This weekend Scott, Kanyan and I took a little trip to Killarney National Park, just the three of us. We grabbed some goodies from the grocery store and made a little picnic. It was the first time we spent in our own little family unit since this big adventure started, and it was nice to reconnect with each other.
Killarney isn’t a National Park like we are used to in the US, with extreme wilderness stretching on for miles and miles. Instead, the Irish national park’s focal point is the manor grounds and gardens of the Muckross House, located on the shores of one of three lakes in the area.
The forests around Muckross House would be wonderful for a bike ride, but we took a ride in a jaunting car (horse-drawn carriage) instead. Our driver was a great guide, very friendly in the way we have come to expect of the Irish. He introduced us to Ol’ Blue, the horse, and took us up around to the abandoned abbey.
Muckross Abbey was stunning. Of everything I have seen in Ireland so far, this structure of weathered stone is the most memorable. Something about the lacework gothic windows reaching skyward without a ceiling to darken the view… I’m speechless to describe that place. After only a few moments I was smitten.
In the center of the the silent cloister garden grows an ancient yew, green with moss and full leafed, even in January. Yews are a long-lived species, and I can’t help but wonder how many Januarys the tree has seen, how many residents and visitors have strolled around the colonnade and under its leaves. And I wonder how many people go back, pulled by that residual feeling of peace. We only had a short time at the Abbey since our coach driver was waiting for us, but I’ve been hoping to go back with a sketchbook and more time. I left so inspired!
After our carriage ride, we walked Muckross House Gardens. The most memorable part of the grounds, even more than the nice little Rockery, was the Middle Lake separated by the house by an expanse of green grass. One of the best things about Ireland is the way the clouds form around the horizon, adding a kind of misty filter to the sunlight. It was like a dream world, just out of sight across the lake, while here underfoot the technicolor grass roots you in the present. I swear, the beauty of the scenery here is threatening to turn me into a (poor excuse for a) poet.
As we started driving back to our little corner of Ireland we wandered a bit around the other lakes (called Upper and Lower… creative, I know). As we climbed in elevation the rolling green hills we had come to associate with Ireland started to give way to slopes with rugged shrubs clinging fiercely to rocky outcroppings. The ground was covered in golden ground cover, thick and low to the ground as if to defy the strong Irish wind. The overall effect was, not barren, but almost fearsome. Intense. The clouds came in thick over the sky and the lakes looked like pools of ink.
The sunny days near the coast Ireland can seem so wholesome, with black and white cows grazing in pastures under a sky mottled blue and puffy white. But Killarney is a place where some of Ireland’s true age and sophistication shows through. I’m used to mountains, growing up as I did in the American West, but there is something deep and mysterious about Killarney’s landscape. I think Ireland’s backbone resides in those mountain peaks.