student of history. It always frustrated me in school when each year we would only cover the same time periods. We rarely made it to World War I and never beyond. I took it upon myself to read about the events not covered in class.
The magnitude of devastation the world has seen and survived helped to keep the events of 2020 in perspective. The “Black Death” swept through most of the known world in the mid-1300s and lasted seven years killing an estimated 200 million people. There was no known cure or treatment. This plague came on the heels of a famine about thirty years earlier, which is estimated to have killed anywhere from 30%-60% of Europe’s population.
Many of you have probably heard the statistics of the Spanish flu that began in 1918 as WWI was still grinding on. Somewhere between 20-50 million people died from this illness and again there was little doctors were able to do. Just over forty years later, in the late 1960s, my grandmother was stricken during the Hong Kong flu epidemic. Thankfully she survived but her lungs were damaged for the rest of her life. Treatments had progressed, though, and this outbreak’s death toll declined to between 1-2 million lives.
Most recently, in 2009, the Swine Flu swept across the globe creating panic and causing around 200,000 recorded deaths. My dad contracted this illness and was very ill. He survived, but again his lungs were damaged and he’s suffered breathing issues ever since.
Disease is not the only thing that has claimed lives through the centuries. Wars, famines, natural disasters, tyrannical leaders, unchecked gang violence, and everyday car wrecks have laid claim to millions of victims. When the media is bombarding us with one story all day and facts are evolving on a frequent basis it’s easy to get caught up in fear and become paralyzed, desperate for any action that offers protection.
I have family members and acquaintances that contracted COVID. Some were very sick, some died, but most were minimally ill. I have gone through the gut wrenching pain of watching loved ones die of incurable diseases. I don’t discount the suffering of those who have experienced loss. It took a period of anguish for me to come to terms with what my heart has known since childhood. God knows all the days of our lives. He knows when we will be born, all we will do and the day we will die. It’s an inevitable part of life none of us like to think about but cannot escape. Remembering that along with the lessons of the past helped me keep the year in perspective.
If you don’t know Jesus in a personal way, it’s difficult to see light or experience hope in this fear filled time. If you need hope, I encourage you to take time to read the New Testament of the Bible, the words of Jesus himself. Start with the book of John. If that is intimidating, watch Season 1 of The Chosen, which follows the calling of the disciples of Jesus. It makes the life of Jesus relatable, understandable, and real. Season 2 will begin streaming on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021.
Humanity has suffered great turmoil before and we will do so again until the day Jesus returns. What a glorious day that will be!
Our final full day in Ireland dawned gray with a misty rain. Over breakfast we met another pair of women who were on the second half of a whirlwind tour of Scotland and Ireland. We had a nice chat, swapping stories of our adventures thus far, then Tricia and I headed to the bus stop for one last round of sightseeing.
We’d been told by the B&B owner we could purchase a LEAP card to use on all the public transport at any convenience store. We found one blocks from the bus stop and stopped in to ask about the card. The clerk asked how long we would be using it and when he learned it was only for the day he explained we’d be better off just paying the bus fare.
There were plenty of locals waiting at the stop and one was able to help us out. The bus was quite nice, with comfortable seats, free wi-fi and a cozy temperature. I think I may have fallen asleep for a few minutes because I don’t recall much of the 30-minute ride.
When we got off the bus, we were right by the River Liffey and only a few blocks east of O’Connell Street. We planned to us the Hop On-Hop Off passes we had intended for our first day, so we made our way to the tourist office where the buses started from to get our tickets validated.
Our original plan was to ride the bus through a complete circuit then debark at our points of interest on the next trip around. Unfortunately, there was much more traffic than there had been during our previous trips around town earlier the previous week and the going was slow. When we reached Christ Church Cathedral we decided to get off and start our visits.
What a magnificent structure! I can’t imagine what the upkeep costs are for these massive cathedrals. The marble carvings and intricate ironwork is breathtaking. I had wanted to attend a choral program at either Christ Church or St. Patrick’s while we were in Dublin, but that didn’t work out with our delayed arrival. We did, however, get to be a part of noon prayers and the priest recited the Lord’s Prayer in Irish, which was pretty cool. There were also some workers finishing what appeared to be a restoration of some stones in the exterior courtyard and they asked me to help them seat the final stone. That was a cool experience. I wish we’d gotten a picture.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral wasn’t all that far away, however, my sense of direction is terrible and so we ended up going a number of blocks out of the way to find it. This was its own adventure though, taking us into more local streets with fruit stalls and quaint private courtyards. As we wandered I recognized some of the street signs from the Irish Country Doctor books. The main character, Fingal O’Reilly started his career in medicine in Dublin after graduating from Trinity College and served the poor souls of the Liberties, where I now found myself walking. They weren’t as run down now as back in the 1930s, when Fingal’s story was set.
On the walk from Christ Church to St. Patrick’s we must have passed three or four other large churches as well. The good people of Dublin certainly can’t say it’s too far a walk to get to a church!When we reached St. Patrick’s we were struck by the difference in size compared to Christ Church. It’s still a lovely cathedral and has characteristics that make it special in its own way. I was experiencing some back pain so I spent a good bit of time sitting down while Tricia went out to explore here. While I sat staring up at the stone ceiling I marveled how the builders had managed to create such a work of art that has stood the test of time. I couldn’t help but wonder what could cause the stones to be shaken loose, toppling down onto our heads.
From St. Patrick’s we joined the bus tour again, passing the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Jail (another place I had wanted to visit), Phoenix Park, and a number of other sites I would have liked to have taken in. If you want to do the sights of Dublin via the Hop On-Hop Off bus I would recommend at least a 2 day pass. One day simply isn’t enough time when everything closes at 5:00 or 6:00 pm.
When we completed the loop and returned to the starting point, we debarked and crossed the street to the General Post Office. Known as the GPO, this was the site of the Rebellion stronghold during the 1916 Easter Rebellion. The GPO Witness History is an interactive experience that immerses visitors in the events of the Rebellion and was one of my must see destinations on this trip. By this time I had a migraine and my back was hurting, but it was still an interesting experience.
Because the exhibits are interactive, it does take longer to go through, but I was thrilled to see so many people really taking the time to experience everything. In addition to the exhibits, there’s a great 17 minute movie that takes visitors through the week-long struggle using old news footage, animation, a map of the city, and a timeline.
The gift shop has a broad selection of books on the rebellion, its leaders, and woman of the rebellion. I would have liked to have brought them all home, but my suitcase was quite full and my bank account would have been very unhappy so I only purchased two along with an ornament for my Christmas tree.
It was already close to dinner time and we had missed lunch, so we went in search of food. We headed toward the Temple Bar area where Tricia had found Gallagher’s Boxty House on Yelp. The city was much more crowded than the previous week, with St Patrick’s Day just around the corner there were vendors on every street corner with kitchy Irish stuff. We found the restaurant , which was nearly too warm with a fire going, but we were seated right away and the food smelled good. Tricia ordered a Gaelic boxty and I chose a hamburger. The hamburger I ordered was one of the best I’ve ever had.
I don’t drink much, a glass of wine now and then, but I really wanted to have a Jameson’s as that is what the good doctor Fingal O’Reilly always has at the end of a day. I got up the nerve to order it and, while I sipped it throughout the entire meal, I kind of enjoyed it. I doubt I could ever do more than one serving but on occasion in Ireland…
Feeling restored after a good meal, we hit the streets again in search of those final souvenirs we could tuck into the small spaces of our suitcases and give out as gifts to our friends back home. As the rain began to sprinkle again, we made our way back to the bus stop where a long queue was forming. We ended up being some of the last allowed to board the full bus. As much as I wanted to take a short nap, I was anxious to not miss our stop.
Back at the B&B the trial of making everything fit into our suitcases began. The compression bags we had used seemed to have lost some of their compression powers from being opened and closed so many times during the trip. It was close to midnight before we unlocked the puzzle and fit everything in.
Come back next week for a final recap of this memorable adventure.
Before we get back to the Irish adventure, please join me in praying for the people of the Bahamas. The devastation is tragic. I am thankful the storm stayed off shore when it reached Florida. The projections of this storm continuing up the U.S. coast and possibly into the Canadian maritimes as a hurricane is frightening. If you are in the path of Dorian, please take it seriously and stay safe.
The Hill of Tara, much like the Rock of Cashel, has a mythical quality to it in my mind. Both sites are so wrapped in legend and history it is hard to separate the two. I read about both in my teens or early twenties, a time when I was prone to romanticism and their deep ties to ancient lore seeped into my being. So mysterious is the Hill, we nearly missed it.
We exited the motorway and drove for what felt like hours down tiny “local” roads. I caught glimpses of some massive homes, wishing I could take my eyes of the road long enough to appreciate them. I wish we’d kept better track of time because I know we couldn’t have spent as long on this little road as it felt, but the next thing we know the GPS is telling us we have arrived and we are parked in front of a gate that looks like it goes into a private field.
I backed up and turned around, driving up the lane a little ways to a parking area. When we initially passed it we thought it was for a restaurant and couple of shops, but decided to park and see if one of the shop owners could point us in the right direction.
The shop owner assured us we were in the right direction and advised us to walk up the hill to a gate that should be open, but if not we could climb over it. Once we knew where we were going we noticed how obvious it should have been.
A biting wind tore at us as we walked up the hill, increasing in strength the higher we climbed. It’s not a long climb, but I’m sure the wind strengthened at least 5-10 miles per hour from where we started to the top. Gray clouds that had thinly veiled the sun on our drive grew thicker and more menacing.
We reached an old church first and it exuded a creepiness that Edgar Alan Poe would have reveled in. A tall tree, bare of any leaves, held dozens of huge nests with large black birds roosting, their cawing loud as if trying to drown out the roaring wind.
I’m not a fan of horror movies but I’ve seen a couple and I could imagine every terrible creature feeling quite at home in the church cemetery. I did wander around to take some photos, but honestly I couldn’t get out of the churchyard fast enough.
Once outside the cemetery wall, we wandered the rolling mounds of the Tara complex. The view from this height is stunning, even on a cloudy evening like ours. It’s said on a clear day, half of Ireland’s counties can be seen from this perch.
Some of the mounds had signs telling what ruins had been found below the ground and one was fenced off, I believe for an upcoming archeological dig. In case you’ve never heard about Tara, this was the seat of the high kings of Ireland and legend has it St. Patrick visited here in 433 AD. Going back even further in history, is the “Mound of Hostages”, a passage tomb and the oldest visible monument, which dates back to about 3000 BC.
For a historical fiction account of the era, particularly the triumph of Brian Boru I recommend two books that drew me into the lore of this place, Lion of Ireland and Pride of Lions by Morgan Llywelyn. The links I included above provide more information about the monuments you can now see as well as the history of the area.
We wrapped up our exploration when our fingers were too numb to take pictures and headed to our Bed & Breakfast in Swords. This was supposed to be our last night in Ireland so we had chosen a place a few miles from the airport and were scheduled to return the rental car that evening. It took a little over an hour to reach Swords, but Sibonah (the car GPS) didn’t want to be very helpful when it came to locating the B&B. I don’t know why we had decided to use her rather than one of our phones since she’d been unreliable the few previous times we had used her. All I can think is we were tired.
We made a couple of circles before reaching the B&B with a tiny driveway. We unloaded our suitcases and hauled them up to the second floor room. The hostess was a bit of an odd duck and was more concerned about a bag bumping the wall than our struggle up the stairs. Her cat was much friendlier, though, and provided a dose of comfort before we steeled our nerves for the drive to the airport car rental return.
This is the point when the wheels nearly fell off the bus. Tricia and I were both tired and we hadn’t had a real meal since breakfast. We were only 3 kilometers from the airport, but it must have taken us half an hour to figure out where the rental return was located. We drove round and round, getting more tense with each circle. Of course there was a ton of traffic also making it even harder to maneuver. I was trying to stay calm but I could feel the frustration rolling off Tricia in the passenger seat. I figured out to pull into a hotel parking lot on the edge of the airport property and sent Tricia in to see if she could get directions but that ended up making her more frustrated.
I sent up a silent prayer for guidance and headed out of the hotel, taking a different exit from the roundabout than we’d taken the other times and it turned out to be correct. It took a couple of minutes to get the car turned in then we were shuttled back to the airport terminal area to wait for a bus. This was the first experience with bus transportation for either of us, not just in Ireland but anywhere in the world.
The B&B owner had given us some directions on how to get to the bus stop near her house and the name of a bus, but she spoke so fast neither one of us was sure we’d gotten the information correct. A lady who worked at the airport joined us at the stop and we asked her about the bus. She was kind and provided us with the information we needed, then made sure we boarded the correct bus when it arrived. We managed to find the correct stop to get off and then had to walk a few blocks back to the house. A light rain had started again and we were thrilled to get back to our room.
Thank goodness for an in-room kettle and several bags of tea. Instead of venturing back out to find dinner, we made tea and finished off the pastries we’d purchased at Lidl early in the day. A cup of hot tea, a hot shower, and a bed have never been so appreciated.
The drive from Kylemore to the town of Barna, just outside Galway City, took about an hour and we arrived at Furrymelia Cottage around 6:00 pm. Pauline, the B&B hostess, was waiting to greet us and hurried to put the kettle on. When she heard we hadn’t eaten dinner she even fixed us some sandwiches and pulled out some cookies to go with our tea.
The kitchen had a cozy seating area with a wood-burning stove for heat. We sat in here getting to know Pauline and found out she had been down in Killarney the previous day and had raced home that morning to make sure she was there for our arrival. Her husband had remained in Killarney for a work project so it ended up being just the three of us in the house for the whole stay.
When we decided to retire for the night, Pauline fixed us hot water bottles. What a wonderful touch! I drifted off with the warmth of that bottle easing the tightness in my lower back from so much walking.
Monday morning we arose and found a continental breakfast laid out for us. Pauline gets up early to go swimming before work but made sure we had a nice selection of options to start the day. There was fruit, yogurt, a couple different jams, bread, cereal, and of course a selection of teas. There was also a small plate with what looked like cubes of cheese.
I had started the keto diet a couple of months before leaving on this trip and tried to keep close to it during the travels so I was excited to see the cheese. I put several cubes on my plate. When I ate the first one it didn’t taste like any cheese I’d had before and slowly it dawned on me that it was butter! Knowing we were going to have a long day I shrugged and ate the rest of my cubes thinking about the wonderful fat content they were providing. Plus, it was some of the best butter I’ve ever tasted.
The skies were cloudy again and I kept hoping it would clear up as we were headed to the Cliffs of Moher. We took the more scenic Wild Atlantic Way rather than the motorway. It provided some excellent views but boy was the road rough. I would like to drive the whole Wild Atlantic Way, though. It meanders through small villages and along beautiful coastline that could take an entire month to explore.
We arrived at the Cliffs of Moher and while the sun was shining, there was still a gray haze in the air that made getting good pictures difficult. I’ve seen such vibrant pictures that I felt let down not being able to experience that vibrancy myself. There are pathways along the cliffs outside the official boundaries of the park, but they don’t have any safety features and people get blown off them by the whipping winds every year. We did venture out a few feet and Tricia wanted a picture near the edge, but I wasn’t about to risk going over the side. There was another pair of women out there. I offered to take their picture together but there was one sensible like me who didn’t want to risk it either.
From the Cliffs we headed back south to Bunratty Castle. We arrived in time for lunch and stopped in a pub called the Creamery Bar. This was one of the disappointments for me. The service was terrible and the food was just meh. Later we found out we could have gone across the street to Durty Nelly‘s, one of the oldest pubs in Ireland.
Bunratty has been around since the 15th century and is starkly medieval. I don’t know how mothers navigated the narrow stairways carrying children. They are quite treacherous, especially when going down. It was interesting to see how spartan and rustic some rooms were, but one, the private family dining room was almost elegant.
There is also a “village” set up around the castle, with more than 30 buildings representing village life. We didn’t have enough time to fully explore this area or partake in the medieval banquet that was being served that night, but I would recommend it if you are planning to visit the area.
After exploring Bunratty we visited the shops across the street. I finally found a sweater that I really loved, but this shop wanted me to spend 250 euros to get the free shipping and I couldn’t find enough other stuff to make that work so I put the sweater back and only purchased some linen items.
On the way back to the cottage we stopped at a Revolution Laundry. We’ve been traveling for a week now and were getting low on clothes. Like the stores, laundry mats all seem to close early in Ireland too. Revolution Laundries, though, are located in the parking lots of gas stations and consist of two washers and two dryers.
It was raining once again when we dragged our clothes out of the car and dumped them into the washer. Fortunately there is a small overhang that protects the machines from the weather. It took about 45 minutes for the clothes to wash, but when I went to put them in the dryer I noticed they were really wet, like the washer hadn’t run a spin cycle. My fingers were nearly frozen when I finished getting them all moved.
We waited 30 minutes on the dryer only to find the clothes were still soaking wet, as in we could wring water out of them. Tricia came out of the car to help me wring them out and again fingers were like ice when we started the machine for another 45 minutes.
I should mention we hadn’t eaten since lunch, probably six or seven hours earlier. Well, we had some candy from the convenience store but nerves were raw and this wasn’t the best experience. After that second run through the dryer the clothes were still very wet. They weren’t even warm so I don’t know what that dryer was doing. We were frustrated and tired so I suggested we just put them back in the laundry bag and figure something out at the cottage. I knew there was a clothesline out back so I figured we could just hang them out the next day.
While we were putting them in the bag, they were so heavy with water that the bag started to rip in half! We managed to get them all in and get the bag into the car without it completely tearing. We must have looked like we were moving a body when we returned to the cottage well after dark. Pauline was already in bed so we quietly went about hanging the clothes around the bathroom to air dry as much as possible overnight. The heated towel rack proved an excellent place for socks and underwear to dry. Once we had covered every surface that could possibly allow the clothes to dry we fell into bed cold and exhausted. I really missed the hot water bottle that night.
I don’t know what it is about doing laundry while traveling, but I had a hard time with it years ago when another friend and I were in Paris. We’d been traveling for about a week then, too, and since we were staying at Disneyland Paris we figured that would be a good place to wash clothes. I had no idea a washing machine could be so very different overseas and all the instructions were in French. This was another late night and we were laughing so hard from pure exhaustion and the comedy of how something so simple could become so hard. We worried for a minute that we might disturb anyone who had a room nearby, but since no one came out to complain we just kept laughing. Sometimes that is the only way to deal with difficult situations.
Come back next week to find out if the clothes ever dried out. If you’ve ever had a laundry fiasco while on the road please share it in the comments, otherwise I might have to believe I’m the only one with this challenge.
I wish we could have spent more time exploring County Kerry, but we had other adventures planned. We got an early start, making a brief stop in downtown Killarney. The blanket Tricia had purchased the previous night had a pull in it and she wanted to see about exchanging it. The lovely shopkeeper was able to fix the pull in the blink of an eye and we headed north to Connemara.
We passed so many places we wanted to stop but Kylemore Abbey was our planned destination and with last admission at 4pm we had limited time to make it there and do some touring. Not being Catholic, I wasn’t really sure what the difference was between an Abbey and a Monastery. Honestly, I’m still not sure I understand it, but the story of Kylemore is rather interesting. It began as a home for a wealthy businessman in the late 1800s. During World War I, it became the home of Benedictine Nuns fleeing Belgium and is still run by the Benedictines today.
The sun was valiantly trying to shine when we left Killarney, but the clouds continued to build and rain showers intermittently fell followed by a couple of snow flurries. The moment we put the car in park at Kylemore it began to hail quite violently. I was worried about the car being damaged and the rental agency charging me for it.
When the hail let up a bit we made a dash for the visitor’s center. The ground was completely white with hailstones the size of large marbles! We get hail in Florida, but I’ve never seen it come down like this.
At the ticket counter we learned the main house was closed for renovations but we could purchase a discounted ticket to tour the grounds and visit the chapel. Tricia thought I was crazy to want to tour the gardens in this weather, but the sun had come back out and we were already there so we bought the ticket and waited for the tram to the walled garden. (It was a reasonable distance away and I wasn’t completely crazy. There was still a little rain and a lot of cold wind).
Even without much blooming the walled garden was a sight to see. The brick wall helped to cut the wind, the rain had now stopped and the sun was shining brightly. I don’t remember seeing anyone else out here so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We spent around an hour admiring the design of the garden and visiting the head gardner’s house, a rather cozy and well appointed home.
We took the tram back to the visitor center and then walked past the Abbey to the chapel. There was a bit of hail along the way, but it was much smaller and only a brief shower. I’m glad we carried on. The chapel was amazing.
To think this was built for the man’s wife and obviously no expense was spared is mind boggling. I can’t imagine how much it cost to maintain much less build. We studied many of the intricate details, but could have spent hours more marveling at all of the carvings.
I sat in one of the pews to soak in the atmosphere and say a silent prayer. While I sat there, the clouds that had formed during our walk parted and a shaft of sunlight fell through one of the tall windows right onto where I was seated. It was a special moment that gave me goosebumps and I hope I will always remember.
After a peaceful and restorative time in the chapel we ambled back to the welcome center as the sun was starting to dip down to meet the mountains. We had just enough time to pick up a couple of souvenirs. I found these hot pads with the cutest sheep comics on them. My mom used to collect hot pads with photos of waterfalls or other nature scenes from our trips to North Carolina when I was a kid but now they are hard to come by. I struggled to chose just one for her and a smaller one for myself.
Fortunately, our drive from Kylemore wasn’t too far, and we managed to arrive at our new bed and breakfast just before dark. We found this place on AirBnB and weren’t quite sure if we were getting the whole cottage or if the host/hostess would be on site. I am thrilled the hostess was on site because she was an absolute gem and a true highlight of our entire trip. I’ll tell you all about Pauline and Furrymelia Cottage when we meet again next week.
A gray and weeping sky greeted us Thursday morning, which fit our exhausted spirits. We were thankful to have a slower day planned and dawdled over breakfast in the hotel restaurant before meeting our guide for a taxi tour of Belfast’s iconic murals.
As much as I’ve read about Belfast, it was still startling to see how close together Shankill and Falls Roads are. The physical divide between Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods isn’t much at all. Our guide had a first-hand perspective of the “Troubles” as his grandfather had been a member of the IRA and served time in jail.
Much like we in the U.S. are working to rewrite history by tearing down monuments, some of the historical murals in Belfast have been painted over or modified to alter their meaning. We learned that any mural with a face on it couldn’t be painted over, but could be altered. History should be something that is objective rather than subjective, a statement of facts. If we don’t learn where we come from and the mistakes that were made, how can we learn and avoid repeating those mistakes? I wish now that I’d purchased a book on all the murals.
I’m fascinated with the whole Brexit situation, particularly how it will impact the people of Northern Ireland and if this shift will be what leads to the island being reunited. I asked the guide about this and he seemed to agree that reunification was likely, if only for economic reasons. Brexit will likely lead to a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, causing goods being transported from north to south to be subject to border checks. (Some roads cross the border numerous times within a few miles!)
Additionally, the Catholic population is growing; the demographic that has most wanted reunification all along. Where they once were a significant minority, they are forecast to be the majority within the next couple of years. If you live in the UK, particularly Northern Ireland, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Our guide dropped us off at Belfast City Hall so we could do a little more exploring. It’s the most impressive City Hall I’ve ever been in! The rain was only a light sprinkle by this time and we enjoyed our walk back to the hotel. The train ride back to Dublin went quickly and we were greeted by Tricia’s friend, Dan. He guided us to our hotel on the River Liffey to drop off our bags and we walked to Trinity College, just a few minutes away. Trinity is a beautiful campus.
We had tickets to see the Book of Kells, a 9th century manuscript, created around 800 AD, that documents the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ. We reached the exhibit and flowed from one informational wall to another, learning about the art of illumination, until we reached the actual book in a glass case.
When we finally reached the Book, I experienced a feeling of deflation, much like I felt upon seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Both are much smaller than I expected and the colors of the Book weren’t as vibrant as I anticipated. It’s beautiful, for sure, and it’s obvious the work to create it must have been painstaking. I was so deflated I forgot to take a picture of the actual thing, but I did have a photo of a copy housed at the Dublin Writer’s Museum, which is a pretty good replication. Sometimes we build things up in our mind so much we are bound to be let down when we do finally experience them.
Dan was going to take us to a fish & chip shop, but after wandering for close to an hour, stumbling on icons such as Molly Malone, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, and Dublin Castle, we stopped at the Bull & Castle. Dan was brave and ordered an appetizer of bone marrow. It was strange in every way, but the taste wasn’t bad. The steak I ordered was one of the best I’ve ever had.
Dublin definitely comes alive at night. The streets were crowded as we walked back to our hotel and music poured out of many pubs we passed. We had a good chuckle at the line of American franchises- Kentucky Fried Chicken, Papa John Pizza, TGIFriday’s, Subway, Burger King, and McDonalds- practically on top of each other. I admit we did enter the McDonalds, but only so Tricia could use the facilities. Don’t worry, I purchased a coffee.
Come back next week as Tricia and I pick up our rental car and hit the road!
Monday was supposed to be our first day in the city and we had purchased a Dublin Hop On/Hop Off bus and City Pass, but since we didn’t arrive at our hotel until nearly 9:00 pm, all we saw was Murrays Bar & Grill. Despite being exhausted from our 24 plus hours of travel, we enjoyed a late dinner accompanied by an energetic band and Irish dancers. I wish I had caught the name of the band to see if they have an album available.
For an author to be without words is never a good thing, but AND today I am struggling to find the right words to describe the emotions coursing through me.
It started this morning when I woke up grumpy. I’ve been fighting some type of sinus/cold virus for almost a month and I’m at my wits end. I wanted to whine, but didn’t want to subject anyone I love to that self-pity so I cocooned in my room, putting away laundry and trying to pray.
When my cell phone started chirping with text after text I grabbed it in frustration, then smiled. A dear friend was announcing the release of her first book. She’s been working on this for quite some time and I’m delighted it has all come together. The multiple texts from other members of our writers group showed all were just as happy. Reports of orders being placed on Amazon warmed my heart and energized me to get dressed and head out the door.
It was 10:15 and I wanted to see how many people were already in town for the much anticipated SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Growing up during the Space Shuttle program, I admit I grew jaded with the crowds that tromped into town for launch days. Cars clogged the roads and every empty field along the river. Families wandered into the road without looking and causing us locals to be extra vigilant as we went about our daily lives. This morning, though, I reveled in the cars parked along the side of the road and the visitors milling around. I ached to stick around and be a part of this historic day, but work called and I had to get home to get ready.
Early birds get the best views
The large building across the river is the Vehicle Assembly Building. Until December there was a boat from Hurricane Irma where this RV now is
Be careful, eager spectators crossing!
By the time I arrived at the office, the launch had been pushed from 1:30 to 2:20 due to upper level winds. I felt a selfish sense of hope that the launch would be scrubbed and rescheduled to tomorrow when I would be home to see it. When the next delay pushing back to 3:45 was announced, again that selfish spirit perked up.
As 3:00 approached, I prepared to access the SpaceX livestream. The minutes ticked down and there was no announcement of another delay or a scrub so I chose to hope that all would go well. My pulse quickened when we reached five minutes before launch. I focused on my work until we were just under two minutes then my eyes couldn’t be torn from the video. Steam billowed around the three rockets strapped together and I clasped my hands in front of my face, whispering words of encouragement as if the machine could hear me.
With the last seconds my throat tightened and my breath caught. Would it fire? Would it rise off the ground? Would it explode on the spot or a few seconds into flight? Memories of Challenger gnawed at the back of my mind. The rocket rose higher and higher, three flames of fire blended into one. The excitement of the SpaceX team was tangible as each milestone was ticked off. I watched in awe, knowing how unheard of a successful test flight such as this is. I felt the tears gathering in my eyes and longed to share the excitement with a crowd of like-minded spectators.
The adrenaline has faded away and I think about how long it has been since the American people had a hope for exploration beyond our own planet. We have sent machines to gather data, but we need to send people to experience the outer regions first hand, to provide information only a human can express. Today, was the first step toward sending humans beyond the International Space Station and I feel an excitement that I hope you all can share.
In case you missed the launch, you can watch a replay below.
With Jessie finally written, edited, formatted, and awaiting launch on July 20, I have started research on my next book in the Seasons of Faith series. A new character began tickling my brain a few weeks ago. He’s a blues singer and I know virtually nothing about blues music so to the library I went.
I didn’t know what exactly to look for, but managed to find a couple of books to get me started. When I was working on Jessie I found simple biographies in the children’s section on Neil Armstrong and Gus Grissom that provided a quick snapshot of information. I found a children’s book on blues and jazz on this trip to the library and again, it gave me a good basic understanding of the roots of both genres and ideas on where to go from there. The next book I started reading was by George Mitchell, Blow my Blues Away. Mitchell’s book is a collection of interviews with African-Americans in the Mississippi Delta region compiled during the 1960s.
I only had time to read one interview before I had to return the book to the library, but I was struck by the discussion of working in the fields, mostly cotton, as well as the home garden, which provided most of the family’s food. As I read, I thought about how the settlers of America had to rely on their home gardens until towns grew and markets could be established. Through the years home gardens continued to fall by the way side and many traditions were lost.
Over the past ten years or so there has been a movement to organic foods and more people are tying to grow their own vegetables. Large cities have started community gardens and those with tiny balconies as well as those with small yards are doing container gardening. Do a search on urban gardening and you will find pages of websites with educational videos and how-to articles.
Papa in the Garden, Summer 1992
Grandma picking beans, Summer 1992
My grandparents had a garden that grew a bit every year. Even when my grandfather’s health was failing, he still spent time in his garden, perhaps remembering his youth in the fields of North Carolina.I’ve been trying my hand at gardening the past couple of years. I don’t quite have the green thumb by grandparents did, but I am learning.
Last weekend I took some of my fresh tomatoes to a friends’ house and taught them how to make and can salsa. It made me feel closer to my roots, sharing an old practice that is being made new again.
How did you spend your Father’s Day? Mine was pretty low key since I was wiped out after a long day in the sun promoting my books at the Sea Turtle Festival on Saturday, but my dad and I had the chance to spend some quality time together a few days earlier.
Wednesday we spent the afternoon touring the private collection of firearms, military vehicles, and even tanks housed at Knight’s Armament. It may sound like an odd outing for a father and daughter, but he and I have been watching war movies since I was a little kid and until the personal drama took over the show, we enjoyed watching Sons of Guns, marveling at some of the projects the little shop in Louisiana took on. (more…)