The Ring, Rain, and Rhododendrons

The Ring, Rain, and Rhododendrons

Rain and storms are forecast for NW Arkansas and lightning flares in the distance. I’m pretty sure it is raining in Ireland, too, where St. Patrick’s Day originated. They may not have the thunder and lightning, though. While I was there, rain was sometimes hard but never stormy.  Each day of my visit to Ireland is a memory I store away and bring out now and then, as I do this morning.

 Our tour group’s leader, Charlie Foster, begins each of our days of sight-seeing with a devotional. He waits until everyone is on the tour bus including Bill, our driver. Then he reads a devotional, prays, and we sing a short chorus. Sheep proliferate on Ireland’s lush grasslands. Owners mark them with colors so it’s not unusual to see a sheep with a large amount of pink or another color on its wool. The color can be easily washed off. Just as the color identifies the sheep, love identifies the Christian and marks us as Christ’s own. And Christ’s love cannot be washed off.

“How’s the weather on the Ring?” people ask each other as the bus pulls out of the parking lot. They are referring to the Ring of Kerry, a tourist’s route of 179 km. in Ireland’s Southwest. It is a circular route from Killarney to Kenmare, around the Iversleigh Peninsula, Killgorlin, the village of Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen, and Glenbeigh. Then, back to the starting point of Killarney. Those names represent some breath-taking scenery. The road our bus travels is narrow and winding, up one steep, steep hill and down into a valley, up another hill, around a blind curve with a rocky cliff on one side and an abrupt drop on the other. There’s Ladies’ View, where Queen Victoria and her ladies-in-waiting stopped in 1861 to view the lakes. There’s Ross Castle and Moll’s Gap.

Gorse grows on the hillsides. It is rust-red now but turns yellow later. We pass a lovely area (aren’t all the places lovely?) called Black Valley. It gets dark sooner here than in other parts and this was the last place to get electricity. Hawthorne bushes and fuschia crowd the roadway. Rhododendrons are towering shrubs and, although their blooming season is past, the purple blossoms must be spectacular in June. The plant is so pervasive that the Irish consider it a pest and have to cut it back to keep it from taking over.

In the town of Sneem, I find a small shop that sells things made with Irish wool. (By the way, one of the impressive things about Ireland is that in all the shops, the souvenirs are made in Ireland.) The owner of the shop sits at the back, bent over a spool onto which he is winding wool. He is a thin, dark man, wearing a wool beret. It is difficult to understand his dialect, and I suppose he is Irish but no! He is from France and has been in Ireland forty-five years.

In Sneem, the Irish Sea pounds against the rocky shore and houses perch close. Only a rugged waterfront and a street separate the shops from the foaming Sea. It is here that Charlie Chaplin had a home. The house is for sale now. Other celebrities live or have lived  along the Ring of Kerry. We pass a neat, fenced area owned by Daniel Day Lewis.

On one of the mountain tops, a young man and woman, a burro, a dog, and some puppies have set up shop. The idea is that tourists will want to snap pictures and  put a few Euros into his small kettle. 

Although the area is spectacular, in contrast are the bogs. Men cut peat from the bogs which they sell or use for fuel. Only thing is, the bogs can be a place of danger and intrigue. Things and people disappear into the bogs, perhaps not to be discovered until centuries later. Ireland is a fascinating place of contrasts and unforgettable legends and beauty.



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