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November 2016

Wild Atlantic Way

As we left our beloved Doolin, we headed south along the Wild Atlantic Way, the road that parallels the western coast of Ireland with often stunning views of the sea.  Our first destination was Loop Head, encouraged by Sean the owner of our Doolin B&B.  A lighthouse adorns the head (or what we would call a point), and Mom was eager to visit a lighthouse.

South of Lahinch we entered the small town of Quilty.  Our cabbie a few days before had suggested visiting the church there, dedicated to the victims of a shipwreck.  The region draws attention to shipwrecks, particularly those of the Spanish Armada along its shores.

As we parked to enter the church, the cold wind blew off the ocean.  The small sanctuary dedicated to Mary, Star of the Sea was decorated with simple, but poignant stained glass.

  Quilty church

We continued our drive along this peninsula jutting out into the north Atlantic, with the landscape becoming increasing more spare and the villages taking on a more remote feeling.  However, there was a Trump International golf course.

As we neared Loop Head a sign directed us to another scenic spot, the Bridges of Ross.  We stopped in the car park and watched massive waves pounding the dark, jagged rocks.

Bridges of Ross

Loop Head Lighthouse

We pulled up to the lighthouse only to learn that it was unexpectedly closed.  We weren't the only potential visitors to be disappointed, as cars continued to pull in, empty their passengers who took time to wrap up in coats and scarves before walking to the gate, only to walk disappointingly back to their cars.  However, Kelli and I decided to look around.  

The point sits atop tall cliffs, a barren point surrounded by the cold, violent ocean.  I stood a while alone on this almost westernmost point of Europe, listening to the waves and the wind.

Loop Head Rocks

From Loop Head we drove along the Shannon River estuary to the ferry, a twenty-minute passage across the wide river, passing from County Clare into County Kerry, where the landscape changed dramatically to a multitude of rich greens and quaint cottages adorning picturesque farms.  We drove to Tralee for lunch, walking through their rose garden.


Tralee Rose Garden

Wild Atlantic Way

And then we drove again along the Wild Atlantic Way as we entered the Dingle Peninsula.  We elected not to take the narrow and winding Connor Pass in the slowing fading light (my mom and sister both have histories of motion sickness).  Early evening we arrived in Dingle, in time for only a little browsing and shopping, as the stores were closing.  The next day we'd see more of the wild Atlantic as we drove round the Dingle Peninsula.


Dealing with the past

A paragraph from near the end of Heidi Neumark's Hidden Inheritance:

From a history of horror, I have received staggering gifts of truth, identity, and love.  This is something we all long for and need, and we can help to make it happen, one story at a time.  Listening without prejudice or pity to those who are willing to recount their narratives of pain, loss, and righteous rage is part of changing the world.  Another challenge is recognizing and naming our complicity in such narratives.  Those of us who belong to religious communities can join to dismantle the architecture of judgment with all of its closets and shadowy corners and resurrect our history of sanctuary--not only for those fleeing violence and poverty in other lands but for refugees closer to home seeking community where they can be their authentic selves.  We cannot undo the past, but there remains plenty that calls for our outcry and action today.  What we do will vary, but I pray that we will not do nothing.

Hidden Inheritance

Hidden Inheritance: Family Secrets, Memory, and FaithHidden Inheritance: Family Secrets, Memory, and Faith by Heidi B. Neumark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In May I heard Heidi Neumark deliver a presentation entitled "Preaching Killed My Grandparents." Her talk motivated me to buy her book.

Neumark is a Lutheran pastor who learned in mid-life that she was Jewish and that her grandfather died in the Holocaust. This is the memoir of her journey to uncover her family's hidden past and to come to terms with it. The story and her reflections on it are profoundly moving.

One element she wrestles with is faith's complicity in the genocide. In her presentation and in this book she details the horrible Nazi propaganda that spewed from the pulpit of the church her father grew up in, a church she was later invited to preach at. She draws parallels to contemporary issues in which the church continues to abuse people--her congregation runs a shelter for homeless queer youth, many of whom have histories of religious abuse.

Our church book club will be discussing this memoir on Thursday, and I look forward to the conversation.

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The Dirty Dust

The Dirty Dust: Cré na CilleThe Dirty Dust: Cré na Cille by Máirtín Ó Cadhain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Looking for Irish books to read, I couldn't resist the set up of this one. A village graveyard and all the characters are the corpses, continuing all their arguments with each other in perpetuity. And Colm Toibin claiming it to be the best book ever written in the Irish language, now finally translated into English.

And the book is filled with funny moments. But it is a little long. Some of the repetition of conversation is tiring, plus not a lot really happens. As new people enter the graveyard, the conversations change. Some corpses want to be left to rest in peace. Others want to continuing growing and developing and educating themselves, now that they have the time. Others simply want to harp on the same things they always have.

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Wind & Clouds


Enriched, but tired, from our hike along the coast to the Cliffs, we rested and refreshed at our B&B before heading out to Gus O'Connor's Pub for dinner, libations, and live music.  Our B&B owner, Sean was a rich and delightful source of information and stories.  I asked what I should eat and he suggested two things--the mussels, because they were in their best season, and the beef, because beef from Western Ireland is the best in the world.  Saturday night I at the mussels and Sunday the steak.  Neither disappointed.

Doolin was our favourite stop of the trip, largely because of the pub, which was just a short walk from our B&B.  Each night we got a front row seat for the live music, something Mom was really looking forward to.  We chatted with other customers and enjoyed the people watching.  One night a young woman handed my sister a picture she had drawn of her.  I enjoyed trying local whiskeys.

Sunday we had planned as a rest day.  Fortuitously, this was the only day of our trip with continuously bad weather.  Throughout the morning and midday the skies were overcast and the rain came and went.  After a slow start and long breakfast, we decided to drive around to some of the nearby towns and villages and do some sweater shopping.


Near the Cliffs of Moher, we stopped at the Well of St. Brigit, where the grotto was filled with items signifying people's prayers, and the trees were covered in ribbons.

In Lahinch we saw people golfing, walking the beach, and surfing, despite the weather.  


Late in the afternoon we returned to Doolin just as a real Atlantic storm came ashore.  We drove down to the pier and watched the waves pounding the rocks and saw the last ferry from the Aran Islands tossing about like a toy boat.  That night the winds howled, whistling through the house.  The next morning, I lingered outside, enjoying the cloud formations over the hills.




Every year for Halloween in Omaha we go to friends in Field Club, were around a thousand kids will descend upon a few blocks for trick-or-treating.  A handful of church members live within a few blocks, and we often see other friends out-and-about.

Last year Sebastian could not yet crawl, but dressed as the Great Pumpkin, we carried him around to a few houses.  The rest of the evening he played on the Fortina's living room floor, attempting to crawl, which mesmerized the assembled adults.

This year he likes to run, of course.  So we wondered what he would make of his first real Halloween.  I wondered if he's be overwhelmed by all the kids, confused by being out in the dark, scared by costumes, or grabbing handfuls of candy impolitely.  But, none of those occurred.

We set out walking down the block and by the second house Sebastian seemed to figure out the routine--walk along the sidewalk, then up the walk to the front steps, get candy, and then come back down the sidewalk.  Before too long, he seemed to act as if he didn't need his fathers walking along trying to help.  

He walked slowly, often stopping to look at the kids and the costumes, but never seeming confused or startled.  More like a reserved, "Well, this is different" attitude.


When he finally indicated that he was done and ready for some dinner, we returned to the Fortinas and set up his booster seat on the front porch so he could eat and watch the parade of kids.  He devoured his chili and was mesmerized by all the activity, kicking his feet back and forth--a sure sign of excitement.

When he was done eating he wanted to assist with handing out the candy.  He sat in Katie Lewis' lap and as each kid came up, Sebastian would look them directly in the eye and then hand them their candy. 


It was after 8:30 and well past normal bedtime when we finally headed for home, and he was quite upset with us for bringing his fun to an end.