The Burren Heights

Posted on January 12th, 2014 by

Friday marked the end of our first set of weekdays in Ireland. We began by covering some of the basics of poetry, and the interpretation of it, in the context of Yeats’ poems from Michael Robartes and the Dancer. Of particular interest in this collection are the pieces concerning the English presence in Ireland and the Easter Rebellion of 1916, specifically The Second Coming and Easter, 1916. These works are powerfully political, and the second displays Yeats’ emotional heights at the time. With about thirty minutes left of class time we started our second creative writing exercise; an exploration of how Ireland has defied our expectations in some way .

The photography portion of the day was spent practicing techniques in Photoshop on a set of hand-picked images, with individual help from the professor. Already I’ve begun to overhear people express how much more comfortable they’re becoming with control of their camera. We’ve now covered the basic features of Photoshop in full, and the practice refining our skills has begun. It’s incredible how much an image can be improved with only a few subtle changes in key areas.

After classes ended Stephen and I decided to hike up the mountain squatting behind the College. We’d attempted to find a full footpath up the past two days, and been defeated in the task. This time we were determined to forge our own route. There’s a short trail full of musical instruments that passes through the initial brush at the base, and luckily the weather had become beautiful. There wasn’t a raincloud in sight, and the view was already magnificent.

Panorama

Of note: The mound we chose to climb hovers somewhere between three-quarters and full size of the one depicted above. Also of note, it appears deceptively small from below. The official trail we’d been following ended just shy of one the Burren’s iconic stone fields, which lead upward the next plateau. As we climbed a pair of goats appeared on the cliff face in front of us, watching haughtily and bolting upward with an ease that taunted us. We circled the base of their cliff searching for another route upward, coming upon a small gathering of windswept trees. Scattered among the normal branches were the twisted, bone-white arms of some other variety of scrub. Not being a botanist their appearance remains a mystery, but they seem to dot the otherwise normal clumps of trees with regularity.

Stone walls snake through the landscape, somehow cropping up in the least likely places. It’s remarkable how they can appear and wind through almost sheer cliffs, linking with other walls to grid out even a mountainside. We followed one of these for a while, until we stumbled upon a stack of rocks upon one of the many mesa-like areas of the hill.

Rocks

We forged onward, encountering treacherous grassy hillsides alternating with deserted stone fields. Traversing one of the greener areas of the journey Stephen’s foot became trapped in a hidden sinkhole. Unfortunately I didn’t possess the proper tools for amputation, and we were stalled for some time while extracting the limb. Shortly afterward the vibrant grasses gave way to this seemingly natural anomaly:

Tri-Rocks

The explanation for the trees and the mounds struck me at this moment: Ancient Aliens.

There could be no other answer.

With this newfound knowledge we wearily trudged on, for the sun was beginning to set and the top of the mountain was nowhere in sight. A golden glow was cast on our decidedly less spectacular conversation about whether to turn back while the light remained or forge on regardless. Being the reasonable, ill-prepared men we are we of course chose to reach the top, sunset be damned. It was rather gorgeous though.

Sun

At last, beginning to see spots from the exertion and lack of delicious pub food, we reached the peak. In all their majesty, spread before us, were ten or so cows, fenced in by the ever-present stone wall. And slightly further on, another present from on high – a second stone pile.

Rocks Two - Electric Boogaloo

Renewed by these sights, clearly rewards for our titanic struggle, we began our descent. Aided by gravity and the lack of battery life in our cameras, we reached the old forest trail much more quickly than we’d thought possible. The sun was barely lighting the rim of the horizon, and clouds had swept over us. Pushing through the thorn bushes clinging to our legs, we emerged on the road. Rain began to fall. The end of our quest was being heralded. We walked the long road back to town in that quiet patter, exhausted and proud as the lights of Ballyvaughan beckoned, calling us into its bosom with Guinness and chicken curry.

– David Sorensen

 

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