Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ireland . . . day 3

after and early breakfast at the hotel we climbed onto the bus at 9am to head for a day in the Wicklow Mountains.

Powerscourt was once a huge estate with a vast Art collection. in the 1970s a fire started in the mansion which destroyed everything but the stones. three months later the stone walls were still too hot to touch. sadly, the insurance on the estate was not sufficient to cover the damages, and the home and grounds were sold. eventually the first floor was restored, and is now part of the visitors center. the grounds and extensive gardens are now open to the public.

walking down the stairs that lead to the pond is like walking though a movie. if that wasn't enough the view from the stairs is incredible. it looks over the valley and mountains. truly spectacular. of course I had to see the Japanese gardens. they were full of little streams and nooks and even a grotto. standing in the grotto was like shutting out the world while standing under an open sky. all you can hear is the water dripping through the moss and ferns that cover the rocky walls. just you and the moment. it wonderful and very very strange at the same time. we came out of that garden and walked back up to the pond, where a mother duck was guiding her ducklings through the water. they almost disappeared against the water plants that covered the surface of the pond. we then climbed the path that led past the pet cemetery and up to the kitchen gardens. those gardens were once walled to protect the food, so of course the gates were gilded . . . yes, the gates were accented with gold. now it's a lush flower garden full of poppies and tulips and such. there's a fountain with a mermaid as well. after the garden we headed inside and grabbed a bite to eat. the little cafe had the best lemon curd tart I've ever tasted . . . so now I have another recipe to work on. no complaints about that of course. after wandering around the shops for a bit we got back onto the tour bus and headed to Glendalough.

Glendalough is home to a monastic site dating back to the 6th century. it was founded by St. Kevin. the site is now in ruins, but the stone chapel with its stone roof still remains. we actually were asked to sing inside of the tiny chapel, which is closed except to tours. it's in a beautiful little valley, located between two lakes.

after a day of hiking up and down hills we headed back to Dublin. mom and I decided to try a little fish & chips place around the corner from our hotel. I'm not exaggerating when I say that they give you half of a fish. we really should have split one order, but it was still worth it. the cod was great. after that we decided to call it any early night considering we would be checking out the next morning at 8:30am.

Ireland . . . day 2

an Irish breakfast varies a bit depending on who's serving, but it generally consists of some combination of eggs, sausage, bacon (ham to southerners), roasted tomatoes, toast, and black pudding. that's what they served in the hotels every day, with a selection of cold cereals as well. now, I know what they put in black pudding, so I skipped that. however, after a week of these hearty breakfasts and hiking all over Ireland . . . I had to go out and buy new jeans because my old ones were too loose.

St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin (there are others of that name in Ireland) was only a couple of blocks away from our hotel, so we walked over there for the second lunchtime concert on Monday. it's lovely and full of history, as most of these places were. in one part hangs the flags carried into battle over the centuries. some are so burned and blackened that the fabric and colors are no longer distinguishable, and a sort of net has been attached to hold the remaining pieces together. they hang as part of the memorials to lives given and lost over the centuries.

my favorite photo at St. Patrick's was one that I took from behind the altar. there is a space behind where the choir rehearses before the concerts and services. sort of a backstage area that is only separated by half-walls and wrought iron gates.

Melody and I stayed long enough to take some pictures of the concert, and then headed out to explore more of Dublin. we headed down to some of the shopping areas. I had to stop in the music stores, though as it turned out both shops that we passed were for sheet music and instruments, respectively. I didn't see any record stores. odd. eventually we headed back to the hotel and I did some reading and rested before getting ready for dinner that night.

Gogarty's Pub is in the heart of Dublin, and has a "beer garden" on it's first floor. we went up to the third floor restaurant for dinner. if you travel to Ireland, keep in mind that though the menu prices seem high, you're actually getting enough food for two people. if you want to try to eat it all yourself, you're welcome to, but it won't leave much room for beer. just saying . . . anyway, dinner was delicious. the cuisine is generally simple everywhere there, but the quality of the ingredients more than makes up for it. after stuffing ourselves we headed down to the second floor to hear live traditional Irish music. it was fantastic, and it's a tradition at the pub. if you're ever in Dublin, go find this place - it's well worth the trip.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ireland . . . day 1

we landed in Dublin just before 7am local time, after about a six hour flight that departed Newark around 7pm EST. I tried to sleep a bit, but of course that came to little actual rest. the flight wasn't bad though, and if I remember the flight to Amsterdam correctly, this one was easier.

we were met by Andy, our tour guide for the week outside of baggage claim, and then all fifty of us followed him to the bus to load up for a tour of Dublin. part of the tour took us through Phoenix Park, where the residences of the Irish president and the American ambassador are located. America is well loved by Ireland, as we were the first country to recognize them as a country after they gained independence from Britain. no other ambassadors live in the park.

eventually we stopped outside of Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. now this was exciting to me for several reasons. I've studied it as Art, as musical inspiration, but most of all it is a book of the four Gospels . . . Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. in some of the darkest times in history, the saints and scholars of Ireland preserved the written texts of the Bible. the Book of Kells is one of those. it is an illuminated manuscript many centuries old. pictures aren't allowed inside the areas where the book is kept, as light damages the over 1,000 year old book. the room where you can view it is kept extremely dim. still, it was amazing to see the actual book, instead of slides on an auditorium wall.

after Trinity college, we piled back on the bus, and met John, our driver for the week. more on John later . . .

John drove us to Jurys Inn which is in downtown Dublin. our check-in was later in the day so we unloaded our bags into a secured room that they had for that purpose, and then wandered over to some local Pubs and restaurants for lunch. or, as it turned out . . . brunch. it wasn't quite noon yet so not all of the Pubs were open. in Ireland, Pubs are the places to go eat. trust me on this. after the meal we headed back to the hotel where some of our rooms were beginning to come ready. the hot shower was fantastic at that point.

around four we headed over to the Brazen Head Pub, Irelands oldest pub. it dates back 1198. I had the beef and Guinness stew, which is going to become a staple recipe in my kitchen. it was wonderful. the dinner took quite a while, but eventually we finished and I went with the choir to Monkstown for their evening concert. yes, it was that night . . . they were troopers. while the choir warmed up I went across the street with a couple of other "non-singers" from the trip and had a real Irish Guinness. it's not the same by the time it gets over here to the US.

the concert was a joint affair with the Dun Laohghaire Choir at the Parish Church in Monkstown. it was exceptional, and the audience was quite receptive to the FCC choir. afterwards there was a small reception across the street for the performers and friends. they were very nice. after that we piled back onto the bus and headed for the hotel and our beds.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'm leaving for Ireland in less than three days, and I'm really looking forward to it. it's been years since I've been overseas. I even had to get my passport renewed. to be honest, I wasn't all that excited about the trip to begin with. you see, it's a tour (music) of Ireland which my mother is singing on and my dad was supposed to be going with her. but work picked up for him and he's in the middle of a least one major project, so traveling out of the country for eight days isn't the best idea for him. my dad is amazing, he never asks for anything, and he never goes on trips like this. I really REALLY wanted for him to go. but, the trip is already paid for, so they put the ticket in my name. after all, it's IRELAND (said like "it's IT-TAH-LEE" by Sandra Oh in Under the Tuscan Sun). the funny part is that so many of my friends have been asking whether I've seen P.S. I Love You . . . that would be a yes. I think I saw it the weekend it opened actually. "that could be YOU!" well . . . maybe. I plan on having a blast and having a Guinness as it should be.

I'm also coming to what looks like the end of a very hard, very dark chapter of my life. at least I have PLENTY of material to mine for songs, right? lately it feels like when I take one step froward there's a wave waiting to slam me five feet back. well, the wave can try all it wants . . . I'm not giving it an inch. not a chance. it's exhausting, sure - but you fight anyway. I am truly blessed to have some amazing friends in my life. ones who call when they know things are bad, and we pray for each other all the time. because we all have to deal with something. we all make mistakes, and we all have days when everything hurts. then you wake up the next morning and the day couldn't be more beautiful. there's a saying around here . . . "feelings are like the weather in Georgia, wait a minute and they'll change." there are good times and bad times, and that's just the way of it. you savor the good, the wonderful and remember that the bad will be over soon.

Friday, May 09, 2008

so many things

my pastor has been preaching a lot on running on empty, filling our lives with to many things, too many commitments. to be honest it's a struggle for me right now. sometimes I feel like I'm ten feet under the waves fighting to get a breath. my job is great, but working full time at the University and working on bringing my art to full time is a lot of very hard work. I know that it would be when I decided to go for this, but it isn't any easier. so some days I come home and just want to collapse on the floor. but I can't just do that. even though I'm going back to Nashville in less than a year, even though my circle of friends here has diminished substantially (this is a very transient town), I still want to give this place and the people that I love the time and attention that they deserve. it's my hometown after all, even though it feels less like home every day.

I don't know what is going to happen when I do move. if I have to get a desk job, even for a while, I'll do it. even if no one ever hears a song I write, or falls in love with any of my work, I'll still do it. it's just part of who I am and I'm a mess when it's not a part of my day-to-day. art is something I do, and music is like breathing. they've been there as far back as I can remember. no idea why piano recitals had me in tears the night before as a child and singing was so much fun, but that's how it always was.

for now I'm working and fighting as hard as I can to make these things happen. if one of my friends needs to talk, then the torch and the palette can wait. plus I can usually be found online during office hours.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

new pendant series

I've listed some new pieces over in my Etsy shop!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

apparently this is one of my blogging weeks . . . good times.

so as life goes on you learn more about yourself and how you work (hopefully). I've found that if I'm in a funk, or depressed, or whatever, and I haven't been in my studio or at the piano then that's probably why. I just don't function well for very long if I'm not creating something. I'd had conversations about this with several other creatively-minded friends about this as well. take last night for example - I'd been out of town a few days earlier, hadn't slept a whole lot, and had picked up my guitar maybe once in the last week. I was rather out of sorts. so I worked on a piece I've been composing and then headed downstairs to work on a series I came up with (@ Fido's, btw . . . it's my Blue Sky in Nashville). the new pieces will be finished tonight, and then posted over at Etsy tomorrow. anyway this morning I woke up relaxed, happy, and motivated to get to the next project.

now if I can stop running to the piano every time I run out of chords that I know on the fret board, maybe I'd learn to play my guitar a little better . . .