We had two nights, one full day, and a lifetime at the Boghill Centre. We walked into their ecclectic round rooms filled with books for the reading, with pots of tea and heaps of the best vegetarian food in the country lovingly prepared for us, and we just spread out like a plop of melted ice cream. Sweetly dripping into all the corners.
The weather accommodated us and spent the day pouring, so we could do the exchange work for them mostly inside. But since the work was to create a fairy village out of cobb, it was a little messy. Fortunately the people at Boghill were paragons of grace and appreciated every minute of our being there.
There’s a classic tune every beginning Irish musician learns – The Road to Lisdoonvarna. Well, that road runs from the rocky coast of Doolin high over the Burren to Lisdoonvarna, and it was our path for the day.
But first, the Aran Sweater Shop! We found a small shop in Doolin with a wonderful owner who gave us a group discount, and nearly everyone added a warm Irish wool layer to our minimal packing. See the rush roofed cottage in pink? That’s our shop. Sweaters featured prominently in future posts ^_^
Then with a lunch packed by the next door bakers – which featured sausage pastry rolls and – get this – VEGETARIAN sausage pastry rolls!! we headed down the Road all the way to Lisdoonvarna and beyond. It was a glorious day, and the kids had figured out the pacing, so they really took off, landing mid-afternoon at our next home away from home – the Boghill Centre.
Leaving Crann Og on Saturday morning, we rode the bus across the county of Clare to the coast, where we all got out at the trailhead – which happened to be at a glorious rock shop. Okay, a few minutes shopping never hurts. Then we started walking along the edge of the Cliffs of Moher ten kilometers to the visitor center.
There, we were allowed to do two performances, gathering crowds and cheers as we shared poetry, songs and tunes. We celebrated inside with hot chocolate, and a visit to their extraordinary exhibit on the geological formation of the cliffs.
When we were done, we walked the next 10k, all the way to Doolin, where we found the Rainbow Hostel waiting for us.
What we didn’t know is that we would never meet Mattie, the generous and beautifully spiritual older man who runs the hostel. He’d given us a special sea-rounded stone that we carried all year preparing for this trip. But Mattie is in the coastal guard, and while we were there, he had to recover two people, a man and a woman, who had taken their lives on the cliffs.
We did a powerful meditation to support the release of their spirits, and send them blessings to heal their misery.
Spontaneously, our last day at Crann Og, we got permission to try out our performance at the local elementary school. Three classes, with children from 3 years old through sixth grade, we were welcomed with enthusiasm by the kids under 7, and with expertly raised skeptical eyebrows by the older crew.
But when Keenan started beatboxing to Gretel’s sultry “Ain’t no Sunshine,” the suspicious looks disappeared, and by the end, we had all sixty kids up and spellcasting with enthusiasm. Using fingers as wands, we explained how to find the right stick to make yourself a good wand over the summer. Then Keenan taught the entire crowd how to beat, and he was instantly a hero.
Our fifteen-minute performance turned into two and a half hours, and we were invited to come back anytime!
We descended like a flock of sparrows on the sacred space of Crann Og, a retreat center with magically minded facilitators. Nearly impossible to find, and completely impossible to forget once you’ve been there, Crann Og is an organic farm with a willow-woven garden, sheep, horses, hens, and an ancient wild woods. People stay in cottages, yurts or tents, and we set up tent in the back field.
At Crann Og, they take their Eco very seriously. The composting toilets are innovative – separating liquids from solids, so that the waste composts better and smells less. The solar showers have a 40 second spray and we had a contest to see who could get the cleanest with the fewest pushes. Wiley took the prize – longest hair, all washed and conditioned, and all clean with three pushes. Hurray for the washcloth-soaps!
carrying drinking water before the discovery of the wheelbarrow
This was a place for us to give back to the land of Ireland by working for the people at Crann Og. We painted the fence around the corral, weeded the sandy surface, dug up clay (to use in an activity) and raked newly mown grass. It was brilliantly sunny most the week, and we celebrated at a local pond.
Each afternoon, we had workshops – an intensely magical walk getting intentionally lost for three hours in the deep original woods, a sound bath with singing bowls, a Japanese forest shinrin-yoku, making clay charactrs of light and dark, and using our senses to meet a tree by blindfolding a partner, storytelling around a campfire, and a group storytelling.
To get off the Dingle peninsula when you’re a bard, there is just one way to travel (walking) but many kinds of weather. We, being Magical Bards, did it in the pouring sunshine, sparkling blue sky, flowers exploding like fireworks along the road, and songs to accompany our steps.
There were two groups, the high road and the low road. The high road headed up a mountain that has a small volcanic dip in the top. It is the place where a hero took a rest with his beloved before waking, and seeing that the invaders had already landed, took a giant leap down the mountain, and chased all those warriors back to sea. Most of the Barders chose this challenge, all the way up the craggy mountain, without a trail, then down to the road, and on into town on the other side, where the bus was waiting. Madeline, Abi, Erica and I chose to go by the road, and set a brisk pace over the not insignificant hill.
Walking is truly the best way to experience the life of a place.
Here’s a slide show. Choosing one photo was way too difficult!