Worlds Rebuilt (Crossing the Pond IV)

Near Cobh, Ireland
When in doubt, add a lighthouse. Entrance to Cobh, Ireland, photo by kajmeister

Humans have an urge to build things. Plop down on a sandy beach, and you start to create hills and draw designs. If your coffee shop booth has a stack of rectangular jam packets, you may soon be constructing a pyramid. Maybe you don’t call that building, but that’s semantics. We are busy creatures; we like to make things. When we want to, when we can, we like to remake them. In my trip across the Atlantic, we’re now touring spots near the English channel–at Guernsey, Cobh, Dublin, and Belfast–where I see this over and over.

Bunker Reborn

Guernsey is an island a spit’s distance off the coast of France, yet heavily affiliated with Britain. That is to say, it’s poised between Britain and France philosophically. The currency is the pound, the cars drive on the left side, and they sing God Save the Queen. Yet they live on streets called Rue de Felconte and de la Rocque Poisson, and the markets are full of croissants rather than scones. Actually, the markets are full of banks and real estate companies because, as our guide Ant put it, he’s “not allowed to tell us they’re a tax haven.” Because Guernsey is a tax haven, and the offshore money is rolling in.

New construction threads through the downtown area, St. Peter Port, slowly turning it from quaint to modernized. You can barely find any reminders here of the Nazi occupation that blanketed the island from June 1940 to May 1945. Children were evacuated; meat and other food was confiscated; 1000 residents were deported and sent to camps; prisoners brought in for construction were starved. What the Germans mainly seemed to do, in fact, was build bunkers. They built fortifications and towers and heavily-protected turrets and armories that apparently were never needed. Churchhill and the British ignored the island and went straight at Normandy when they were strong enough to take France back, and the island was too far away for Germany to use it as any kind of springpoint into England. Continue reading “Worlds Rebuilt (Crossing the Pond IV)”

Bridge to Nature: Glaciers, Slime Molds, and Slugs

After two weeks of posting sentimental, smoke-from-the-ears thought-provoking stuff, I thought it was time to throw off the maudlin. Let’s talk about slugs and slime molds.

Quick! What do glaciers, slime molds, and slugs have in common? Quite a lot. In fact, this could be a great parlor game.

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska

The most obvious common bond is that they’re all slow. And yet, they don’t stop moving. Unrelenting, you might say.  They’re also a way of Mother Nature making us feel humble. Think you’re all that? Virginia Woolf once said the rock you kick will outlast Shakespeare. Glaciers, slime molds, and slugs will all outlast Shakespeare.

Another common bond is that you can find them all in Alaska, which is where we were touring last week. Alaska is a unique place with large areas of wilderness yet to be discovered as you venture through forests and ocean inlets.  It also, therefore, contains many things whose way of existence seems completely alien. You can’t help thinking, how does evolution favor THAT? But the more you learn, the more you realize nature has many ways of propagating itself that we can only guess at. Continue reading “Bridge to Nature: Glaciers, Slime Molds, and Slugs”

The Windswept West Coast of Eire

Artisan pottery above the cliffs on the Ring of Dingle

Rugged. Lively. Solitary. Filled with laughter and song. Windswept. Storytelling, second to none. Craftsmanship. Hands in the soil. Hands on the tiller. The original twinkle in the eye, could be from the wind, could be from delight at pulling your leg. Tell a story, sing a song, take a shot of whiskey to chase away that bitter gust – close the door, quick!

The wind out here, up here, down here, up through the hills, and out on the wharf, is sharp and everpresent. Meandering through Galway out to the Salthill beaches or standing up on the Cliffs of Moher, take heed to keep the breeze from blowing away your hat, glasses, or small children.

Derry & Irish Heritage
Whether walking the walls of Derry, standing among the ancient cairns, or visiting one of the many heritage centers, you easily sense that the Irish are proud of their history. From the story of the potato famine and immigration that ensued to their thousand year struggle for independence against the usurping neighbors, they like to tell the tales.  Continue reading “The Windswept West Coast of Eire”