Category Archives: ireland

A View From Maree by Eoin Gardiner

The Irish countryside tugs at my heartstrings, and the beauty of western Ireland is simply enchanting. I am so pleased that Eoin Gardiner’s photograph, “A View From Maree”, graces the cover of An Irish Miracle. Maree is in County Galway in western Ireland, where a large part of the story takes place.

I only recently made Eoin’s acquaintance through his photographs on Flickr. I already know he has a keen eye, an engaging sense of humor, and a generous heart. Through Eoin’s photographs, you might catch a glimpse of what Alastar and Dillon Connolly experienced as they each searched for their own places in the world.

Click on each photograph below to see the originals on Flickr, or visit Eoin’s photostream, check out all of his beautiful photographs, and take your own wee bit of a trip to the Emerald Isle!

Watertower Rainbow by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – This water tower might look a lot like the ancient, stone watchtower Dillon explored during his first day in Ireland. 

Road Through the Burren by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – At the Shepherd’s Inn, Mara suggested that Dillon explore a bit of the Burren on his way to Ballybrit. She told him, “It’s said that the Burren ‘. . . is a country where there’s not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him and yet their cattle are very fat.’” 

Burren View Photomerge by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – Wildflowers growing among the clints (slabs) and grykes (fissures) of the natural limestone formations paving much of the Burren. 

Sunrise at Ashford Castle by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – The Irish countryside is dotted with many ancient, stone ruins begging to be pondered . . . and explored. 

Clarinbridge by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – As Alastar walked from Shannon toward Ballybrit, on his first real adventure, he may have encountered many scenes like this one, in search of a kind farmer with a hayloft he could spend the night in, and maybe a kind farmer’s wife who would give him breakfast after the next morning’s chores. 

Headford Road by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – Once he was more confident about driving on the left, Dillon may have taken a national secondary a lot like this one, on his way to Ballybrit. 

Fog Over the Fields of Athenry by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – “Bert came into the bedroom and waited quietly. Alastar glowered at him through sunken eyes when he corked the bottle on the dresser. His face was the color of the kind of fog that swallows sheep whole.” 

Grey Mare by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – This sweet, little mare’s name could very well be Molly. If we could see into the paddock behind her, we might find Wilbur, as well. 

Baling the Silage by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – Family farms in Ireland — and in Ohio — were often handed down from father to eldest son, and through each succeeding generation, the ties to the land grew even stronger. 

Go Ahead, Eat My Lawn by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – Tom and Mike’s herding dogs would never have let this baby sheep stray far from their flock, but if she did, they would have rounded her up straight away. 

A View From Maree by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – And, or course, A View From Maree, less than fifteen kilometers from Ballybrit. Thanks again, Eoin, for your kind generosity in allowing your photo to grace the cover of An Irish Miracle

If you happen to read and enjoy An Irish Miracle, please take a moment to help spread the word to family and friends.

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In any case, definitely visit Eoin Gardiner’s photostream on Flickr, enjoy his keen eye and sense of humor, and help me thank him for his generosity!

Love of Countryside

Young Robbie in Ohio

I was raised in rural Ohio. It wasn’t a farm, but it was a big enough plot to have a large garden with room left over for pickup football games on crisp fall days. The maple trees added an element of suspense, and someone always went home a bloody hero. There was a little creek that trickled through the bottom of the property until a few days of hard rain drove it out of its banks and across the flood plain. As a boy, I couldn’t seem to go near that creek without getting wet, either jumping across it, falling off the random toppled tree that sometimes bridged it, or just sitting beside it. That five-acre plot has been in my family’s name for over 150 years now. Thankfully, it still is.

Countryside in the Connemara District of Western Ireland

Countryside in Western Ireland

My father’s family traces its roots back to Ireland, around the time of the Great Famine that forced so many people to leave their land in search of a place to make a new life. I had the good fortune to visit Ireland over a decade ago, and I fell in love with the people and the countryside there. It was easy to see why many of those Irish farmers chose Ohio as their new land. Whether I was gazing across green pastures in the Connemara district, hiking through the clints and grykes of the limestone pavement of the Burren, or exploring the ruins of Hore Abbey near The Rock of Cashel, the Irish countryside whispered to my heart. It told tales of clans and kings battling over the land—of farmers and shepherds and their families scratching out a life in that harsh, beautiful land.

Ruins of Hore Abbey

In these modern times, it seems so many people have never experienced having ties to any land. Growing up in cities of granite and asphalt, moving from temporary space to temporary space . . . never having a creek of their own to fall in or to daydream beside . . . how can they feel anchored—grounded—never having a place to put down roots? It disquiets me just to think about it.

One of the central themes of An Irish Miracle is a family’s ties to their land . . . and the lengths they will go to when those ties are threatened.