Today was an unprecedented experience for Cultural Ecology class. Climbing Knocknarea was not only an epic hike as noted by the trail map (see below) but I had never heard of the story of Queen Maeve. As a prolific warrior queen she proved to be a formidable woman who ruled over the area of Connacht. Her grave, which sits at the top of this mountain provides the ultimate vantage point over her domain both in life and death. Reported by Niamh, Queen Maeve was buried standing up so that "no man could stand above her." Feminism that's over 2000 years old, I'll take it.
This visit provided another area of exploration for me. Like many culture-based stories there is a liminal connection between history and myth and the story of Queen Maeve, or Queen Medb. I will definitely bring my family back to this amazing hike.
Another component of this hike, beyond the power of Gaelic women across history and culture, is the concept of access. This public hike traverses land owned by a farmer, maybe even several farmers. Yet. there is no monitoring or sense that a hiker is trespassing to enjoy this hike. This concept is a stark difference in Hawaiʻi and other parts of the U.S. as privatization and restricting access is increasingly. I could not help but think about beach access paths in Kailua, Mauna Kea protesters and Bears Ears. I learned more about this movement, albeit through the UK version in a podcast I listened to when I returned home some weeks later. I found it helpful and hope you have a listen (click on the button below).
Cavan Burren was a return visit for me but this time Niamh, our fearless leader, decided to take the group on two new paths through this prehistoric forest. The aerial map above shows just how vast and dense this landscape is compared to the agricultural landscapes that border the forest.
Something new I learned on this trip is the many tall canopy trees that appear in Ireland are not native trees but transplants from the Pacific Northwest in North America in the form of pine and fir, Douglas to be exact. The Irish government decided to bring in these trees to assist with lumber production and raw materials for housing and infrastructure.
The ecology and climate of the forest feel from a different time altogether. Upon hiking through this area onlookers canʻt help but think about how this landscape was used hundreds if not thousands of years ago. Photos do not properly depict the scale nor the layout of these structures properly.
Upon our return to Bundoran we visited the shore to learn more about the seaside ecology and wander around the fossilized remains of this landscape. This seashore trip provided a new area to explore at the edge of the rock outcropping near the diving area. Many in our group rock climbed to get a clear vantage point while others minded the shore to observe and wade in the clouds of billowing seaweed which provided needed shelter to several creatures including crabs and fish. The flora was also very similar to the plants, except for the trees, that we encountered in Cavan Burren.
I walk in this area early every morning so it was magical to see this same space at sunset. Since the vantage point provided a clear line of sight to the east it was spectacular and reminded me of the sky in Kekaha, Kauaʻi at sunset.
Loughcrew Passage Tombs presented a new perspective for me on passage tombs as two years ago I saw Knowth in the Newgrange area. The Knowth passage tomb was massive and an awesome sight. Since this was an OPW managed site, and a highly touristed area, there is a mandatory and necessary hands off policy.
This sight is on private property but still managed by OPW staff in terms of maintenance. The interaction with Loughcrew is far more personal as visitors are able to enter the tomb and feel the carved stones made by prehistoric people. Although I had a fair amount of trepidation upon entering a passage tomb because of its sacredness and mystical use by previous inhabitants of the area. It was not clear during out visit if this passage tomb was actually used as a burial or mainly for marking the spring equinox as many other cairns, or stone mounds built to establish a monument or significant location, in the area are known for.
As always, the Irish landscape is breathtaking and calming all at the same time. Other than Kauaʻi, there is no other place that I've traversed that provides the same gob smack of raw, natural beauty. The landscape not only reveals how uninhabited Ireland is but also what perhaps Hawai'i looked like over 200 years ago. Born and raised on 'Oahu, the concept of wide open spaces does not come easily to me. When I visit the countryside of Ireland or the communities outside of Lihue, I am immediately soothed by how openness (and lack of development) can change one's perspective and sense of presence in a place.
Hawaiʻi is important to me for innumerable reasons, many of which were decided before I was born and through circumstances that allowed by family to make a home in these islands. My family has been in Hawaiʻi since sometime in the late 1890s when my great-great grandmother Mary Rapoza, as a widow and mother of five, ran a boarding house in Paukaʻa, Hawaiʻi just outside of Hilo. This boarding house would be the circuitous landing spot for my great-grandfather Antone Ferreira who was a stowaway from the Madeira Islands, Portugal. Antone and Mary's eldest daughter, Gloria, would marry and raise eight children in Mountain View, Hawaiʻi. One of these children would be my grandmother Marjorie, who eventually traveled to ʻOahu and married Tony dela Fuente, a Spanish son of bakers who had a passion for boxing and a keen eye for masonry and endless time for fishing and tako diving. These ramshackle children of immigrants, that were my grandparents, fully embraced the American Dream and raised a small family in the neighborhoods of Kaimukī and Palolo. As a result, Hawai'i represents the dreams of my elders, the landing point and intersection of my heritage and the eventual resting place of my beloved family members.
The journey that lays before me in Ireland started in 2015 when a dear and respected friend and colleague asked me, "Do you want to go to Ireland with me?" In retrospect and many months after this initial conversation, I learned that she never thought I would join her in Ireland. Yet, this whimsical trip was perhaps one of the more defining trips I've ever taken. I look forward to this trip with even bigger eyes and a ferocious appetite to be even a little brave like my great-grandparents.
p.s. I'll tell the Ireland and English side of my family in a later post. Hawai'i, to me, is about the drastic changes of the early 19th century, my adventurous and humble elders, and the joining of stories through diverse histories and understandings.
I'm taking this class again to increase my knowledge and connections to Ireland. As a teacher, I need to be a student from time to time in order to better understand the student experience. This allows me to understand my students and grow my teaching prowess.