Kailee Carlson~ Final Portfolio

Posted on February 1st, 2014 by

Spirit of Ireland

As I walk down the twisty one lane road, the strong whistling wind blows my untamed hair across my face.  The clouds have turned dark and forbidding once again and the thought of rain is near.  Before I have time to realize what is coming, all at once sheets of rain splatter my face as the torturous wind forces wet, bullet-like droplets of water horizontally through the damp air.  There is no escaping the constant wetness that comes with being in the green lands of Ireland.

At one point in time I swore Minnesota to be the most bipolar of all weather climates.  One day it is sunny and eighty degrees there and I am sunbathing out on my pontoon, while the next day it is forty five degrees with clouds and down pouring rain, which means I am cozied up and drinking hot chocolate by a fire trying to keep warm.  But now, what I once thought I knew about weather has been turned upside down.  I now think of Ireland as the moodiest of all weather temperatures and conditions.  The ever-changing weather confuses me as I gaze upwards at the zooming clouds racing by, but then look over and notice a vibrant blue sky not far off in the distance, fighting to make an appearance.  “How could a climate change so rapidly?” I wonder to myself.  It is almost as if there is a good and evil spirit battling one another, attempting to force either their cold bitterness or sunny warmth on the people of Ireland.  Umbrellas may seem like a simple solution, but even they are of no use here.  I have seen many an umbrella turned inside out and ruined beyond repair from the vigorous winds.

What astonishes me to disbelief is the unfortunate fact that not only is the weather formidable outside in the harsh elements, but it is bone chilling indoors as well.  Yes, the sturdy walls block the forty-mile an hour winds, but the ice-cold stone structure does not capture and hold the very little heat produced in our cottage.  The partial warmth coming from our homemade fire seems to seep through invisible cracks in the uninsulated windows and doors and is sucked into the bitter cold outside.  Although the harsh weather at times seems relentless, it also tends to ask for forgiveness by bringing a rainbow that arches it’s vibrant colors across the sea and brightens my day.

There is also a sort of enchanting feel about being outside here.  Thorn bushes push their way across the muddy trails, making it somewhat difficult to explore the hidden nature that lies on the hills, but this does not stop the curious wanderer from exploring the unknown and experiencing the inner beauty that lies in the Burren.  With every step there is something new to be discovered: a bright pink flower buried beneath the long grass, an overflowing stream of water clear as glass, or a bull lurking around the corner.  It never ceases to amaze me.

Most of the time, the powerful wind whips across my face as if it wishes to leave its burning mark on me.  It is usually successful in this and I always end the day going from pale to rosy cheeks thanks to the forceful wind.  This is not unusual and something I have grown to accept.  There is no use in worrying about appearance here.  Most people’s thoughts are merely on keeping warm, which means wearing an Irish wool knit sweater underneath a raincoat paired with wool socks and a thick hat.

It is clear that most of the harsh weather conditions come from an underlying factor, the Atlantic Ocean.  Ireland sits on the edge of this immense body of water and is the first stop for the severe winds that blow across it.  There is nothing to hold it back as it comes rushing across the sea, tearing apart everything in sight.  Water gathers in the clouds and comes swooping over the lands and dropping everything it has collected.  Some may say this is unfortunate, but I for one find it wonderful because in its tracks it leaves a beautiful island of the greenest land I’ve ever seen which is there for every month of the year, not just the spring and summer months.  The ocean sends its thick mist to the rocky lands and they in turn collect the water and send it flowing back into the ocean as if in a constant never ending cycle.  This is one of the things that make Ireland unique.  No matter what time of year, green plant life appears everywhere and there is most definitely never a shortage of water to nourish the prospering wildlife.

While the weather can be torturous at times, this does not put a damper on the fun that is to be had at the local pubs.  It can be guaranteed that even on the rainiest of nights, there will be Irish men and women in the pub drinking a cold Guinness and telling stories of Cuchulain or the fairies by a warm fire.  These are lively and social places where families and people of all ages with their heavy Irish accents come to enjoy each other’s presence with a drink or two after a long day of herding sheep and cattle in the fields, or fishing in the harbor and where they come to celebrate with music.  The drinks are always paired with a warm meal of fresh fish and chips or some kind of potato.  It seems as if the potato is the defining food of Ireland.

As I said before, Ireland is an enchanting land full of fairies, animals of every kind, green fields, rolling rocky hills, stone fences which form the perimeter of each plot of land, and joyous hard working people.  The feeling I get from being here is indescribable and must be experienced for oneself to truly appreciate the beauty and tranquility that the land provides.


Personal Narrative

As I walk down the winding road, I watch as the morning sun rises over the rocky hills, welcoming a new day.  I fill my lungs with the fresh humid air to clear my thoughts.  There is no use in checking my cell phone, as there is no possibility of receiving messages or phone calls in this foreign country.  This is a refreshing thought and one I am not accustomed to.  I love knowing that it is just nature and I with no distractions except for the occasional car that rushes by.  It is amazing the things I notice when I don’t feel the constant vibrating of messages and emails from my cell phone.  I look all around and see the roaming cows, water-flooded fields forming turloughs, flock of seagulls flying overhead, and stone fences, which form the patchwork landscape.

I think about how a few weeks ago I was told that the Burren is a place where people come to express their creativeness and be “transformed.”  I’ve always been skeptical of these kinds of statements because I like to see and experience things for myself before I believe it.  On my hike, I realize that after spending only a few short weeks here, my expectations were surpassed after day one.  During my time here, I have felt as if I’m in an enchanted land, where rainbows appear just when you think the rain will never subside, where the rolling green hills can be seen from every angle.

There is a special kind of undefined energy found here that grounds me.  I am a person who at home constantly stresses with the daily busyness of life.  Being here has made me take a step back and taught me to just enjoy my surroundings because as it turns out, beauty is around every corner.

I suddenly look up and see a gray cloud quickly forming a dark canopy over the valley.  I have found there is no use in getting upset over a little rain and cold.  Life is so much better if you try to appreciate what’s thrown at you.  If I were to always wait for the perfect moment or blue and sunny skies, I would have been stuck inside for the entire trip.  Nothing is ever going to be just right unless you make it be and look on the bright side.  This has been a very important realization for me.  Life is all about perspective because as we’ve all heard multiple times, things could always be worse.  I can’t express how grateful I have been to have the temperature be over 30 degrees the entire time here and to not be caught in the multiple blizzards our bitter state of Minnesota has been throwing out this winter.

While I walk through the rain and harsh weather that has approached on me, I realize that the environment will do whatever it damn pleases and not think twice about who it’s affecting or if people are going to appreciate it or not.  It dawned on me that I’m kind of the same way, especially after being here.  I’m constantly changing and shifting to be who I want to be, not who others want me to be.  Sometimes I can be a big ball of sunshine and happy as can be (especially after devouring a delicious piece of Irish banoffee pie) and sometimes I can be a huge thundercloud that just wants to be alone with my own thoughts.  The best thing is that I now know that that’s ok.  It’s ok to have a bad day every once in awhile because you can be pretty sure that a rainbow will turn up and bring blue skies by the end of the day.

Although I’ve always known that I’m an independent person, this trip has solidified this trait of mine.  As I walk by a flooded field, I think about my favorite nights in Ireland.  My fondest memories have been spent alone by the crackling fire in the living room of our quaint cottage reading and editing pictures for class and also these morning walks and getting up early to walk one and a half miles to school so I can watch the sun rise over the hills and illuminate the green fields and smell the freshness of the wet grass the rain left from the night before.  I love hearing the sound of the animals waking from their slumbers and enjoy the peacefulness and serenity of a brand new day.  This gives me a kind of inner peace and puts everything into perspective.  I walk past the locals who are opening their shops in the rain and think of how happy I would be if I lived here, enjoying the simplicity of life in the Burren.

On hikes and walks around Ballyvaughan, I am truly able to enjoy every second of the journey without being distracted by electronics, or thoughts of work.  This has helped me to live in the moment and to truly enjoy the here and now.  I have been told this from a Buddhist monk who I practice meditation with, but it finally makes sense here and I feel as if I am able to do this.  There’s no use worrying what others are doing or saying.

As I scan the landscape, I am reminded of the constantly adapting and changing environment in the Burren.  Although there are few flowers this time of year, the rain and periodic sun are preparing the ground for a surplus of flowers of every color of the rainbow in a few short months.  I contemplate the earth that is covered in thick limestone and the deep cracks that have formed in between them, making it look like a checkerboard from above.  I think of how it did not always look like this and how it took many years for the landscape to become like this.  At one point in time it was a mesh of thick trees.  I contemplate how I am the same way.  I was once all put together and unworn without cracks, but as I have experienced and learned more, memories and people have seeped into my life and have changed me, just as the rain and water have done to the cracks in the limestone.  My travels to Ireland and all of the people I have met and knowledge I have aquired have transformed me for the better and left imprints that will never be erased because they are now part of me forever.


Night Life in the City

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Elements of the Burren

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