Thursday, November 26, 2009

100 Days of Practice, Round 2, Day Something or Other: On Vacation

Not that anyone’s checking their email today… but Happy Thanksgiving, from Ireland, where there’s no such thing.

Still traveling! Yesterday, we made a day long trek to Tipperary County, to visit Soul Papa’s sister. An evening of reunion and chat, and now we’re waking slowly, one by one, and trying to plan how to fill our day today, as it’s “lashing rain”--which, we hear, is not unlike what’s been happening for about three weeks solid in this part of the country. The talk everywhere you go is of the floods in all the low-lying areas of Ireland: roads washed out, homes destroyed. They say that there’s never been a situation like this. We are staying not far form the banks of the Shannon River, at Lough Derg, one of the largest lakes in Ireland, and the water is more than 6 m higher than usual. The news has captured some very sad scenes.

Other than that, it’s been an uneventful few days: visiting with family, and another day in Dublin proper. Monday was a highlight. We spent a day at Newgrange, a 3,200-year-old burial mound that predates the pyramids of Egypt by some three hundred years. (How they know this is unclear to me, but, sure, didn’t St. Brendan discover America long before Christopher Columbus?) Newgrange sits atop at hill in the heart of the Boyne River valley, among hundreds of other similar mounds… though Newgrange is the largest, and one of the few that have been fully excavated. It was discovered in 1699 by a local landowner quarrying its millions of small white rocks. Through the rubble, miners found the large standing stones that mark the entrance to the chamber. It’s said that a dog went in after a rabbit, and went deep into a cave. Workers follwed it, and soon discovered the innards of a cruciform burial chamber, perfectly intact.

At that time, Newgrange was mostly a pile of small stones (a big, big, big pile and lots of stones), and it was reconstructed decades ago, according to an archeologist's idea of what it might have looked like. I'd post photos for you but we didn't bring a cord to connect the camera to the computer. Bad blogger!

Newgrange's entrance is marked by a doorway of very large stones, and as wtih the pyramids, historians can only speculate that they were put there with some concoction of hemp, pulleys, and logs. Marking occasional stones at the entrance are carvings of a variety of ancient marknigs and patterns, mostly swirls and diamond shapes they call lozenges. It's not known what these markings meant.

Above Newgrange's entrance stones is a small opening, about three feet across and less than a foot high. Every year around the solstice, the rising sun comes up over the hills on the opposing bank of the Boyne, and illuminates the inside of the chamber. Sun worship is no surprise, as those who populated the area were a settled and agricultural people. The return of the sun at the darkest day of the year, December 21, would be a celebrated event, indeed.

Actually, the return of the sun on November 26, 27, or 28th, 2009, would be welcome as well! The weather hasn’t been too bad. People seem fond of discussing just how terrible it is, though we feel we’ve had good weather, for the most part. Rain every day, but only light, and just a little sun. But it’s okay. If we wanted a sun holiday, we’d have chosen Hawaii.

Now, about practice. Not a good story. I haven’t done a bit of it all week, and I must admit, I am missing it terribly now. But it’s hard to make it happen, when travelling with four other people (one of whom is our happy girl!), staying in other people’s homes, and not wanting to remove myself from the goings on to play. Soul Sistah tells me to just think of it like vacation from practicing… but it’s a vacation I didn’t need, in that regard. Alas. We’ll see what the day brings!

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