Monday, March 27, 2017

Mushroom Monday

They're Back

Lovely little edibles. Morels. I only picked 2 of the 9 I found. Letting the rest grow a bit

Morels, morels! I found 9 in the morning drizzle after several very wet days, all under a big red Oak. Other beautiful mushrooms have returned, too, after a very dry couple of months. So expect Mushroom Mondays to resume as long as the fungi are flowering here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Emerald Post Update

So far I've dispatched 4 months of Emerald Post and it has been a thrill to send the fruits of my Celtic inspirations to people near and far. Over at Emerald Post Blog I chronicle each month's post and its contents after I've sent them out (so I don't spoil the surprise of my recipients). In case you have wondered just what is in an Emerald Post, check out the past contents below. You can also click on the link in the captions to learn more. Emerald Post also introduced the Celtic Portal Collection of 8 Postcards and will soon offer a set of Mini Notecards. I'd also like to remind you that if you miss out on a month of Emerald Post, you can often grab a piece from past months individually if I have them leftover, such as my Dublin Icons Watercolor, Glendalough Blockprint, as well as March's 40 Shades of Green Butterfly.  

Today it is incredibly overcast and rainy which reminds me of my trips to Celtic lands (namely Scotland where it rained at least a bit for 14 days straight!). So it seems a good day to put The Chieftains on the stereo and brainstorm for the coming months' Emerald Posts.

March Emerald Post
February Emerald Post
January Emerald Post
December Yuletide Emerald Post

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Welcome Spring

Spring arrived yesterday, here in the Midwest with a sultry 87 degrees and a gorgeous blood orange sunset. Back to normal today with rain (thank goodness) and 60s. Spring is such a delicious, refreshing season. I hope it lingers, though yesterday had me fearing it would get skipped altogether.

May Spring be beautiful, long, and green. May we be blessed with blooms and rain a plenty. May the season inspire your soul. Go outside and greet the green.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

May you always have
walls for the wind,
a roof for the rain,
tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you,
those you love near you
and all your heart might desire 

-Irish Blessing

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Virtually Visiting a Castle

Understandably not everyone can travel to the Celtic Isles and traipse around castle ruins. Even for those of us that have, it is always nice to revisit a place in spirit when we cannot in body. Thankfully to satisfy our appetites for the ancient, the crumbly, the stoic, and the arching magnificence that is a castle ruin - we can visit them on the web. Sometimes we stumble upon great interesting videos. Here are some of my favorites for you to watch as we near St. Patrick's Day:

*Click Full Screen on Videos to really enjoy !

Dundrum Castle is in County Down, Northern Ireland. We visited there in 2015. I was thrilled when I found this Time Team (an awesome long running BBC Archeology Show - any episode from Time Team is fascinating and so many are on YouTube) episode of an archeological dig at Dundrum Castle

Dundrum Castle

Now Dunluce Castle is near and dear to me. It is how I stumbled upon my Irish ancestry and my far off Irish ancestors, the MacQuillans, laid the first stones here on the cliffs of Antrim.

MacQuillan Towers of Dunluce Castle, County Antrim, Ireland

Looking out to sea from the Mermaid's Cave beneath Dunluce

The Connolly Cove Channel on YouTube is full of awesome short videos from all over Ireland. Below is one that introduces us to some basic history of Dunluce (for more in depth info I like the book Dunluce Castle by Colin Breen). There is also some incredible scenic drone footage of Dunluce below that includes a seaside look at the mermaid's cave:

Don't forget about all of Traveling Chariot's previous travel posts which you can access HERE

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

Glendalough, Ireland

There is a magical, mystical place in a remote wooded valley, deep in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland. Some call it holy, many call it beautiful, but its name is Glendalough. Glen-duh-lock and it means Valley of the Two Lakes. It is a special place indeed. The woods which are now an Irish National Park are soft with moss and colored with that green light that only seems to shine in Irish woods. Hiking trails crisscross the seemingly ancient forest. The Poulanass waterfall rewards intrepid hikers who trek to its heights with a stunning view and the Glendasan river sings its song over the water-worn boulders below.

And then there is the history of this place. The ruins of an Early Christian Monastic settlement sit at the base of the woods. St. Kevin was a hermit and sought solitude and peace here at Glendalough in the 6th century. He later established a monastery here where he found peace with the wild animals of the woods. In fact, many of his legends involve animals, most famous is St. Kevin and the blackbird:

Legend holds that one day, St. Kevin, with his arms outstretched, knelt deep in prayer. As he did so a blackbird nested I his hand & laid an egg. St. Kevin, being compassionate & patient, did not move his hand nor remove the eggs until the birds hatched & flew away.

Today, many structures remain from the time of St. Kevin through later centuries when Glendalough served as a holy center. Tranquility, perhaps, is what the monks sought here and I can attest that here, tranquility remains.

This locus of peace and natural beauty seems to be at wild corner of Ireland, far from modernity but it is, in fact, just about an hour drive from the capital, Dublin. And if you ever go to Ireland, especially if you are only visiting Dublin, make a point to take a day bus trip to Glendalough. (Note: it's quite busy on weekends). It is such a great slice of the history, landscape, & soul of Ireland. 

My visits to Glendalough inspired a block print in February's Emerald Post and it is still available HERE.

We captured this view after we accidently took one of the longer, and much steeper trails that Glendalough has to offer. Pretty much worth it though.

Original Block Print of Glendalough - Available HERE

Friday, March 3, 2017

Portal Collection

If you haven't heard, this Traveling Chariot is now delivering Celtic inspired art to mailboxes near and far in the form of Emerald Post. There is an extra-Irish edition of Emerald Post nearly ready for the month of March and other new things budding this spring....

Always, I've been drawn to doorways, to portals, tunnels to other times. They are physically beautiful, metaphorically powerful, and always evocative, beckoning. There are so many exquisite doorways in the Celtic lands of Ireland & Scotland. They generously pepper my travel photos. I've collected 8 (this was a challenge) of my favorites to offer as Emerald Post's first collection. Go ahead, turn the handle, pass through. Wonders surely await .

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, you can get your hands on the Celtic Portal Collection of 4x6 photo Postcards. This stunning postcard set transports you to lands & times faraway, to crumbling castle ruins, to ivy-clad cathedrals, to enchanted forests. Hop over the Emerald Post Shop to get your collection now or send a set for a charming, unique gift!

Emerald Post Shop also keeps a few extras on its shelves from past months like February's block print of the wooded ruins at Glendalough and January's Dublin Watercolor. You can read & see more of Emerald Post over at the Emerald Blog.

Eight high gloss, color rich, 4x6 Photo Postcards

Backsides printed for Postcard use, complete with Emerald Post Postmark.
Set is bound with unique Portal Collection Band and send in the standard green, hand addressed envelope to you.


Wee crocus blooms

Saucer Magnolia Bloom frenzy

Magnolia tree at the local library

Nectarine Blossoms -Beautiful but early

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Happy March

Somedays it feels as if Spring is already here, or has been here for awhile. Daffodils are in bloom and crocuses have been popping up for weeks now. Fruit trees are dotted with pink blooms and other green things are pushing up toward the sun. But for sure, spring arrives March 21st with or without the weather. Looking forward to all of its gifts in all of its colors.

A recent painting I completed on a shop window. Spreading some spring fever and a little (or a lot) of Irish charm.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Spring Afoot

Things are stirring in the dark, just beneath out feet. They are planning for their journey toward the sun. And no wonder, as winter has been strangely mild with 70 degree days bookended by freezes. A topsy turvy season to be sure. These crocuses are winter bulbs, though, and it is their time to bloom. They are such treats while the rest of the natural world is still grey and slumbering. Looking forward to all the gifts that spring brings.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Shadow of Spring

Happy Groundhog's Day here in America. Happy St. Brigid's Day in Ireland. Happy Imbolc in Ancient Ireland. The beginning of February is steeped in old folklore, traditions, and religion, though many only know of the infamous Punxsutawney Phil.

Traditionally, if the groundhog emerges from his burrow and it is cloudy, thus seeing no shadow, spring will come early. If it is sunny and the groundhog sees his shadow, he will retreat back into his burrow and winter will persist for six more weeks. 

This tradition has trickled down from ancient times. February 1st is the Ancient Celtic Festival of Imbolc, which divides the winter from the spring and honors the Celtic Goddess of fire and fertility, Brigit or Brigid. She dispelled the dark of winter and was "mistress of fertility"* to the land, animals and women, too. Later this day would be Christianized into St. Brigit's Day, the patron saint of mothers, cattle, and poets. Imbolc marked time to begin sowing seeds for Spring and reading the signs of nature to forecast spring weather. "An exceptionally fine day was regarded as an omen of poor weather to come."** Seeing a hedgehog was a good sign, because he would always return to the burrow if he sensed the coming of bad weather.** Traditionally, ancient civilizations also trusted the Badger to impart this important prediction because they lived beneath the earth where Spring might already be afoot. If the badger saw his shadow, winter would linger on. This tradition came over to America with German settlers and became the Groundhog Day we know today, once with a little more veneration.*

So many nearly forgotten or over-commercialized traditions are deeply rooted in the past. There is so much history in the transformation of traditions, from a Celtic Festival to Punxsutawney Phil, and much can be learned about our ancestors who settled this country and the places they left behind.

*Dance of Time by Michael Judge
**A Year in Ireland by Kevin Danaher

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

British Isles # 21: Around the Cairngorms, Scotland

Not far inland from the Cliffside Dunnottar Castle you will enter the Cairngorms National Park. An amazing, but short and easy hike can be taken at Burn O Vat (burn means stream in Scots Gaelic) near Dinnet. Park at the trailhead (where there is a restroom) and take an easy wooded hike to a what looks like a dead end. The rocks create a little portal through which you enter the vat - a giant bowl shaped rock hollow created by years of stream erosion. From here you can scramble up past a small waterfall along the stream and moss and ivy covered boulders - slippery but worth the effort. Directions and more trail info HERE.  

From Burn O Vat we drove through the Cairngorms to The Glenlivet Whisky Distillery for an afternoon pick me up. Then we were on to Grantown-on-Spey where we stayed at the Craiglynne Hotel

The next morning we took shelter from the rain in the Glenfiddich Distillery, peeked into Balvenie Castle ruins across the road and then headed a bit south through the Cairngorms to Auchindoun Castle, a desolate ruin. We visited Auchindoun on a cold, cloudy April day. Sitiated atop a high hill on the edge of Cairngorms above the deep valley of the River Fiddich (as in "Glenfiddich" Whisky), this is perhaps the windiest place I've ever been. The hike seemed harsh against the wind as we walked up a lane and through a farmstead but was really perhaps a half mile. We parked our car near the main road as the lane said not suitable for vehicles but knowing what was ahead we would have driven up that road at least a bit (unless it was muddy, mind you). Auchindoun was incredible - so stark and lonely, a gothic ruin if ever I saw one. I especially loved how the field around the castle was planted with rows of crop (turnips, I think) and the dozens of sheep grazed and dotted the field. Worth a visit if you have the time. You'll likely find yourself alone here a the top of the world, or so it feels.

Auchindoun Castle, Scotland

Late Winter Cairngorms
Late Winter Caringorms
Onward north we stopped in Elgin to see the cathedral ruins and ancient Pictish Stones as well as Spynie Palace and Duffus Castle. Then we ended in Inverness for the night, arriving too late to stop into Leakey's Bookshop which could have busied me for hours days. Alas, I don't travel just to shop for books so we sadly missed out on this gem There is always next time...

Elgin Cathedral

Stone with Christian Carving on one side and Pictish Carving on the reverse

Spynie Palace Ruins above and below

Duffus Castle - just a few scattered ruins here atop a motte and bailey earthwork and remnants of a wall enclosure. Still fun to scramble around the tilted ruins.
Leakey's Bookshop, Inverness. Still dreaming of this bibliophile heaven...