Thanksgiving Grace and Gratitude

It’s been forty years since I left the motherland and I have only partaken of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey celebration meal a couple handful of times over those decades. Sometimes I travelled back to family. At other times, I celebrated with other ex-patriots in England or Ireland. This does not, however, prevent me from contemplating gratitude on an annual basis. That is bone marrow deep. I don’t miss football games, parades, marathons or anxiety over gravy making. But my husband has often commented that having an annual day for gratitude is A Good Thing. So this morning, instead of making stuffing and pumpkin pie in preparation for the Great Feast tomorrow, I contemplated current events and gratitude…and the state of grace.

I write in Ireland when the L word has not been spoken, but rising infection rates are causing government to somberly talk of ‘extra measures’ and a plea for office workers to go back to working from home. With the riots against increased Covid restrictions across the continent this past weekend they are taking a softly-softly approach. Now Northern Ireland is also asking folk to work at home…but humans are social animals and after so much isolation they appear reluctant to give up on their face-to-face life. And, it has to be admitted, the seclusion and isolation has had a big impact on the collective mental and physical health. High Covid infection means elective and non-urgent procedures get delayed. For want of ICU beds a cancer patient’s delayed surgery may mean they get a terminal sentence.

Ireland has reportedly one of the highest take up rates of the vaccine available to eligible people. But the vaccine is no silver bullet to this viruses. Keeping our distance and wearing masks indoors is going to have to be a feature of our lives for some time to come.

Everything takes four times as long to get accomplished under Covid measures. Everyone is frustrated and sometimes that bubbles over into anger. No one is immune from this pandemic symptom. I suspect even saints are having a hard time of it these days to hang on to their haloes.

The great themes of 2021 have been Safety and Liberty. We have seen time and again great migrations of people fleeing war, civil unrest, the threat of gang rape, torture and death. Who can blame a family for taking to the road in the hope that they have a better chance of surviving. They seek a place of safety. Just as those of us in our various Lockdowns tell others in virtual messages to ‘Stay Safe.’ We do not just want to stay well., we want to stay alive from a virus stalking the globe.

On the other hand, there are the ones I think of as the Patrick “Give me liberty or give me death” Henry Brigade. Yes, civil liberties are under threat. But, for the time being, the virus is winning the Four Horseman of the Acopalyse Steeple Chase. Medical staff are quitting because the stress of dealing with this virus has stretched human and institution to snapping point. Even if the virus does not kill you, whether you choose to vaccinate or not, the more freely and widely we mingle we may asymptomatically spread it and unwittingly harm someone. That is a huge responsibility. We may hold the fate of a stranger in a breath we exhale.

Little wonder we are anxious…

Who is not vexed to the point of exhaustion with not seeing loved ones, or having a celebration with more than a handful of people, with the one with the cold masked in the corner. Love now comes with a health and safety risk assessment attached it seems. How much have we mingled before meeting indoors? Who does not want to hug? How many lateral flow tests can you do before your sinuses rebel? How many lockdowns before the economy, if not the health service, falls down?

My Thanksgiving meditations swung from the collective energy around to St. Brigid (random, I know!) and then it settled upon grace.

Gratitude and Grace

The grace for the bread we break.
The grace of the friendships we shape.
The grace of time to create.
The grace of the lucky escape.

The grace when we first awake.
The grace with fading heart ache.
The grace to hold and contain.
The grace, feather light, unexplained.

To partake. To not forsake. To sustain.
Just the same, grace and gratitude remain.



I wish you grace and its filling joy thi Thanksgiving.

Weekly Poem – Pivot

pivot hinge doorway samhain

There is a hard rain pelting on our roof this morning. Outside it felt way too dark to actually be close to 9am. But then again, we are that point of the year when the clocks go back. In Ireland this Sunday the clocks ‘fall back’ and we will be plunged into the darkness of Samhain time. This is one of the main pivot points in the Irish year. Traditionally, Samhain, or Halloween as it is known elsewhere, is the Celtic New Year. We are entering the season of endings and beginnings. Winter is a time where the earth is sleeping and, in our high northern latitudes, the light is too feeble for any growth. But the legends say that this is a time when Mother Earth is gestating. We must be patient, wait, and let the darkness do its own essential work.

Over in my Word Alchemy group we have been working on the theme of Light considering that what we see more of reflected in the outer world of media is deep shadow. This led on to the topic of joy. The prompt for one of our in-Zoom writing sessions was “What Brings You Your Greatest Moments of Joy?” Our further discussion touched on joy as a consciousness…and a conscious decision, one that does not refute the sadness or pain, but can be one where you can lace your fingers around a cup of hot chocolate and sip of something other for a moment.

Here is an excerpt from my own musings.

Sunset on the beach, the light slipping below the horizon, sending a burst of magenta, marigold and blue ink across an oceanic slate… the splash and plash of low tide rolling across sand and pebbles, sweeping up shells, sandblasted glass, cork, seaweed…watching the tideline rise and recede and my ankles sinking deeper and deeper into the sand…seeing fossils etched in ancient rock, the stars and spirals from which we all come from there to remind us of the spiral waltz of stardust that comes down to find a body who can stand at the tideline, ankles lapped by salty seawater that sink lower and lower into the silty sand, making a pearl inside of an oyster shell of a human body…

Moments of Joy, Bee Smith, 2021

Nature, the people and pets in our lives, our five senses, memories from the past, the now of the present, the hopes and plans for the future all weave a tapestry of joyfulness.

So many times over these anxious weeks, I stop myself and breath and pay especial attention to giving gratitude for the everyday…the roof over my head sheltering us from the pounding rain, the neighbours up and down the lane, the technology that helps us reach out and connect with those physically far from us, the cup of hot chocolate that does not deny the trouble and strife, but lifts us in a moment. And I give thanks for the cocao farmer and I hope that their family is well and free from suffering, too, and getting a fair exchange for their skill and labour. Little may they know or imagine what joy they are bringing in higher latitudes as rain pelts down and the year winds down to one of its pivot points.

Pivot

It's just the hinge needs grease
to ease its creak.

Just get at that rusting point.
Anoint the joints.

Just move back and forth,
back and forth. Do it smooth.

It's just metal won't give or grow.
A hinge opens. And it will close.

It's 180 degrees, you know? You're thinking 360.
That kind of swing sheers off everything

To a point that the point can
lose all its meaning.

You've only so much room
for manoevering.

A door remains two-faced. Replace grace for grease.
Then. Pivot.

Copyright Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

I invite you to recount your own moments of joy this week like you might say your prayers on rosary beads. Write it, paint it, crochet it – choose whatever creative activity gives you pleasure and joy. As another student commented in our Zoom Room last Saturday…creativity is an act of self-actualisation. Yet while we are actively shaping ourselves, we are also shaping and becoming the world we live in. We can take a conscious act to shape it and make it one of joy.

As we approach Samhain’s hinge of the year’s seasons, may your own pivot points be joyful.

Featured image Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 13

This is the penultimate prompt for the Geopark Poetry Map challenge. This weekend is a bank holiday in Northern Ireland and next weekend is the bank holiday in the Republic of Ireland. So there is still plenty of time for residents to visit sites around Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark before the submission closing date of 15th June 2021. The Geopark has that UNESCO badge because the natural and built heritage (which is inextricably connected to the nature heritage) is considered to be of world heritage worthiness, just Giant’s Causeway or Brú na Boinne for instance. It’s just that we are spread out over two counties, cross international boundaries and tens of thousands of hectares. We want you to visit both the famous sites and the lesser known ones and we are looking for geoheritage themed poems to put many onto our digital Poetry Map, which will go live on the Geopark webiste in October 2021.

Today, I want to highlight a castle, because I also want to reach out to readers abroad and we know that everyone loves an Irish castle. And ruins can be so romantic… who does not love a stone ruin? So atmospheric! Tully Castle lies close to Derrygonnelly in County Fermanagh and has a dramatic history, as most castles do! But it is also the geology and wildlife of its setting that makes it a prime site to put onto our digital Geopark Poetry Map.

Around 340 million years ago, during the Carboniferous period, the island of Ireland would
have been located around the equator. Positioned on the edge of a much larger continent
meant that the area was covered by a tropical shallow sea. The lime-rich mud that gathered
on the sea floor, has over millions of years been compacted to form limestone, the rock that
makes up the majority of the Geopark. As the abundance of sea creatures died, their bones
and shells sunk to the sea floor and have been preserved as fossils in the limestone rock
which dominates the shoreline at this location.

Tully Castle is located on the western shores of Lough Erne and exposures of limestone are
particularly evident along the loughshore, indeed, the ‘scallop’ marks created as a result of
the water from Lough Erne lapping onto the loughshore are commonplace. The site
command impressive views onto the Lower Lough Erne which was created as huge ice
sheets slowly crept across the landscape, until it ended approximately 15,000 years ago,
acting like giant sheets of sandpaper, removing all underlying material from their path and
forming a valley that would eventually fill with water to become Lower Lough Erne. My of the surrounding hill and islands that are visible from Tully Casle are drumlins, which are formed from till or boulder clay that was sculpted into this characteristic egg-shape as massive ice sheets slowly crept across the landscape during the last glaciation.

It has a range of woodland, grassland and wetland habitats, including Northern Ireland
Priority Habitats of high biodiversity value. Broadleaf trees, mainly Alder, Ash, Birch, Hazel
and Grey willow, occur in woodland on the drumlin slopes and the lough shore. The
woodlands are rich in flowering plant species such as Bluebell, Early purple orchid, Golden
saxifrage, Wild garlic and Wood anemone, together with the Soft shield-fern, mosses and
fungi. The Castle grassland, has over 100 flowering plant species including the Cat’s ear,
Common spotted-orchid, Knapweed, Ragged robin and Yellow rattle. The main species are
Common bent, Jointed rush, Ribwort plantain and Sweet vernal-grass. Grassland and
woodland edge habitats support the butterfly species Green-veined white, Meadow brown,
Silver-washed fritillary and Small tortoiseshell. Red squirrel and Otter occur and bird species such as Kingfisher, Red- breasted merganser and Whooper swan can be sighted.

In 1610, following the Flight of the Earls (1607), King James 1 granted 2,000 acres of land in
the townland of Tully, known as Carrynroe, to Sir John Hume. Tully Castle (1611-15) built for
Hume, consisted of a strong house and bawn. It is a castle Scottish in design, built by Irish
stonemasons. Sir John Hume from Berkshire in Scotland was one of the first planters to
settle in Fermanagh. He died in 1639, leaving the castle to his son, Sir George. On
Christmas Eve 1641, Rory Maguire, accompanied by a large following of rebels, set out to
capture Tully Castle. Sir George and many of the troops were away. Lady Hume
surrendered the castle on the condition of the safe release of all there. However, on
Christmas Day, Maguire and the rebels massacred all sixteen men and approximately sixty
women and children who had taken refuge within the bawn, sparing only the Humes. They
then pillaged and burnt the castle, which has remained a ruin to this day. The castle’s
location on the Lough shore is one of great beauty.

Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnerships & Engagement

It has a tragic history of duplicity and death, and yet on such sad historical ground there is a rich range and refuge for wildlife. I noticed the early purple orchid on my lane is out this week. Maybe you could visit Tully Castle this weekend and spot one, too! If you want to learn more about the site MACGeopark post this helpful leaflet on their website.https://www.marblearchcavesgeopark.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Tully-Castle-Leaflet.pdf

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 12

Greetings Earth lovers and Poetry writers! I am posting the MACGeopark Poetry Map Prompt a bit later today because…you know…life laundry, messages (as they call those hunt and gather errands in Northern Ireland); a neighbour needed a lift to fetch their car that had been mended. They day evaporated and I am just getting down to this after a hastily eaten tea whipped up in the space that of a Bewitched nose twitch. (Beans on toast with a fried egg if you are truly curious.) Today I want to highlight a dramatic site in Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark that you cannot fail to notice if you travel the Blacklion (Cavan) to Florencecourt (Fermanagh) Road. The border seamlessly moves from Cavan with a segue into a “Welcome to Fermanagh” sign – no Customs post or passport control. This road known locally as the Marble Arch Road and it leads to many of the Geopark’s best known sites. Hanging Rock dominates the landscape. I remember seeing it for the first time twenty years ago and feeling full of awe as we drove past. It has showstopper writ large. If it were a Broadway musical it would be the 10 o’clock number.

But as I passed by with the jaw hanging loose, little did I know its truly remarkable nature.

Overlooking Lower Lough Macnean is a magnificent 50 m high limestone cliff – the Hanging
Rock. The limestone from which the cliffs are formed was created around 340 million years
ago during the lower Carboniferous geological period, when Ireland lay close to the
equator. Located on the edge of a supercontinent, where sea-levels were higher, the area
that we now call Ireland was covered by a shallow tropical sea. The limestones formed by
the accumulation of lime-mud on the bottom of this ancient sea floor and from the remains of dead sea creatures that would have thrived in these waters. Limestone formation is a very slow process; layers and layers of limey deposits build up on the ocean floor and are
compacted by the weight of the water over millions of years. Closer inspection of the
limestone will reveal, fossils (typically bones or shells) of creatures that lived in this ancient
tropical sea. This specific type of limestone is known as Dartry limestone.

Interestingly, two stream risings lay at the base of the cliff, known as the Hanging Rock Risings. One of the risings is constantly active, while the other dries up during times of low rainfall. The risings are traced to only one source, Legacapple on the Marlbank above, but the water is believed to combine from a number of other sources.

Yew and juniper cling to its face. At the bottom of the cliff is one of the finest ash woodlands
in Northern Ireland. It is believed that the great variety of lichens found here indicate
woodland cover since ancient times. An area was clear felled in the early 1940s and has
now grown back naturally.

To the west, in Rossaa Wood, oak, beech, great willow and elm have grown to full maturity
and shelter a rich variety of plants. There are slopes covered in grasses amongst which
grows the colourful Welsh poppy. toothwort, a parasitic plant, lives on the roots of hazel and
elm. It looks unusual as it is totally white and stands out against the mosses on the damp
woodland floor. Red squirrels can occasionally be seen in the woodland while the elusive
pine marten has been sighted in recent years.

Local legend says that a rock dislodged from the cliff and fell onto a local salt trader taking
shelter from a storm. This rock became known as the Salter’s Stone or Cloghoge and sits
prominently at the road side to the east of the reserve.

Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement

A geoheritage poem based on Hanging Rock can tap into many of the elements of this MACGeopark site. First, there is the distinctive profile.

Image by Joan Shannon

The other components are wind and water, the fossil record in the limestone and.in the many tree species. Yew and juniper are considered some of the ‘first trees’ to have emerged after the Ice Age Melt. Indeed, at Florence Court House and Grounds, a National Trust site further down the road, there is a yew that is referred to as ‘The Mother Yew’ of Ireland, as they have the oldest representative of the species Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’. This is ancient landscape on so many levels.

You still have time to submit a poem to put this site onto our digital Geopark Poetry Map. Your poem may be represented alongside the commissioned work of five poets from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. If you want to submit a poem in Irish that would be very welcome, but please include the English translation alongside it. If you would like full guidelines please email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The closing date is 15th June 2021.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompt 11

Today I want to highlight not so much a site, but a geological feature that characterises the MACGeopark region – glacial erratics – those huge boulders and pedestal rocks that we find, especially close to Cavan Burren Forest. But I also have to say it is not unusual for you to see one that, having been unearthed when building a new home, becomes a front garden feature roundabouts. Which makes sense since our earliest ancestors saw them as aesthetic objects made of rock. They use them as their palette for some of the earliest examples of human art on this island. In terms of geoheritage topics you cannot beat the beauty, mystery and mystique surrounding glacial erratics. Surely, some poet can sing a hymn of praise to these earthly wonders for our Geopark Poetry Map!

This is an example of a type of glacial erratic, whereby the huge boulder would have been
left behind as the ice melted and retreated at the end of the last glaciation. The fact that the
boulder is a different type of rock from the underlying bedrock gives rise to the name ‘erratic’. This type of erratic is known as a pedestal rock and these features are relatively rare landforms. However, there is a significantly high concentration of pedestal rocks within Cavan Burren Park where they are considered to be of international significance. In order fora pedestal rock to form, the erratic must be deposited directly on top of the limeston
bedrock. Other glacial erratics within the forest have no pedestal suggesting that they were
transported within a mass of boulder clay and therefore came to be deposited on top of the
boulder clay and not directly on to bedrock. It is thought that the deposition of the huge
sandstone boulder directly on top of limestone acted as a barrier to erosion, as limestone
erodes readily in weak acidic water such as rainwater. If this is the case, then the amount of
erosion that has taken place since the end of the last glaciation is easily estimated as the
height of the limestone pedestal is the height that all of the limestone would have been whenthe erratic was deposited.

Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement

Within Cavan Burren Park there is also a rare example of what is called a ‘modified glacial erratic.’ Signposted as ‘The Boulder Tomb’ it is thought that cremated remains were deposited in the niche created by the modifications. There is also rock art at this location. A small spring can be found towards the bottom of the incline. I have to agree with local ceramic artist Jim Fee that this part of Cavan Burren Park has a special and very peaceful presence.

Enter the site and walk towards the huge boulder in themiddle. It is best to view this feature from below so walk downhill before stopping. This is another example of a huge glacial erratic. It displays evidence of alteration by man with rock art on the top surface. This is another example of a pedestal rock with the erratic beingsandstone and the underlying pedestal being limestone. In this instance the limestone has been carved and has been identified as a prototype tomb. If you look carefully at the sandstone you will see that the layers are contorted in places. This is probably due to some form of disturbance before it became lithified, when the wet layers of sand were disturbed causing the water to be released.

Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement

All the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark sites are open to the public and now we are free to travel round the country. Northern Ireland has a bank holiday this weekend and the Republic will have one the first week of June. You may want to visit Cavan Burren Park and hug some of these glacial eratics to inspire some poems that will put them on our Geopark Poetry Map. Email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for submission guidelines. The closing date is 15th June 2021.

Glacial eratics in Cavan Burren Park

The Weekly Poem – Tuning Fork

During a pandemic is is nice to have a routine engagement in the diary. If it is Tuesday, then it is time to write and post the weekly poem, even though it be a first draft. I have been working hard on the MACGeopark Poetry Map project, so it was like rediscovering play this morning when I realised I could write anything at all that I wanted. The sheet was blank. So was my mind, too!

But I took up my Personal Universal Deck, a little activity set during NaPoWriMo2021 last month, and pulled some cards to see what sparked. If you want to create your own set of poetry prompt cards I refer you to that original NaPoWriMo post on Day 3. They post a link that tells you how to make your own. ttps://paulenelson.com/workshops/personal-universe-deck/. It’s quite a long process as my students and I found out. This was the first time I actually put them through their paces.

The benefits of word play…and I stress the play element, is not to be underestimated. It has been a cold, rainy Spring here in Ireland and some outdoor projects have been put on the long finger. Temperatures have been so low at night time we have delayed planting. So play has to devolve to indoor activities a good deal of time this past month. Anyway, a bit of whimsy and word play is a bit of fun on a damp Tuesday.

Tuning Fork

Strike it on my cast iron hearth.
It trembles, quivers as it vibrates, hums
just like my husband's, quiet breath
in tune with his internal beat and flow
(a great favourite word of his).
Even as the cats' whiskers twitch, as do
the little deaf dog's ears alert,
then subside back into slumber. Whose tune?
What melody line flirts around
the kitchen and the living room? Airwaves
stroke like long fingers in concert,
musician's hands working the afternoon
Palm Court crowd supping  fancy tea,
wiping melted butter oozing off crumpets.
All in time to the sweep and sway
of stringed instuments, sometimes lulled, sometimes
breathless with tension,  suppressing
excitement, the breath shallow, chest heaving.
What key do we play in today?
Can we learn to sight read the shivering
airwaves, divine the call for right
response? Or let them dance like dust motes play,
suspended in the late afternoon light.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.


If it is a dull day and you fancy trying your hand at writing a poem, you could do worse than peruse the poetry prompts I have been posting to inspire geoheritage poems to be submitted to our digital Geopark Poetry Map. I have been making daily posts the past ten days and will do a fortnight’s worth in all. Hope you can have some fun word play today, too. And if it is rainy this weekend you have some inspiration at hand.

Featured image Photo by Magic Bowls on Unsplash

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 10

Hello Earth lovers and poetry writers! Day 10 of our MACGeopark Poetry Map prompts visits Tullydermot Falls. We are seeking geoheritage themed poems on various sites across Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. MACGeopark, as we who know and love it refer to it for short, was the first international, cross-border Geopark on the planet given that it has sites in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, part of the UK, as well as sites in County Cavan, Republic of Ireland. The geology of the region carved by sliding ice sheets over millenia knows no international boundaries. MACGeopark came into being in 2004, Marble Arch Caves and Cuilcagh Mountain Park forming the original boundary. It later expanded into County Cavan, covering some 18,00 hectares and over 90 sites of importance. In 2015, UNESCO gave MACGeopark it’s highest designation, recognising the world heritage importance of the region.

Here we are in a global pandemic in a time when geoheritage is of massive importance to the global future. In this Great Pause, which is tentatively hovering over the ‘on’ switch, MACGeopark has launched this digital Geopark Poetry Map to engage with the wider public, those both at home and abroad, adults and school age children. Over this fortnight until this Spring Bank Holiday Weekend (in Northern Ireland), I am publishing ‘sparks’ to help you engage with a site’s geoheritage and cultural significance to inform your poetry making.

Nature poetry has a long and strong tradition. The pastoral has given way to environmental and climate change poetry. But at the basis of all is the earth and how it shapes us. How we live, earn our bread, grow our food, our language and customs are all bound up with the shape of the land.

So, to today’s site! Tullydermot Falls, close to Swanlinbar in County Cavan.

In flowing to the sea, rivers try to deepen their valleys to the same level as the sea. Old and
mature rivers tend to have broad flat river beds whilst younger rivers are characterised by
water falls and rapids. This is especially the case in the upper reaches of rivers such as at
Tullydermot Falls. Tullydermot Falls occur in the upper reaches of the Claddagh River, a
tributary of the Erne River, which flows eastwards from its source in the Cuilcagh Mountains towards Swanlinbar. The falls are caused by the action of the water on the underlyingbedrock which consists of alternating layers of hard sandstones and softer shales. The fast flowing river erodes the soft rock leading to the undercutting of the overlying hard rock. The derelict cottages and farmhouses that are dotted across the landscape in this part of County Cavan are a stark reminder of the thriving farming communities that would have once been found throughout the Irish countryside. Many other landscape features also remind of this bygone era. Remnants of ‘lazy beds’, a method of forming ridges of earth to provide for crops can be seen in the fields nearby. Carefully packaged stacks of traditionally hand-cut turf dot the fields on either side of the Claddagh River, a technique that is still employed throughout Ireland to this day

Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement

If you are wondering what hand cut turf looks like (and you can see it in peat bog close to Tullydermot Falls), this is what it looks when it it is harvested each summer.

Here is some video footage to give you a taste of the ‘water and the wild.’

I hope that some of these poetry prompts over this fortnight will spark poems that appreciate the layers and nuances of our geoheritage here in MACGeopark. You can get guidelines from GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The closing date for submissions is 15th June 2021.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 9

Greetings from a scattered sunshine day here in a MACGeopark community. I say scattered sunshine because there is still the odd raindrop now and then. But at least it is not the hail stones that drummed on our roof yesterday! Spring is coming late to us in 2021, which may be why we just bought ourselves an upcycled fire pit. It is made from old tire rims and other bits and pieces. If we are going to have a cuppa with friends outdoors then we shall be swathed in blankets and can toast our toes along with the marshmellows this summer!

For today’s Geopark Poetry Map prompt I am sticking with the water theme. Because, along with rocks, water is a lot of what we have got! Today, I want to highlight Shannon Pot, the point when the underground source of the River Shannon bursts above ground to pour itself along ever widening banks down the length of the Republic of Ireland. My husband and I live in Dowra, the first village on the River Shannon after it’s rise a few miles north We pitched up in Dowra on a Mart Saturday back in September 2001. Little did I know then that this small corner of Geopark heaven would wind up being the place I have been resident longest in my lifetime. Who would have thunk it?!

But…back to the Shannon Pot:

The Shannon Pot is located in the foothills of Cuilcagh Mountain and is regarded as the
source of the River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland and the UK, with a length of
approximately 280km. The river flows from its source on Cuilcagh Mountain, to its estuary
below Limerick, and together with its tributaries drains an area of some 15,500km2, or about
one-fifth of the island of Ireland.
The Shannon Pot’s fame can be traced to the legendary Finn MacCool and the Fianna, the
great warriors of Irish mythology. Legend has it that Síonnan, the daughter of Lodan (a son
of Lír, the Celtic God of the Sea) came to the Shannon Pot in search of the great Salmon of
Wisdom. The salmon was angered by the sight of Síonnan and caused the pool to overflow
and drown the maiden. Thus the Shannon Pot was created. As surface water flows down from Cuilcagh Mountain, it will eventually sink and flow as underground streams and rivers. Up until recently it was thought that the Shannon Pot was the ultimate source of the River Shannon, but water tracing experiments have revealed that the Shannon Pot is fed by a variety of streams that sink on Cuilcagh Mountain, the furthest of these being over 10km away in county Fermanagh.
In this region, whenever water sinks underground, it works its way downwards through pure limestone (Dartry Limestone Formation) until it reaches the impermeable muddy limestone(Glencar Limestone Formation) below, forcing it to travel along this boundary until it intersects the surface as a spring or resurgence. However, the Shannon Pot is unusual as
the resurgence here is found within sandstone and shales, meaning that there is an
additional influence on the underground hydrology, apart from the lithology. In this instance
there are a number of faults that are most likely to have controlled the flow of groundwater,
acting as conduits instead of the limestone itself.
The hydrology of Cuilcagh Mountain has been studied for over 30 years, with many
important water tracing experiments being conducted to determine the underground flow of water.

Martina O’Neill, Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement

Our very first Christmas in Dowra we visited Shannon Pot before having our dinner. We had closed on the sale of our new home not three days prior. It felt very peaceful and we were completely in a state of awe and gratitude that we could afford to live in such a gloriously beautiful place, so close to nature.

I also have very fond memories of visiting Shannon Pot with a USA visitor on a misty and rainy April day. The hawthorn was blooming in the hedgerows that line the path down to the Pot. Through the mist we saw this very white horse (often called greys) with a sheep. It felt very ‘into the magical.’

You can visit the Shannon Pot if you are in Ireland. It is along the posted Cavan Way hiking trail. If you visit by car there is a picnic spot and small playground to exercise the little ones.

Here is a video that my friend Jane Gilgun posted on You Tube ten years ago. The information is all still relevant and it gives a good feel for the landscape.

Geoheritage of Shannon Pot

I hope these blogs will prompt geoheritage-themed poems that will put this site on our digital Geopark Poetry Map and inspire you to visit the Geopark. All the sites are open to the public now. You can get full submissions guidelines by emailing GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The closing date for submissions is 15th June 2021.

River Shannon between Shannon Pot and Dowra

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 8

Greetings Earth lovers and Poetry writers this watery Sunday. We are on a land of lakes theme this weekend (and I do not mean to plug a certain USA brand of butter from Wisconsin. Wisconsin may have more lakes, but it is also twice the size of the island of Ireland.) Both Fermanagh and Cavan, however, claim to have one lake for everyday of the year. Which is why Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark can claim to be the Lake District of Ireland. With so many to choose from surely you can put today’s lough on #MACGeopark digital Poetry Map.

Today’s lough is one that is close to my own home. Lough MacNean straddles the international boundary between Northern Ireland’s County Fermanagh and County Cavan in the Republic. There is an Upper Lough MacNean and a Lower Lough MacNean. Lower Lough MacNean is completely within the Fermanagh boundary. There is a little strip of river and wetland between the two with a bridge that links the villages of Belcoo in Fermanagh and Blacklion in Cavan.

The freshwater would have provided abundant fish and the system of loughs and rivers would have been a good way to navigate to better hunting grounds. Cushrush Island in Lower Lough MacNean shows evidence of habitation from the Mesolithic Age, when people first migrated to the island of Ireland. The many small islands would have made convenient stop offs. There are also remnants of crannogs in Lough MacNean, those man made islands (!) that modern eyes see as easily defended from marauders. But that is pure speculation. Some early ancestor decided to experiment with engineering. But, given the many megaliths surrounding the Lough MacNean area, it seems that the early dwellers were keen engineers, which is not pure speculation. We can still see the evidence of their labour and ingenuity.

This is the geological background to how this landscape was formed.

The single biggest impact on the landscape of the Geopark comes from the last glaciation.
As huge ice sheets slowly crept across the entire area, acting like giant sheets of sandpaper
and removing everything from their path. Some of the ice moved westwards forming the
glacial valley of Lower Lough Erne and Lough Macnean. Indeed many of the islands located
within Lough Macnean are in fact drumlins. These form from till or boulder clay that was
sculpted into this shape as massive ice sheets slowly crept across the landscape during the
last glaciation. Glacial moraines are another relict of our icy past and this is a general name
given to material left behind as the ice retreated at the end of the last glaciation. They tend to be primarily composed of sands and gravels and the land bridge that connects Upper and
Lower Lough Macnean is an excellent example of a glacial moraine.

Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnerships & Engagement

Moraines and drumlins walk hand in hand across the landscape. The island of Ireland has the largest moraine field on the planet and the Irish language gave geologists the word drumlin. It comes from the Irish droimnín, translating as little ridge. These whale-backed hills (metaphorically) swim in pods across the breadth of this island from County Down to Donegal.. You can find moraines and drumlins in many counties in Ireland. The moraines may not be seen, but the drumlins certainly can be seen and are the visual clue to what has gone on over the eons under your feet.

I hope thaat you have been finding some inspiration to submit poems to the Geopark Poetry Map. All sites are open to the public. But if you have to be an online visitor because of these pandemic times, you are also welcome to visit with your imagination and submit a poem, too. You can get full guidelines by emailing GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The closing date is 15th June 2021.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 7

Having a good weekend Earth lovers and Poetry writers? I hope so. To spur on geoheritage poems on #MACGeopark sites for our digital Poetry Map, I have been posting blog prompts for a week now with every intention of offering another week’s worth of poetry prompts. All the Geopark sites are open for visits and we are, at long last, able to travel outside our own county. You can get full guidelines and some great research resources by emailing GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com . The closing date for entries is 15th June 2021.

Today’s featured site is Lough Annagh, near Belturbet, Co. Cavan. The photos featured today are by my Zoom fitness instructor, Claire Shannon, who lives virtually beside the lough. She is also part of an intrepid group of year round swimmers known as Lake Annagh Dippers.

Remember back to Poetry Day Ireland and my poem about ribbed moraines? No? Here is a refresher.https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/04/29/mapping-a-part-of-the-geopark-this-poetry-day-ireland/ Lough Annagh is part of the Lough Oughter system of ribbed moraines.

It is also part of a Special Protection Area and Special Conservation Area as a natural eutrophic lake. Whooper Swans over winter here from their Icelandic summer nesting home and year round residents include widgeon and crested grebes. So plenty of geoheritage happening here to find its way into a poem!