BY JONI TAKANIKOS
March 18, 2016
I am hopelessly in love with a land far, far away. My heart conjures this distant landscape most readily in the spring. It was March of 2011 when I met Ireland for the first time. On one of my first afternoon walks through the neighborhood of Carigtwohill, a rural suburb outside of Cork City, I was exposed to the Irish moon through a flock of cherry blossoms and, further down the old road, I met a family of swans. I was falling for Ireland, following her roads and finally finding my own heart.
I traveled the roads of the Emerald Isle, south to north, east to west, sometimes doubling back again like an extended children’s jump rope game of double Dutch. I watched carefully for the right time to jump in and be taken by the spring wind once more. More often than not it was an Irish person’s hand that held mine as I jumped in and followed their lead with a trusting traveler’s heart. These friendships lined the roadways like pots of gold at the end of rainbows that arced across the spring sky.
On my way back southwards from the Antrim Coast, where you can see Scotland from the beach, I was invited to stay in the home of some new friends who lived in Coleraine. Coleraine was a train stop along my route to Derry, then Sligo—Yeats country—and eventually Galway and the Arran Islands. Mick and Christine picked me up at the train station and brought me to their sweet home. They showed me my lovely room with my own bath, including slippers and a bathrobe.
I had dropped into five-star Irish hospitality indeed. I told them I would take the train to Derry in a day or two and they insisted that I stay longer so they could show me more of the sights in their area. I was fortunate enough to be on a three-month sabbatical so I happily accepted their gracious offer. My time with Mick and Christine was so beautiful and easy, their home and manners wrapped around me with the comfort of a favorite bathrobe.
A highlight of my week was a trip to Kilcranny House, Peace and Reconciliation Centre, a four-acre farm established in 1985, dedicated to peace, diversity and the environment. Not only did Christine introduce me to the people who worked and volunteered there, but I was invited to be part of a project to plant trees along the drive leading to the farmhouse. I planted a few trees that day, and I was able to plant one tree, a Rowan, in memory of my Greek father, John, in the Irish soil in the spring. He would have loved the sentiment and the history that brought humans, the land, the tree and the birdsong of that morning in April—the month of his birth—to this few acres of farmland dedicated to peace and diversity. As our hands patted down the soil of his tree and others along the driveway, I felt my heart being planted as well.
Mick took me to the train station a week later. Of course he and Christine had prepared a delicious lunch and snacks for me to take on the train. Mick insisted on helping me get on the train with my bags and got me settled in my seat. As we were saying our goodbyes, the train began to move and Mick and I were pounding on the windows to get the stationmaster’s attention. They did stop the train to let Mick off, but we continued our waves goodbye until the train was far down the tracks. As I rode the train to Derry that day, eating my lunch, prepared by the hands of my friends, I knew I was leaving behind a part of my heart but I was also taking with me a heart that could afford to be broken and, in that shattering, a mosaic of beauty revealed.
On our own dear isle of Whidbey, the springtime is just beginning to unfold her colorful blankets amidst the backdrop of sun, rain, wind and the occasional frost, sharing the same stage, orating all at once. A sculpture exhibition, “Evoking Ireland” by Alexandra Morosco, opened at the Rob Schouten Gallery at Greenbank Farm on March 4. I drove to Greenbank that rainy evening to attend the opening. Stepping inside the packed gallery space, hearing Irish music from Randal Bays and friends wafting from the corner, seeing the stone that had been transformed to speak the language of the far off Emerald Isle and, of course, being in the company of friends and neighbors, my heart began to burst with love and longing for all I left in Ireland and all I had brought back with me.
The heart sends out powerful signals reaching across the seas because the next morning I received a message from an Irish friend in Cork City who asked me when I would be returning. Again and again is my answer.
Here is a fragment of an ancient Celtic poem:
I am an estuary to the sea
I am a wave of the ocean
I am the bull of seven battles
I am the eagle on the rock
I am a flash from the sun
I am the plant of beauty
I am a salmon in the pool
I am the strength of art…
Perhaps it is no wonder that poets held the highest position in Irish society. Poetry in Ireland is not experienced through the lens of academia as much as it is felt viscerally and it is as important as breath and bread and butter.
If you want to experience Ireland this spring you can do it right here on Whidbey Island. Alexandra Morosco’s show, “Evoking Ireland,” at the Rob Schouten Gallery continues through Monday, March 28.
Wednesday, March 23rd, from 3-5pm, one of my favorite island musicians, Kristi O’Donnell, of Irish and Estonian descent, will open her art show at Prima Bistro. For information www.kristio.com.
Please consider coming out to celebrate the shenanigans of spring on April 1 and 2, when I’ll be performing alongside other fabulous fools at Ott and Murphy Winery Tasting Room and Cabaret Stage for “A Fool’s Weekend,” each night a foolishly different performance that will include music, poetry, comedy, plenty of shenanigans, and lovely OM wine to open the buds of your heart and soul. $9 cover per show
“highly recommended” fools will include grand master fool himself, David Ossman, Judith Walcutt, Patricia Duff, Beverly Graham, Siri Bardarson, Max Cole-Takanikos, Natasha Nichols, and me, Joni Takanikos. Reservations also “highly recommended” @ 360.221.7131.
(Blog was edited to add new events 3/23/16)
Joni Takanikos is unabashedly in love with Ireland, poetry and springtime. She teaches yoga at Half Moon Yoga Studio in Langley Village. www.halfmoonyogalangley.com. Her favorite asana is vriksasana, tree pose.
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