Writing Abroad: Dublin
Week 3 Blog Entry
by Ashlee James
Entering week 3 of our experiences here in Dublin, Ireland, we had quite the field trip experience. I can only imagine the poems and short stories that will be inspired by the wealth of history and country life we were able to immerse ourselves in on our final field trip.
On July 18th at 9:30 in the morning, our lovely tour guide Denise met us with a coach bus to take us to Newgrange which is located in the Boyne Valley of Ireland. Newgrange is a passage tomb that was built around 5,000 years ago, placing it before Stonehenge. Newgrange is more than just a passage tomb; it is a statement of how advanced the ancestors of Ireland were in terms of architecture and astronomy. Newgrange has been standing for over 5,000 years. That is a testament in itself of how advanced the architecture is. The stone-work is simply unbelievable and you have to see it in order to fully appreciate its beauty. The passageway through the tomb is cross shaped with three tiny "rooms" that were used to display ashes and bones of those who had been deceased. In addition to being a tomb, on the winter solstice, Newgrange lights up in the passageway as the sun rises creating a small beam of light down the corridor. The light comes through a window placed above the entrance way of the tomb. As you walk into the passageway, the ground elevates about 2 meters so that if you stand at the very end of the corridor, your feet are level with that window, so as the sun rises on December 21st, with the sun directly at due east, sun floods in the window and lights the passage. It is believed that the ancient people who built this tomb created this effect in order to give them hope for the coming spring and to help assure them that the winter would soon be over.
After our tour of Newgrange, we walked down the road to Newgrange farm. At first we weren't sure what we would get out of a farm visit as college students. I must say we were all pleasantly surprised. There were a few highlights for many of us. First was the area where you could pet, pick up, play with the farm animals. Many of us took a walk back into our childhood as we pet puppies and cuddled kittens or held a newly born chick. There was also much excitement around feeding the birds and chickens. I don't think any of us have ever seen so many birds, namely doves, in the same place at once. A highlight at the farm for me was definitely the hay ride we took around the farm. We were able to see tombs like Newgrange that have not been excavated. We also saw remains of tombs that had been mowed over by former owners of the farm who probably didn't even realize what they were destroying. It was a unique experience for us all, living in Dublin, to see the green and sheep and farms that you hear about when anyone talks about Ireland. Newgrange farm holds 900 sheep, and we definitely saw quite a few of those 900. One of the most interesting facts about the farm was that it has been used as farm land since the time that Newgrange was being built, that's a lot of farming!
On the way home, Denise thought it would be a cool idea for us to stop at the Hill of Tara. This is the place that St. Patrick first brought Christianity to Ireland. He used a clover to explain the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the king and his people. We all understand a little more why the clover is such an important part of Irish culture. This was a very interesting place, not to mention a beautiful place to experience. The site contains remnants of a monastery as well as old gravestones. The field trip was full of history, culture and tradition and allowed us to immerse ourselves even farther into the Irish culture which is one of the most important parts of this trip in helping us write our best work while here in Ireland. With less than two weeks to go we are all anxious to see what will come of our experiences as far as our writing in this Creative Writing Abroad class.
Thus far our experiences have influenced many great poems and short stories. The students in this class have written about the monastery Glendalough: the site of our second field trip, the Oxegen music festival (which many students attended), feeling anxious about being in a new place, homelessness in Dublin, how nice the locals of Dublin are, the Cliffs of Moher, walks through Dublin, new friends we have made since we have been here and above all each of us has written at least one poem in which we reflect on home in Connecticut. We have discovered that once you are no longer in your hometown or at Eastern, you feel differently about those places and in many instances appreciate those places more than you did before you left. I anticipate many more great poems and short stories to come as we prepare to do a reading of our work next week.