First off: I’d like to say that my time as a poet in Ireland has been inevitably touched by the death of Seamus Heaney, who was such a vital part of the literary and artistic culture of Ireland and also one of the most important poets in my own writing journey. I’ll soon be posting a tribute blog for Seamus, who I had the good fortune of meeting last year, so keep an eye out for that.
The end of art is peace.
Today E and I spend the day in Tralee. We are leaving just before the start of the Rose of Tralee festival, and the first thing we see when Brigid drops us off in town in a non-functional ferris wheel being erected in the center of the town. The sites we want to see in Tralee include the main cathedral (dating back to the 1800s) and two other churches. We stop by the churches, enjoying the nice weather outside and the quiet of candle, marble, and stained glass inside. I think back to the years I spent studying art history and find myself mentally labeling the different parts of the cathedral: nave, transept, vault, Basilica style, Gothic style, etc.
E and I continue discussing art history as we eat lunch in a rose garden. The inscriptions that mark the roses are gone, faded away, and as we picnic beneath a tree we are greeted by a stranger’s dog.
We walk out of Tralee to visit the Blennerville Windmill. Blenneville is a village located on the edge of Tralee Bay. This is the starting point of the Dingle Way hiking trail, and as we walk the curving road towards it, we see the windmill in the distance with mountains in the backdrop, a stone bridge in the foreground.
The current windmill is the product of a restoration project; the original windmill went out of use in the 1800s. Though technically a functional mill today, the restored windmill is mostly used as a historical attraction, and was erected as a symbol of hope in an area trying to rise from a violent and bleak history. We climb narrow wooden stairwells inside, and are halfway into the structure when the windmill starts to operate. A circular shadow passes rhythmically outside the windows. Indoors, wood and metal pump in turn, and there is an ambience of dust even though the dust present is settled along the floorboards.
The sight of the restored windmill begins the dialogue of old vs. new, of the historical landscape of Ireland vs. the developing landscape. In the case of Blennerville, restoration and development have been used to build and sustain hope within a certain community, even if the windmill’s status as a tourist attraction makes it seem a little more detached, a little less communal. Where do we place our fidelity? Is our loyalty and nostalgia related to a place, to a way or life, to a certain honesty that seems to disappear?