September 21st, 2016 / posted by paularath
The Cliffs of Moher in the mist. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

The Cliffs of Moher in the mist.          Photo by Jerry Mayfield

One of our most memorable days in Ireland was the day we took a ferry from the little town of Doolin (known for its traditional Irish music) to the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inis Oirr.

Doolin is also known as the surf epicenter of Ireland, as the waves that crash back from the Cliffs of Moher can create some knarly surf. The surfers are towed out and they have to know exactly when to pull out.

It was pouring when we took the one-hour ferry ride and the seas were quite rough, which made it all the more exciting.

The best way to see Inis Oirr is with a jaunting, or cart pulled by a horse. Of course I made a beeline for the handsome Ronan and his trusty steed, Jack.

Ronan, Jack and me.  Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Ronan, Jack and me.                         Photo by Jerry Mayfield

The Aran Islands are on the western fringes of the Atlantic Ocean. Inis Oirr is the smallest, with a population of 225. Ronan’s family has lived on the island for six generations. There was no electricity on the island until the ’60s.

The hilly terrain meant that, from time to time, we had to get out and walk to give poor Jack a break. I picked wild blackberries along the roadside during those walks.

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

That’s the entire town behind me, and some kids in the playground.                         Photo by Jerry Mayfield

There is a fascinating shipwreck called the Plussey on Inis Oirr.

Photo by Paula Rath

Photo by Paula Rath

I have a fantasy of doing an art installation inspired by this shipwreck. You may remember that I use rust as a dye for some of my fabrics. I envision myself spending about a month stretching fabric all over this wreck and getting the dye to transfer onto Irish linen and wool. Then Jerry would build a structure inspired by the Plussey and I would drape it in the rust-dyed fabric. When I found out the island has a monthly artist in residence program, I started to think…..hmmmmm……

A traditional hut on Inis Oirr. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

A traditional abandoned thatch-roofed  hut on Inis Oirr.                Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Like traditional Hawaiian rock walls, the walls on Inis Oirr require no mortar, just strategic stacking. They are an art form unto themselves.

Photo by Paula Rath

Photo by Paula Rath

An abandoned house on Inis Oirr.  Photo by Jerry Mayfield

An abandoned house on Inis Oirr.      Photo by Helen Golding

A Stone Age fort on Inis Oirr. Photo by Jarry Mayfield

A Stone Age fort on Inis Oirr.                       Photo by Jarry Mayfield

We popped into a pub for a pint of Guinness and met the most interesting young man, who was the temporary publican but will soon return to Dublin as his “real self,” a stage director. We had a great discussion on the plays of William Butler Yeats, which he said are “Impossible and implausible and, well, awful.” As much as I love Yeats’ poetry, I have to agree with him – the Yeats plays are unreadable.

The ferry back to Doolin was calmer in the afternoon and one of our fellow artists, Debbie Blum, kindly took a photo of Jerry and me just before the Cliffs came into view.

Photo by Debbie Blum

Photo by Debbie Blum

As we returned to Doolin on the ferry, the mists rose from the Cliffs of Moher and we saw this amazing view:

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

These cliffs rise up to 214 meters high and they are home to Ireland’s largest sea bird colony, including the charming puffins. They are simply magical in the mist.

That evening, in Doolin, we experienced a true Irish-style kanikapila. Jerry made friends with a couple of guys who were part of a group of about 20 folks from all over Ireland who meet once a year to enjoy traditional Irish music together. There was a constant stream of men and women (mostly women) who stood up to sing with the musicians, and they all had beautiful voices. It was a day and night to remember.

– Paula Rath

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