The Irish Chronicles #5 – P is for Portraits

If the best-laid plans sometimes go awry, then my plans to blog as we moved throughout northern* Ireland and the Republic failed miserably. Less than adequate internet access frustrated my initial efforts at posting, but then my usual challenges of working off a laptop without a large monitor curtailed any blogging for all three weeks of our most excellent vacation.

No worries, however, as there is a real tension between enjoying what is to be seen and heard, with reporting out on such discoveries. I paid attention to what was before me more intentionally, and I think beneficially. I accepted the limits of daily Facebook posting, leaving the more in-depth chronicling for post-holiday enjoyment. And what enjoyment there is for me now, as I recall each and every day of our amazing Irish travels.

Someone recently asked me what the highlights of our trip were. This is impossible to say, for each and every day had a particular and different highlight. From cycling in the rain on the Aran Islands; to the deep-dive visit to the Corrymeela Community, to the lady in “Ireland’s smallest record shop”  (more to come on this), there was something and someone to savour at each and every stop along the way.

The images which appear throughout this blog are of people we met along the way. They are arranged in no particular order. They include my co-travelers, Hannah and Kathie; they also include other shapes and figures which fit well, sometimes fancifully, into a portrait exhibition. For me, they each evoke either memories, accents, stories, opportunities, humour, biography, music, reflection, or other distinctive memories. They are amongst my most treasured post-travel souvenirs, even more than a bottle of Irish Whisky.

Many folks who travel, especially to the Emerald Isle, focus on landscape, an approach which is understandable given the variety of lush and languid green colours on constant display. Landscape captures so well the grandeur of cliffs and hills along with the dramatic energy of tides and waterways. Other photography focuses on historical sites, ruins, and buildings from all historic periods including the present. Curious photographers document the dignity and energy of historic events and their aftermath. (We were present during the centenary of the murder of Michael Collins, ourselves able to learn the history and view its consequences all around us.)

For me, however, as at other times when Kathie and I have travelled, my favourite subjects are the people we meet along the way, fellow pilgrims, typically strangers to us, though sometimes known to each other. I cherish the memory of the gatherings of people (both formal and informal), the spontaneous or formulated interactions as we all participate within and through the Creation which beckons us to live and love well and fully.

In these images, we watch musicians who perform, and who encourage the performances of others. We speak with those who live close to the soil, especially farmers which help us appreciate the ground (in all aspects) of creation. We enjoy those who sing and talk; we meet those who gesture and those who watch from the sidelines of daily life. We encounter teachers, tourism operators, and sellers of all things (including religion); we chance upon those who make things, and those who share their products with others.

We glimpse folks who influence the present, and those who grieve the loss of tradition as globalization continues to erode all that is considered inefficient in order to maximize profit for a selected few. We meet mostly democrats and thankfully no tyrants in these images. (We did hear some tyrannical stories however, especially in northern Ireland – and then, well, there’s the English!)

I must express my appreciation to all who allowed me to photograph them; and I should apologize to a few whose images I obtained furtively. I love people, and I love photographing them. For me, it is people who make a nation and a local community and not the other way around. I hope my loyal readers will enjoy these images as my way of sharing the joy and wonder which is the Republic of Ireland and northern Ireland.

Travel is difficult and uncomfortable these days; we were fortunate to pass through both Calgary and Dublin airports without incident and with only minor delays. Mask wearing and the shrinking size of aircraft seats takes their toll. Travel is tiring and demanding – “comfort” is not a word used for those of us who travel in “pilgrim” class. Bravo to Kathie and Hannah for navigating the “other side of the road” safely and efficiently.

It’s great to be home again,  but it was such a privilege and delight to visit this most amazing part of God’s Creation. The carbon footprint of air travel noted and admitted, if you can visit Ireland, I suggest you do so. May the road rise to meet you . . . but remember, they drive on the “other side.”

*Even the spelling of that part of the UK we know as “Northern Ireland” is controversial. I like the solution “northern Ireland” which seems to favour the links between the republic and a distinctive northern Irish distinctiveness. The conversation continues.

Additional photographs may be viewed here.

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