The weather can remind one of place and memories. Today I am reminded of what I’ll be missing while I am in Ireland for the next three weeks. The skies are rumbling and rowdy this afternoon above northern New Mexico. The rain is loud on my steel roof. The stallion statue above my kitchen frozen in deluge. South of here, hundreds of miles, forests in the Land of Enchantment are burning at historic rates. Hot and swift. Among the Rio Grande, the music teeming in our plaza and slow burn of increasingly hot summer days, I will be missing the wild rain and fire of the high desert summer.
Perhaps I can bring some precipitation from the Irish jet stream home with me. I don’t think cloud seeds and cool weather need to be declared at customs. The thermometer may not reach 70˚ while visiting. I cannot imagine fire on an island so green. Unless it involves peat.
Here are the bookends of my trip which I will miss on both ends.
On Saturday 16 June, in Dublin, I will miss Bloomsday. Dubliners and revelers of James Joyce recount the steps of Leopold Bloom, the protagonist from the authors Irish epic Ulysses. The entire novel takes place on one day in Dublin, 16 June 1904. Presumably the acolytes of the Irish novelist start from Dun Laoghaire (dun LEERY, ½ hour away) in a tower where Joyce once lived and his novel begins. From there the all day adventure follows the path of Bloom as he traversed the regular streets and day of Dublin.
On 12 July, I will be missing the Orangeboys marching in towns across Northern Ireland to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne. As English kings struggled for the crown at the twilight of the 17th century, Catholic James II and Protestant William III clashed at this decisive battle north of Dublin. William of Orange (hence the Orangeboys) won the battle and secured the throne for Protestant rule in England. This was a final rebellion as it were for the English kings and what followed soured English-Irish relations for the next three hundred years. The Penal Laws were passed to strip the rights of Irish Catholics and outlawed Gaelic culture. So when the Protestant-Unionist-Northern Irish march to commemorate this battle one can imagine the emotional consequences each summer. One group marches. The Catholic-Republican-Northern Irish protest. It is not just a show.
Fund For Teachers has been gracious enough to award me my second Fellowship this summer to travel Ireland from 17 June through 6 July. I will be studying more the tensions on the island than the literary tromps through a day in Dublin’s past. I will be investigating the legacy of the Troubles for Irish youth. As I learn and expand my perspective on local borders, I hope to return to my students and help them build bridges in their own community across our own centuries old divides and differences.
I hope to tour Belfast, Derry, Strabane and rural Northern Ireland to discover the legacy of Peace Walls, murals and neighborhood divides; collaborate with researchers and gather their materials/readings/experts to use in my classroom; interview members of young community, students and teachers if possible, to share their voices with my own students concerning violence, drugs, awareness of Irish history and outlook for their future; and finally to meet with poets and visual artists to learn how the legacy of the Troubles, identity issues and border concerns influence their work.
My touring will be packed with experiences. I will be wandering rough sectarian neighborhoods where I’ll stick out like a sore thumb. I politely seat myself in seedy pubs presenting myself as a poet immersing himself in modern Irish verse and maybe buy a round (not on the dole of FFT, of course). I wish to meet students at the Hazlewood Integrated College. I hope to reconnect with a family friend in Strabane, an isolated border town near County Donegal. I relish the opporunity to hang with poet Colin Dardis and his performance mates in Belfast. I am thankful for the outreach of the Institute for Conflict Research and the Northern Ireland Foundation. We’ll see happens.
At this point all I know is that I’ll land in Dublin on Monday 7:45AM, watch football’s Boys in Green take on Italy at the EuroCup that night, and spend the next day getting my bearings in Ireland’s capital bustling with gray. Itinerary to come.
If you have an opinion, suggestion or comment please feel free to post on anything I may be brash enough to write. This blog will be a chronicle of my trip, but will also serve as a curricular tool in my classroom. The more voices the better.