Friday, September 10, 2010

The Labyrinthine Way

On a good day, the Atlantic Drive along the rim of Achill Island reminds me of California's Central Coast minus the cars. On other days, that is to say most days, Achill is like Wuthering Heights: windswept, chilly, remote, and soulful. Yesterday was a Wuthering Heights day. Listen to the wind:


By mid-afternoon, we were ready for an Irish coffee, and the Minaun View pub is happy to provide them. I first ducked into the Minaun View on a bitterly chill afternoon seven years ago. I took my seat at the bar, ordered my Irish coffee, and listened in to the local radio station broadcast death notices ("turn it up," urged one of the bartenders) when I took a look around. I noticed a poster praising the IRA hunger strikers of the 70s, an autographed photo of Gerry Adams, several copies of his books for sale, and a large glass jug for donations to Sinn Fein.

Half expecting a gang of balaclava'd Provos to burst in with Thompsons and Uzis ablaze, I considered leaving. But it was awfully cold, and the Minaun View was the only place I could find that served Irish coffee. So I stayed, lived, went in peace, and returned year after year. One time, the publican recommended a trip to the incomparable views of Minaun Heights; this year, a different barkeep wondered whether "they" were really going to burn the Quran. The regulars, none of whom looked especially different than the regulars in any other Irish pub, seemed to find the whole idea mystifying and silly.

The publican recommended a nearby hamlet and rocky beach as being the "real Ireland." As hard living as life in the village must be, it abuts a spectacular rocky beach, aching in its lonesomeness:



We're not sure where the labyrinth came from. It took planning, time, and effort to finish. It's condition is too good to be ancient, too well-planned and executed to be the work of kids, and no adult would put in the required time voluntarily. And yet there is no plaque or marker. Chalk it up as another mystery in a mysterious land.

From there, we drove to the village Dugort, perhaps the most remote place in the most remote place in Ireland. Perched along a cliff's edge, it's notable for the absence of a pub. We inched past a low-slung house advertising "Artist's Books, Photography, and Silkscreen Prints;" in our experience, the contents of such places rarely live up to even the most modest billings. But, we often stop just to make sure, and stopping in at Redfoxpress turned out to be the equivalent of sinking consecutive holes-in-one at Pebble Beach.

Francis Van Maele, the co-proprietor, turned out to be a world-class printer and bookmaker who sells his limited editions internationally and whose work is collected by museums. I bought Archives de l'oubli, a set of found photographs from the collection of the Luxembourg Jean Delvaux. T. discovered Booksbook, a "...collection of all different kinds of books -- accounting book, manual book, family book, cookbook..." Each two-page spread features a book cover on the left and a page from the book on the right. We also invested in the Fish Box, a collection of 25 silk screen prints from 11 countries on the theme of fish, contained in a fish-and-chips box with a unique piscine surprise at the bottom.


I visit Achill Island every time I'm in Ireland, and I find something new every time. Years ago, a mainlander asked me if I had been there yet. I shook my head. "Ye have to go," he said. "The craic there is mighty."

10 comments:

Roy said...

It sounds like a good day - a labyrinth and an art press. There's an art press here in Newport (Third & Elm Press) but I've yet to find a labyrinth.

And that was some windy! I understand the Hebrides, especially the Outer Hebrides, get like that. I've seen pictures of houses on Iona held down by ropes anchored with rocks; now that's windy!

K. said...

Did you know that Chicago's nickname has nothing to do with wind? The boosterism during the World's Fair of 1893 was so relentless that out-of-town newspapermen took to calling it the Windy City.

The labyrinth is a definite oddity. We didn't notice it until we climbed the hill above it to get a better look at the waterfall.

tnlib said...

Well, it's time for you to come home now, dearie.

I think that wind would drive me mad in short order. But the video near and of the labyrinth is beautiful. I am truly envious - would love to visit the art press shop - but so thankful that you are sharing your trip with us. A welcome change from all the craziness here.

I've heard Chicago is called the Windy City because of the politicians! Lot's of wind blowing across the whole country these days.

Stay safe.

K. said...

You should hear the wind at our house when it comes in off the bay: I feel like King Lear. That's not every night, though. Turns out there's a corridor down which the wind rips, and that our side of the cove is at the end of it. Guess which side the permanent residents live on?

Come to think of it, Chicago politicians do figure into the nickname. But it does go back to the World's Fair, according to Erik Larson in The Devil in the White City.

Darlene said...

The sea is so gray that I felt a chill just looking at it. It really did make me wish for an Irish coffee to warm me.

I could almost hear Jane Eyre calling for Heathcliff.

The village looks charming. I do wish I had made it to Ireland when I traveled.

Foxessa said...

Bronte the father was Irish, wasn't he?

Why yes, <a href="http://www.my-secret-northern-ireland.com/bronte-homeland.htm</a>.


Love, C.

K. said...

Darlene, Achill is special even by Ireland's standards.

Foxessa, Wuthering Heights is a great book. It's technically all wrong, but so penetrating and insightful that that doesn't make any difference. Even though Emily Bronte only wrote the one novel, I regard her as a female D. H. Lawrence (or him as a male Emily Bronte).

sEAN bENTLEY said...

Divine - I even miss the wind! It's muggy here and full of 9/11 hoohah.

nursemyra said...

That wind must cut like a knife

K. said...

Sean: I'm embarrassed to say that being here I had all but forgotten the date.

NM: Your trio who went to the Continent should meet up in Ireland. You'd be the talk of whatever town you happened through! And no matter how hard the wind blows, there's always a pub nearby.