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Author Ruth Ryan Langan
Author Ruth Ryan Langan
From Ruth's Desk
Ruth Ryan Langan's Journey of the Heart

I'm so delighted to be traveling to Ireland for the first time. I know some of you have been to that lovely green land, and this journey with me will rekindle old and loving memories. For others, this will be your first visit, and we'll be discovering all the beauty of this land together. Whether you've been there before, or are seeing it for the very first time, I hope you'll come along with me on my 'Journey of the Heart'.

Journal Entry 1: June 16, 2000
Journal Entry 2: June 17, 2000
Journal Entry 3: June 18, 2000
Journal Entry 4: June 19, 2000
Journal Entry 5: June 20, 2000
Journal Entry 6: June 21, 2000
Journal Entry 7: June 22, 2000
Journal Entry 8: June 24, 2000


Journal Entry 1: June 16, 2000

Storms in the east set us back a bit. Finally got a flight to Newark and then had to wait until the weather cleared enough to let us leave. Once airborne it was a smooth flight to Shannon.

So green. And so many different shades of green. From palest green new crops in the fields to those long dark green fields dotted with cattle, all divided by waving hedgerows that criss-cross the land. And the flowers. The Irish seem to like them wildly taking over entire yards and along the edges of the roads. So many pinks and purples, and one so purple it looks like velvet.

The weather is cool and misty, though everyone here claims the next few days will be especially sunny and warm. It looks that way. Rain fled and the day became much milder.

It's exactly as I'd expected Ireland to look. Lovely old cottages, with ivy growing over the rock face, and moss drifting down from above. Weathered stone fencing, narrow twisting roads. Fields of cattle and sheep and horses, and occasionally a shaggy pony that looks like an ancestor of old.

Tombabe said he felt like a driver in the LeMans, sitting on the wrong side of the car, driving on the left, and breezing past an old truck wheezing up a hill. And the way I was white-knuckled beside him, I feared we both were heading for a crash. Later today, with BW at the wheel, it was Tom's turn to white-knuckle it.

But here we are in this lovely old hotel, in a room tucked up under the eaves, and so cozy I might be persuaded to stay permanently. A king-size bed, a lovely little step up to a table and chairs beneath a window with a lovely view of the flower-filled courtyard below, and the best thing of all - in the marble and gold bathroom, the most civilized European gift - heated towel racks. To die for.

The weather lifted and we visited Blarney Castle. No, we didn't kiss the Blarney Stone. But we fell in love with the old weathered castle and the many gardens that are spectacular. Trees that were here during the most amazing history of this land. Magical trees, stone caves, and the flowers and plants that are gargantuan in size.

Truly a place of magic.
Can't wait for tomorrow.

Ruth

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Journal Entry 2: June 17, 2000

What an amazing day. When we awoke, the sun was already bright with promise. As the day progressed, the sun held, and the clouds, so famous in this land, were held at bay. By mid-afternoon, the temperature had climbed to the 70's, bidding everyone to play. We couldn't resist the invitation.

What an overload of the senses. We drove far west, (actually Nora's dear husband BW) drove us from Cork to Inishannon to Clonakilty to Rosscarberry to Skibbereen to Mizen Head. Along the way we saw green fields, as smooth as glass, divided by those fabulous rock walls that divide crops, horses, cattle. We drove along narrow roads barely big enough for a single car, that seemed to be carved from walls of rock. In other places the roads were lined with hedgerows of fushia as tall as giant trees, so thick we couldn't see the sky.

We visited the Dromberg Stone Circle in Carberry, dating back to the Druid era. Having seen Stonehenge in England, this has the same feeling. As though the spirits of the people who lived and died in this place were still here, watching those of us who came to learn bout those who came before us.

We saw tide pools, some nothing more than mud, to those filling with sea water, and in the most western coast of Ireland, the most fantastic sight of the Atlantic rolling onto the shore in ever-widening circles as it rolled across the white beach where a few hardy souls waited in greeting.

At Mizen Head we watched the waves crash against the rocks as the mist slowly drifted inland, obliterating the view and turning the land to dense banks of fog.

In between we saw the greenest hills folding into one another, each one a deeper green than the other. And each one dotted with sheep and cattle, looking for all the world as though at any moment they might slip off the side of the hill and tumble into the sea.

We drove through small, tidy towns with houses painted pink, yellow, bright blue. And all with those wonderful gardens of roses, foxglove taller than me, and lovely pots bursting with color. What I loved best were those tall rock walls with doors here and there, painted the most vivid shades of red, purple, orange.

I've decided that the Irish love their lace curtains. Every house, from snug cottage frosted with ivy and moss, to modern house set on acres of lawn, have windows frosted with lace. And dogs and horses. There are as many of these as there are people in the sparsely populated areas. Those sleek hounds, Irish Wolfhounds and tiny terriers, as well as handsome thoroughbreds. And occasionally a shaggy pony off in a field, looking as wild as its ancestors must have looked.

The most amazing sight of all is the wild sea bursting upon the shore. In places it seems almost gentle. In other places it shows its true colors, crashing against the walls of rock that have withstood it for thousands of years.

What an amazing contrast of sights and sounds and colors. And all of them so beautiful and so moving. For this lass of Irish descent, who has heard of this magnificent island for a lifetime, this is truly a day to be hugged to the heart.

I'm not sure anything can top this. But then, this is Ireland. Every day is a new beginning. I can't wait for tomorrow.

Ruth

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Journal Entry 3: June 18, 2000

We're just having amazing luck with the weather here in Ireland. Today it's sunny, clear and high-70's to possibly 80. Unheard of, the natives say. Anyway, we're soaking it up.

Lazy today. Didn't wake until after 10. After showering and dressing, I discovered that my dear Tom had gone back to sleep. I left him a note and took the Sunday Times of Ireland down to the lovely garden for tea. Nora and BW joined me after they'd enjoyed a nice workout in the pool. A short time later Tom joined us, and we ended up spending the better part of the afternoon there, at a lovely umbrella table, sipping tea and eating Irish soda bread, then later switching to champagne and wine and sandwiches, then splurging on a plate of wonderful little tarts.

The guys went off to the hotel pub to watch soccer, while Nora and I stayed in the garden for another hour.

There are several families here with their chubby-cheeked infants and toddlers. One of them, Alex, adopted in Russia by a lovely Irish family, had his christening today, and has absolutely stolen our hearts. He has white blonde hair, the most adorable smile, and I'm worried that Nora might just wrap him up and take him home.

Out in the garden there was a baby girl with the cutest face and bright eyes, framed by one of those darling bonnets. We thought her name was Nora, and when her family finally brought her over for an intro, we discovered that her name is really Laura. But she, too, had Nora wrapped around her chubby little finger.

Those loving parents had better lock up their babies. Our Nora has a serious case of baby-coveting.

The parents of Alex also have 3 little girls (nieces) with them, and they're just the prettiest little things. That beautiful pale Irish skin and those big blue eyes. We teased them about taking them home to the States. They seemed enchanted with the idea of Michigan and Maryland's snow, and maybe going to Disney World. I could tell they were enjoying our accent as much as we were enjoying theirs.

Dinner tonight at a little Italian place in town. Pizza all round. Then off to a local pub. Walking there was the most strenuous thing we did all day.

Ruth

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Journal Entry 4: June 19, 2000

Moving on day, and our luck holds. We leave cloudy, overcast Cork and find ourselves heading into another sunny, warm summer day. Within an hour we've left the threatened rain behind.

The roadside was lined with acres of bright red poppies. then a little further along were acres (or miles) of gigantic purple foxglove. Spectacular.

In Killarney, a really beautiful city, we stopped at the Torc Waterfall, set in a forest pf evergreen and rocks so coated with moss, they looked like an enchanted forest. We could understand why early Irish expected to see little green people popping out any moment.

We left the waterfall and drove high into the mountains to look down on the most spectacular scenery one can imagine. Mountains on all side, rising majestically from a lake far below. The peaks of the mountains wreathed in clouds and mist, and sunlight streaming down like a benediction.

We stopped for lunch at a lovely hotel right on the water, with a wonderful ruin on a spit of land just off the water.

Afterward we moved on to tackle traffic to County Clare, and Dromoland Castle, which is so luxurious, we feel like royalty. We unpacked and met for drinks before a fantastic dinner, a little walk about in the moonlight, and now, hopefully, to sleep. It's humble, but hey, it's home for the next few days.

Ruth

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Journal Entry 5: June 20, 2000

Our luck holds on the weather front. Heavy rains this morning as we ate breakfast at Dromoland Castle's gorgeous dining room. (As always, a buffet off fruit, cereals, pastries, juices, ham, cheese - billed as a traditional Irish breakfast - plus the offer of eggs, sausage, pancakes) Within the hour the sun was peeking through the clouds. An hour later, as we left for Bunratty Castle, it was sunny and clear.

This ancient castle has been furnished, and provides guides in costume to describe life as it was lived in the Sixteenth Century. What is even better is an entire village that has been recreated within the castle grounds. Crofter cottages, weavers, fishermen, etc. All furnished and operating as they were in centuries past, with turf fires, baking, cooking, farming, etc. The woman in the first cottage was so eager to answer my questions, and so happy to delve into the past, she actually had tears in her eyes. So did we. A very emotional tour.

Afterward we visited Quin Abbey, built in the 1400 hundreds, and containing graves bearing dates from that time to the present. A ruin nearby dates to 1100. What a marvelous experience to climb the stone steps to the top and stare out over the green fields lined with those wonderful stone walls, and realize that much of that landscape looks like it did then.

We capped off the day by shopping, Nora style. Such fun. Bought lots of pretty baubles.

Tonight we're driving into Ennis for pizza, and then to a pub for traditional music.

An unbeatable combination.

Ruth

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Journal Entry 6: June 21, 2000

We couldn't duck the weather another day. Rain today, with sun peeking out occasionally, and wild gusts of wind. (The Irish refer to it as soft weather.) Fortunately, we planned for the worst. We had our coats and our rain parkas.

Drove to the amazing Cliffs of Moher, where the heavy winds nearly swept us over the barriers. What spectacular sights of sheer rock cliffs, birds wheeling and crying, and surf slamming into the rocks hundreds of yards below.) We took dozens of pictures.

Then on to the Burren, that fantastic scene of sheer rock that seems to go on for ever and ever. So much rock, unearthed by the Ice Age, and giving the area a wild and tumbled look of madness unleashed by the forces of nature.

On the way back to Dromoland Castle we stopped by a ruin, Dysart O'Dea Castle, which, led by the O'Briens, saved Limerick from the Normans. Fabulous ruins. We took lots of pictures.

Back in time for libations. Yumm. Then a late dinner and plans to hear a great singer in the pub. Life doesn't get much better than this.

Ruth

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Journal Entry 7: June 22, 2000

Our last full day in this lovely place. It's hard to believe we've been a week in Ireland, first in Cork, and now in Limerick. Did I mention that the name of the town where Dromoland Castle is located is called Newmarket-On-Fergus? Doesn't that just roll off the tongue? In fact, all the towns seem to roll off the tongue.

Today, for instance, we decided to visit some ruins, and passed through Killmurty, Kilkishen, Glendree. Such soft names. We walked around a huge circular tower that stands guard over a deserted abby and church. The cemetery shares space with a herd of cows. We drove on to Kilgolan and Clarinbridge to the edge of Gallway Bay.

Along the way we stopped at the home of Yeats. You can see why he loved it, and wrote about it in his poetry. A comfortable cottage set beside a stream, with a lovely old circular tower beside it. Inside, reading his framed poems written about the stream and the swans, you can see every line, every stanza.

Breezy and misty, but as we returned to Dromoland Castle, the breeze softened, the rain fled and the sun came out.

After a late lunch we did a bit more shopping, then Nora and I walked around the lovely grounds. There are wonderful gardens, giant old trees, a pond dotted with lily pads with those gorgeous waxy white blossoms, a magical old stone cave and some sort of circular shrine to a goddess who stands guard atop the domed roof.

Tonight we drive to Ennis for a long, lazy goodbye dinner. Then it's back to our humble castle room to pack and make ready for the flight back to reality.

God willing, I'll post tomorrow night, after I've had time to sort through my many thoughts and emotions.

But this much I know.
This truly has been a journey of the heart.
Love to all

Ruth

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Journal Entry 8: June 24, 2000

This has been a week of such incredible emotions, I feel as though I'm on sensory overload. Now that I'm home and the business of unpacking has been dealt with, I have time to sort through these past days and share some of the images that will forever linger in my mind.

Spending an entire Sunday sitting in the lovely gardens at Hayfield Manor, sipping tea, and later wine, reading the Dublin Times, and feeling completely at home.

That first amazing glimpse of the Cliffs of Moher. Solid walls of rock taller than a skyscraper, standing guard against the ocean. And at the base, the wild frothing Atlantic hurling against stone, then rolling back against itself. And the wind at the top of the cliffs, sending me back two steps for every one I took forward. And into all that fury of nature, birds wheeling and diving, looking as though they'll be dashed against the rocks, but somehow managing to dip and dive and skim the water unharmed.

Those wonderful magic gardens at Blarney Castle.

Quiet coves where the water just kisses the land before slipping back to sea.

A horse running headlong across a green field, with a spindly-legged foal trying its best to keep pace alongside.

An old gentleman in crisp white shirt, tie, jacket and jaunty cap, driving his tractor in a field. And a similarly dressed man working the weeds in the front yard of his farmhouse. The term "gentleman farmer" comes to mind.

Driving down a street and having to stop while a herd of cows head home for milking, being driven (literally) by the farmer in his car at the rear of the herd.

A farmer in long tweed coat and the ever-present jaunty cap, holding a long walking stick as he makes his way across his fields toward his herd of sheep, his dog racing ahead.

A tired-looking little cottage, old and weathered, with ivy covering almost every inch of it. And suddenly catching a glimpse of the front yard, abloom with the most amazing flowers.

In almost every town a dog trotting along the streets, looking very much at home as it dodges people walking or on bicycles. I'm reminded of Lady and the Tramp, and imagine him stopping off along the way at the bakery, the butcher shop, or maybe a small cafe, for his daily handout.

Those long stone walls that run along the roads, dissecting green fields, and snaking their way from one end of the land to the other. So many stones. And I wonder how the people ever gathered all of them and turned that unforgiving rocky land into such a green, green one.

Flowers. Everywhere. And so lush in color, they're beyond the imagination. Purples like velvet. Deep deep pink. Shocking red. They spill over stone walls. Grow through the cracks of ancient crumbling ruins. I think to me they're a symbol of the Irish people. They'll not be put down or stopped, but rather grow through adversity. Beautiful, resilient survivors.

The crumbling ruins of a church, an abbey and a round tower, all standing in the middle of a farmer's field, sharing space with his cows. He sees us and stops to ask how we're enjoying our holiday, and the thick brogue just makes us smile.

The beautifully tended plots, even in ancient cemeteries. We spy fresh flowers on the grave of someone dead more than fifty years.

And the people. So warm. So willing to stop and chat. One night we made a wrong turn walking along a street, and I pop into a beauty shop to ask directions. Though the young woman was working on someone's hair, she walks me to the doorstep and shows me exactly where to go. And all done with that wonderful warm smile, as though it's no trouble at all.

I know this will sound overly dramatic. But it's true. The moment I'd landed on Irish soil, though I'd never been there before, I felt as if I'd come home. From the tourist-infested scenic wonders, to the simplest farmhouse, this place touched my heart. It isn't something you can force. It's just something that is. And though I'm home now, and happy to be, I felt at home there as well. I know this now. A small part of me will always be in that small, green land of my ancestors, calling to me to return.

Ruth Ryan Langan

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