The beginning of our second week in Ireland was a surprisingly sunny day—a rarity of our time spent in the Burren. In our morning photography class, Priscilla walked us through the fundamentals of natural and urban landscapes by visiting photo collections such as Paul Gaffrey’s We Made the Path by Walking, Richard Mosse’s Infra, Beth Dow’s In the Garden, Michael Wolf’s Architecture of Density, Back Door, and Tokyo Compression. We discussed thematic and conceptual elements of the collections, and were given inspiration for our final photography assignment, which includes developing two photo series containing at least 20 images of the natural and urban landscape of Ireland.
After some time writing, a group of us walked back along the main road to hang out at Logue’s for the rest of the afternoon. We ordered a variety of treats such as some Irish and Bailey coffee, chocolate cheesecake, chips, and apple pie, delivered to us by the handsome waiter. Like much of the group, we began mapping out travel plans for the upcoming weekend. Our small group hopes to travel to Cork, the third most populous city in Ireland. We hope to visit Blarney Castle and stone and the Butter museum. We also hope to visit the English Market, famed for fresh and local food, as well as to experience some live traditional and modern music.
Monday night ended with a visit from Eddie Lenihan, an Irish seanchaithe, or traditional story-weaver/tale-spinner. Lenihan has collected, and thus preserved, traditional oral folk tales from around the region for the greater part of his life. These tales visit ancient mythologies of supernatural figures in Irish legend, such as the infamous faerie. Lenihan believes in the reality of the faeries and said both that a faerie could likely be, “the person sitting right beside you,” and that “they’ll do you no harm if you do them no harm.” Many of the Irish men and women we have encountered, from our bus guide to the college faculty members, assure us that they do not believe in faeries, but that they would also never be foolish enough to tempt and cross superstition.
Many of Lenihan’s stories involved such human beings who thought they could defy the faeries, such as a family who built across the path of a faerie crossing and of a man who made the mistake of trading his horse for gold. I could easily retell these very memorable stories, but what made the night so memorable was Lenihan’s gifts as a story teller. At a count of 17 collections of story books, Eddie is very accomplished indeed, but it’s his charismatic nature, engaging voice, and ability to weave Irish history, culture, politics, religion, and tradition so seamlessly through his stories that really enhance the old Irish tales. Throughout the night, Lenihan never spent more than five minutes sitting down before energetically launching himself out of the chair at especially exciting intervals. He would act out distress of the cursed home owners, the wonder of the weary traveler and his friend, the all-knowingness of the old man, the worry of the soon-to-be-married-off daughter. Brendan Maloney shared, “I like how animated he was, like when he was telling the story of a man and [grabbed his neck and pulled himself off the ground]. He seemed really into it.”
Eric Gazett adds, “I like how he transitioned from story to story so seamlessly and how his stories added on to one another.” His fluid manner of story-telling and energetic charisma have preserved stories for future generations, but I think it is remarkable how much he has been able to preserve beyond the stories. Lenihan has been able to prevent the destruction of the famed faerie forts around Ireland, a feat so great that The New York Times published a piece on it a few years back (a link to the article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/19990616wednesday.html).
Lacie Micek said, “I really love his passion for story telling—it’s what he does for a living, but you could tell he was really excited, and, of course, that made us excited to listen. And I loved his beard. It would be interesting to sketch him in profile. His beard is so voluminous.”
And with that gem from Lacie, I will end this blog to start packing for our adventures in Galway tomorrow! Stay classy, Minnesota.