Aug 31, 2011

The Colossus, When it Was New

Statue of Liberty
Photo by Mark Heard
In October I'm looking forward to seeing the Statue of Liberty. Is there any other icon that better describes who we are as Americans? We are a country of immigrants. The original name was Liberty Enlightening the World.

She is made of copper and of course aged to the color we see here. If you'd like to see what she must have looked like new (I wanted to know how the characters in my novel would have seen her.) Look here.

None of my ancestors that I've discovered came through Ellis Island and most had never even been to New York to see the statue. But what it represents certainly applies to them.

Parts of the statue were on display in France as it was being built. (See photo on the right.)

Most of us know about the poem "The New Colossus." The title was a description of the staute. At the time the statue was new and certainly colossal.

We are familiar with the line, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

I thought I'd share the whole thing.

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, 1883

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.  From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips.  "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, an advocate for immigrants, died from cancer at the young age of 34. She never knew the impact her poem would have.

Aug 29, 2011

The Controversy of Peat

Connemara Peat [1058]
Photo by Rick Payette
I did not visit a peat bog when I was in Ireland. Hopefully next time. When we think about a traditional Irish cottage we naturally think of a peat fire. But burning peat is not that common now because of regulations.

I was listening to a news report about the issue of the Irish Republic threatening to arrest folks who were harvesting peat on their own land. Apparently the European Union, of which the Republic of Ireland is a part, will issue fines that the government can't afford. (Read more here.) On the other hand, some families have been harvesting peat on their own lands for generations and don't plan to stop.
Traditional farmer - Connemara - Ireland _S4E7018
Photo by Francesco Veronesi
(The practice has been around for centuries.) The cost of fuel is exorbitant over there and peat is an excellent heat source, so I assume that's why they harvest it. Peat is also used to generate electricity. But I've also heard that the bogs are being rapidly depleted and at this rate will soon disappear. In addition sometimes valuable artifacts are destroyed or damaged by the heavy equipment that is used to harvest the peat.
Peat Cutting Machinery, Bangor - Erris, Co Mayo March 1991
Photo by Sludgegulpher
For more information on peat bogs, both natural and man-assisted, see this blog.

Peat is also used in gardens and here we read that once again the English in the UK are to blame for exploiting Ireland. (I'm not saying it's not so, just reporting!)

Perhaps a bigger issue is whether or not the common people in Ireland will have a say over this issue or whether conservationists will have the last word. As for me, I'm not buying any peat moss for my garden. Most of what we get here I understand comes from Canada, but if I can live without using what is not really a renewable resource, I will. Still, it would be nice to smell a peat fire when in Ireland.

Aug 24, 2011

Walking in the Land of the Living

I am among the gazillion people who, when looking for inspiration, turn to the Book of Psalms.

For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
   my eyes from tears,
   my feet from stumbling,
   that I may walk before the LORD
   in the land of the living.
~Psalm 116:8-9 NIV

Walking in the land of the living...I know, it has a spiritual meaning--spiritually alive rather than spiritually dead. But taking the Celtic view here (and none other, of course) the physical and the spiritual are not actually separate. The land of the living is right around me, and walking in nature certainly makes me aware that I am right now in the land of the living.
I sometimes image I can breathe a whole better in a natural setting. That could be physically true--even though ragweed is going to assault me soon--but it's absolutely spiritually true. God is the source of the air I breathe and who was it that said you are never so close to God as when in a garden? Maybe lots of people, but here's one:
"Kiss of the sun for pardon. Song of the birds for mirth. You're closer to God's heart in a garden than any place else on earth." -- Dorothy Frances Gurney

I hope you'll get outside today!

Aug 22, 2011

It's National Heritage Week in Ireland!

August 20-28 is National Heritage Week in Ireland. What is it? From the Heritage Council:

The aim of National Heritage Week is to build awareness and education about our heritage thereby encouraging its conservation and preservation. 

Each year many national and hundreds of local community organisations participate by organising events throughout the country. Many of the events that take place during the week are free and the programme highlights the abundance of great work that is carried out in all communities in Ireland to preserve and promote our natural, built and cultural heritage.

This is from 2010:

It sounds like a good week to be in Ireland (but what week isn't, really?)

There are sure to be some good write-ups about the goings on. Keep an eye peeled and share here what you learn!

Aug 15, 2011

River of Life

Moya Brenn
Some thoughts today on the Celtic view of rivers and flowing water. Pre-Christianity, the Celts named their rivers for goddesses because they were life-giving, like a mother. The image of God's spirit flowing like a river is, in my opinion, a powerful one. If you think of God like a river, instead of a far-off deity that we hope to see one day in heaven, you get the idea that He is present in our lives. And if you think of traveling in that river, going where it takes you, your whole view of life can change.

Like the air we breathe, that river is vital. We cannot exist without it. We cannot exist without God. He made us, the Creator of all.

Sometimes I struggle to find the words I'm reaching for. If you are not a writer, you may not understand that. If you are a writer, you undoubtably do. I'm struggling today, so I'll pause and let the River of Life flow over me, and I know, in due time, I'll be refreshed.

Today I'll listen, watch, observe, and seek to hear God's voice. Well, really I need to do that every day.

Just some thoughts...

Aug 12, 2011

The Eyes Have It!

Lily of the Valley, Vintage Girl, Flowers & Textures
By Beverly & Pack

Oh, my love has an eye of the softest blue,
Yet it was not that that won me;
But a little bright drop from her soul was there,
'Tis that that has undone me.

~From Oh, My Love Has An Eye Of The Softest BlueA poem by Dublin native Rev. Charles Wolfeby (1791-1823)

Aug 8, 2011


As usual, we had a great time at the Dublin Irish Festival. The last couple of years we've been going on Sunday.

Inter denominational service at DIF

We like to go to church there, and if you bring in food for the food pantry before 11AM, you get in for free. After church we saw Moya Brennan. That alone was an amazing blessing for free admission. Such a beautiful voice and her band members, which included her daughter, were awesome. (Her daughter was behind her and didn't show up in this picture.)

Then we enjoyed fiddler Liz Carroll who was joined by awesome step dancers. But I have to say, I was afraid they were going to pass out from the heat. (Luckily, they didn't!)

Gotta love the giant iced teas with $3 refills. We made good use of that!

Then we enjoyed a storyteller we hadn't heard before (they tend to repeat the speakers at these things.) Maritin de Cogain from County Cork, Ireland, was very entertaining. I have never heard anything like his version of The Hound of Ulster before! He is also the creator of a band called Fushia. They were supposed to perform later in the day, but didn't. (Keep reading below.)

We also got to greet lots of people I've gotten to know including local storyteller Julie McGhee, jewelry artist Sean Berton, genealogy expert and publisher Mike O'Laughlin, a couple from our home church who come up to Columbus every year for this festival to help man the booth of their friends who own a local Irish shop, and two of the librarians I worked with while teaching at the Thurber House summer writing camp this summer who were working in the genealogy tent. Great connections and some wonderful folks.

Then we got out of Dodge because a big storm was coming. They actually shut the festival done a few hours early because of it. We drove home in some rain but we dodged the big storms, which went south of where we live.

So, it was a great day. I absolutely love Irish and Celtic festivals. How about you?

Aug 3, 2011

Blogging Hiatus

I missed the Celtic festival of Lughnasadh. I missed Reek Sunday. Truth is, I miss blogging! I'll be back soon, though. I'm taking at home writing retreat this month to work only on a novel (except for student lesson with CWG.)

I also missed sending out a newsletter in July and I'm not going to get one out in August real soon. (You can sign up here.) There is a reason for all this. I'll explain later. In the meantime, I hope you won't give up on me. I love blogging about Celtic voices and I don't want to lose my readers. Promise you'll come back later, okay? Please, say yes.....

Aug 1, 2011

Rejoice! Re:Joyce! Frank Delaney Is in the House

Today I'm privileged to have a guest post by Jamie Chavez.

I am a fan of Irish writers, contemporary and not so: Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Flann O’Brien, Fergal Keane, Seamus Heaney, William Trevor, John Banville, Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe, Nuala O’Faolain, Tana French … I could go on (and no doubt will in future posts). As Wikipedia reminds us, for a comparatively small island, Ireland has made a pretty large contribution to world literature. You were exposed to some of these in school, I’m sure, and while being force-fed a short story or poem or play in a high school English class isn’t the best way to learn to love Irish literature, there’s good reason to do so.

So let me tell you about Frank Delaney. I was given the first in his “Novel of Ireland” series some years ago. Called, simply, Ireland, the story is set in 1951 and is about the last surviving seanchaí (itinerant storyteller) in the country. Frankly, it took me some time to warm to the book, but when I turned the final page, kids, I was knocked out. There’s a lot more than meets the initial eye, and I was impressed by both the finely crafted tale and the gorgeous writing. Other books in this series are Tipperary, Shannon, Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, and The Matchmaker of Kenmare (I haven’t yet read the last two, but I delighted in the series’ first three).

Born in County Tipperary, Delaney moved to England as a young man, where he had a distinguished twenty-five-year career as a creator of BBC documentaries on both literary and Irish subjects. He also began writing books, was a panel judge for many literary prizes, and is still a well-known lecturer. He moved to the United States in 2002.

James Joyce
But it is Delaney’s most recent project I’m betting will charm you as it does me. Called Re:Joyce, it is a deconstruction of James Joyce’s famous novel Ulysses in five- to seven-minute line-by-line podcasts. They’re fun, they’re smart and entertaining, and they’re everything you need to work your way through this stream-of-consciousness literary masterpiece. Like the novel itself, this is an ambitious project. It’s taken Delaney a year to get through the first chapter, and his website says he’ll see you there, every Wednesday, for the next twenty-two years. (He’s sixty-eight years old as of this writing, but I wouldn’t bet against him.)

Honestly, I haven’t read Ulysses—it’s 265,000 words, y’all (of Joyce’s works I’ve read only Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)—but I have listened to quite a few of Delaney’s podcasts and they’re enchanting. Here’s the episode from June 16, which celebrates Bloomsday, a celebration of the life of James Joyce and an informal reenactment of the events of the single day that passes in the thousand or so pages of Ulysses. Enjoyce!

Jamie Chavez is an editor, writer, and blogger. 
This article reprinted by permission, © 2011.