Planes, Fog, and How the Irish Saved Civilization

After checking out the Crested Butte Library’s entire selection of Irish authors and histories of Ireland, I proceeded to read approximately none of the six books I so eagerly grabbed from the library. Life (and a mild concussion) kept me occupied the past two weeks.

Fortunately, crossing most of the continental USA and Atlantic takes time—time I spent reading (and thinking about future blog posts). I figured I’d start with Thomas Cahill’s book:How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe because it was the first book my librarian recommended when I asked her what to read to learn about Ireland.

Cahill tells a beautiful story about St. Patrick and the conversion of the Irish ‘barbarians’ into a diverse society of generous, hopeful saints and scholars who preserved the scaffolding of western civilization during the dark ages. Cahill is a masterful storyteller and I encourage everyone to read his book (a breeze at only 218 pages). It provides a fascinating picture of Irish society from the rise of the Roman Empire to that of Medieval Europe.

For my part, rather than continuing to bore you with summaries, I thought I’d give you lovely readers a taste of one of my favorite parts of Cahill’s depiction of the Irish, his descriptions of the remarkable women present in Irish poetry.

Cahill is kind enough to put entire passages of epic poems into his work. One such epic, theTain Bo Cuailnge, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, revolves in large part around the Irish Queen Medb (a synonym of Mead!). Medb is pretty much the 1st century’s Beyoncé except instead of claiming: the shoes on my feet, I bought ‘em; Medb is all:

When we were promised, I brought you the best wedding gift a bride can bring: apparel enough for a dozen men, a chariot worth thrice seven bondmaids, the width of your face of red gold and the weight of your left arm of light gold. So, if anyone causes you shame or upset or trouble, the right to compensation is mine, for you’re a kept man [Cahill, 72]

She continues in this brazen vein—making innuendos, proclaiming her wealth and starting battles, and in doing so appears entirely human. Medb is the opposite of the needy, two-dimensional female characters common in the classical literature written at the same time. Moreover, she is not the only strong female character present in old Irish literature. Cahill provides numerous examples of strong women who, when faced with the death of their loved ones, respond with spectacular laments that display the hard, unbending stock they come from.

The strong Irish women portrayed in these epics delight the feminist in me. Even though women were by no means equal to men, they seem to have had a lot better of a position in Ireland; in fact, some of them even became woman Bishops.

I will get into more of that later. For now, I’d like to report that we’ve successfully arrived and survived the first day in the Emerald Isle (I use the word ‘survive’ earnestly, jet lag is no joke on your first day in a different country). Today was a trip into the fog: figuratively, in the sense that my mind is being bogged down by a thick and cloying exhaustion; and literally, in the sense that driving to the Cliffs of Moher was the equivalent of driving through clam chowder.

I’m a little tired but didn’t want to sink into slumber until I shared a few photos of our first day and welcome dinner in Galway. Courtesy of the Mad Hattler

Burren
Looking out over Galway Bay
Gigi&Erin
The quintessential Irish experience– a pint of Guinness at the pub with Mary Pittman, Mary Timony, JeanAnne Hattler & Me (the Mad Hattler).
Drinks(2)
(L-R) Hugh & Betty Deithorn, Mike Altrudo, Ron Surmacz, Maria Altrudo, Stephen & Susan Munson Bagnato
Drinks (x3)
(L-R) Carol & John Livingston, Marcelle Theis & Jim Altzner, Stephanie & Dave Iauco
(l-r) Tony & Lisa Plastino, Linda & Don Dietz
(l-r) Tony & Lisa Plastino, Linda & Don Dietz
(l-r) Beth Wurzel, Margaret Terbell, Carolyn & Rachel Mariano, Michele Forte
(l-r) Beth Wurzel, Margaret Terbell, Carolyn & Rachel Mariano, Michele Forte
Looking out over the Burren, a geological phenomena unique to western Ireland
Looking out over the Burren, a geological phenomena unique to western Ireland
The obligatory Irish castle picture. It's like the flag knew we were coming.
The obligatory Irish castle picture. It’s like the flag knew we were coming.

Until tomorrow, sweet dreams!

Xx

MAY 22, 2015

The Mad Hattler

on the road with Duquesne University Alumni & Friends

After checking out the Crested Butte Library’s entire selection of Irish authors and histories of Ireland, I proceeded to read approximately none of the six books I so eagerly grabbed from the library. Life (and a mild concussion) kept me occupied the past two weeks.

Fortunately, crossing most of the continental USA and Atlantic takes time—time I spent reading (and thinking about future blog posts). I figured I’d start with Thomas Cahill’s book: How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe because it was the first book my librarian recommended when I asked her what to read to learn about Ireland.

Cahill tells a beautiful story about St. Patrick and the conversion of the Irish ‘barbarians’ into a diverse society of generous, hopeful saints and scholars who preserved the scaffolding of western civilization during the…

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