Dispatches from Ireland: Cliffs of Moher

My blog has been sitting around in the back of the garage, unused for some time. In an attempt to jumpstart both the blog and my own writing routine, I am posting journal entries from recent travels in Ireland and Scotland. These take the form of missives, poems, and wandering thoughts accompanied by photographs. Many are undeveloped or unfinished and are in a way the product of my mind in process.

When I travel half way around the world (which hasn’t happened for close to a decade) my aim is not to check off a list of sights and attractions. I like to, as much as possible, find the texture of the local landscape and culture. Most places (and one could argue all places) today are stamped with the print of human history on their landscape. In Ireland and Scotland this print is particularly obvious and cannot be ignored. In these dispatches, my intention is to look at the place as it now, but also to ask why it is the way it is now. In the end, I am always comparing to the places I know in an attempt to better understand and appreciate the context in which I live.

August 14th, 2018

Cliffs of Moher

Where land falls away into the Atlantic at the western edge of the Burren, County Clare

Far above the mesmerizing, choppy sea. Six hundred feet
below waves are scraping cliffs,
shearing at an angle
just as you would cut a hedge.


Low clouds,
grey afternoon.

The fulmars tuck wings in and out to control swoops that
flirt with cliff lines—winging up as if to land on a ledge,
fluttering, pausing, turning—
whisking down.

The air is humid enough to gulp down, to pull up into the nostrils,
fumigating the sinuses with mist and sea spray.
Heather clings to the top lip of  cliff lines
blooming in bunches
of purple
at the end of woody stems.

The wind is surprisingly warm and Dad and I stop to shed layers
on a ledge where visitors have stacked hundreds of piles of stone.We eat ham and cheese
and look down at the sea
grating away at the soft, grey shalestone and watch the
fulmar’s acrobatics,
as they curve back into the U-shaped recesses of the cliff.

Sun has hit the Atlantic and it appears as strands moored at sea—
temporary adornments that turn the rolling surface from grey to silver-white.
With the southwest movement of the wind the
sun jewels
seem they will stay there,
stuck between cloud banks,
out of reach of land.IMG_4280

Easy swells—big, steady,
echoing swells.

Yarrow and cow parsnip poke up among the heather.
The grass is shaped by the patterns of the wind.

We walk south on the cliff edge towards Hag’s Head where
a lookout tower was built to look for Napoleon’s ships.
Gusts come up suddenly
shove me off balance.IMG_4270

I walk further from the edge
keeping the stacked shale wall
(such a gapless, strong wall)
on my left.

I see a figment of white whizzing up from below, straight up over my head, lost into the sky. Another. Many, all at once. They are bits of foam, created in the mash of water below, more air than water now. As they take flight I wonder if they will fall down somewhere in a shower all at once or be borne into the sky to merge with cloud.

It has turned to evening and the cloud is descending and the sea has turned a dark, slate blue—biridium Dad calls it because there is green in it. Colorblind myself, I do not question the painter’s eye.IMG_4312

The fog comes in so that only the whites of the waves blink through the mist.
Sometimes you can make out a turquoise fringe
where foam has churned back,
re-circulating into the sea.

No one seems to be out on these cliffs anymore.
Fog has filled in the gaps.
Somewhere not far offshore the flat and seer profile of Inisheer,
the closest of the Aran islands,
lies wrapped up and obscured.



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