Take Five Senses

In a couple of hours I am going to be evangelising about using lots of detail to describe things in writing. The project I am engaged in involves heritage and last week I introduced the ogham tree alphabet. But in some interactions I realised that even these rural school children are less than fluent in naming tree species. We live in such a biodiverse setting, too, it seems a pity. But this is what comes of losing words like acorn and willow from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. (Please see my poem on the Lost Words in my post https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/02/18/lost-worlds/.) My creative writing facilitator/teacher and Marble Arch Caves Geopark guide roles overlap sometimes as I spread the word about our natural heritage.

Later this morning I am going to challenge some kids to get acquainted with a tree species by writing a five senses poem. This involves getting in words that describe your subject using all your senses: sight, smell, hearing, feeling and taste. Since trees are our subject the taste part may be difficult, but we’ll work on it. I figured I ought to do one in that kind of ‘here’s one I made earlier’ way, to illustrate how you might tackle it. I chose willow for my poem today. I can see one from my window. The Irish name for willow is sailleach. The Hiberno-English corruption of that is sally. Hence, the title of today’s Poetry Daily.

Sally 

There is a certain scent-
early morning raindrops on tender leaf-
that could be bottled and labeled
'Willow Water',
marketed as essence
of her special brand of dilute green.
.
Sally's fronds shiver against the wind.
Her shoulders shudder.
It's too early for such bluster.
She shooshes for quiet.
It's like the sough of waves
as the tide rushes over pebble beach.
But the sea is miles and miles away.
Besides, Sal prefers the peaty water
from the depths of ditches
that run straight in rows
along the sides of the road.

She's that slender you'd not know
how strong she really can be.
See how she turns her face
away from the wind.
She bends and blends.
I can hear her giggling glee
standing out there in a storm.
She's like one of those cheerleaders
who bobs and waves pompoms
when her team makes a score.

She can do the tumbling routines, too.
But if you bump and get bruised
Sal is the sort who would be
the first to aid.
She'd peel the shirt right off her back
to help any and all,
make some bark tea for you
to drink away every bitter ache.
That's just our Sally.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

At Home With Heritage

This summer I have been participating in a Cavan County Council Artists in the Geopark project. Musicians, animators, a ceramicist, visual and landscape artists, and writers have been viewing various sites within Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark as a touchstone for individual projects. The wider project is the brain child of the Cavan County Arts, Heritage, Tourism and Geopark officers, and is a a great example of how imaginative an interdisciplinary approach can be, especially when it comes to supporting the arts.

For those of you who may wonder what the heck a geopark is then, in brief – UNESCO recognises certain regions around this good earth as having a unique international significance for their natural, geological features, as well as ‘built’ heritage. Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark was the first cross-border Global Geopark, in the world. Its sites extend from Louth Melvin on the Donegal boundary, through a swathe of south Fermanagh, onwards east through to mid-County Cavan. Cavan is the location of the world’s largest ribbed moraine on the planet. You can only see it from an aerial view, but it gets geologists seriously excited.

Of course, the land formed the people and the people made the built heritage. So this week I had a date with twelve other artists at Corravahan House near Drung, County Cavan. It is an example of how people used local materials to create homes of both beauty and utility. Formerly a rectory built in 1840 by a Reverend Beresford on a career trajectory toward the Archbishopric of Armagh (which is as good as it can get for a Church of Ireland clergyman), Corrovahan House is a building full of grace, as well as full of individual quirks from its succession of owners.

It is Heritage Week here in Ireland. This part of Ireland breathes an ancient and wild heritage. But it also domesticated itself, a bit like my semi-feral cat Felix. Home comforts are welcome, but there is always an air of the wildish about him. Corravahan House encompasses how there is practical adaptation of a house to social context and status, but  how it also includes certain whimsicalities that are very individual to the people who inhabited its space. While Corravahan House is part of Irish Heritage Homes and is open to the public for sixty days each year, it remains a family home with much evidence of the current layer of heritage archaelogy being built up.

I am also a Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark local guide. When I am showing certain archaelogical sites in Cavan Burren Forest I like to imagine how it was to live in that ancient time. There is a particular glacial erratic split by neolithic inhabitants. Archaelogists reckon it was a project to create a capstone for a dolmen. But plans went awry when it split at an unprojected seam.  The remains are proximal to hut site foundations. I always feel sympathy for the husband who had to have the remains of his DIY disaster in the backyard for an eternity. Literally. Possibly having to listen to his wife kvetch about it, too.

In Cavan you have many opportunities to see the layer of human interaction with landscape. You can see it in carefully conserved homes like Corravahan House. But you can also see it in relict landscapes like the Cavan Burren Park, where there was continuous human habitation from the earliest human arrivals in Ireland, right up to when Coillte, the Forestry Commission took over when the last farmer retired.  Thousands of year, eons even, have all wondrously brought us to this place.

I feel fortunate, blessed and humbled, to have had a walk on part in its ever unfolding story. Meanwhile, I need to get back to my own project. I am editting, revising and collecting my own Geopark inspired writing from over the years living here. Watch this space.