1 April 2009
The boys are outside playing and David is out surveying the surrounding countryside for possible paintings. I’m sitting by the open front door writing this and keeping an ear and eye on the boys. It’s the first moment of calm since we arrived. Time to let the realization that we’re really here in Ireland sink in a little deeper.
Our trip from Maine to Ballycastle went as pretty well. We left Maine on Sunday afternoon, stayed at Tim and Carolyn’s in Boston on Sunday night and had the run of their house on Monday morning. We wanted to the boys to have as much time playing and running about as possible before they got on the plane. Monday afternoon we headed to Graham and Rainey’s for lunch and a quick walk to a neighborhood ice cream place. G & R are kindly keeping our car in their Roslindale driveway while we’re away and doubled their generosity by volunteering to drive us to the airport. We got to Logan in plenty of time for our 7 p.m. flight. After a family pic taken by Rainey and big hugs goodbye, we headed to our gate. There was a little island of Irish accents at the boarding area, the first sign of the changes to come.
The boys didn’t sleep much on the flight. The thrill of built in dvd players at every seat, the carts of drinks, and the bright lights of the plane kept them revved up well past their usual 7:30 bedtime. By 10:30 they finally drifted off, and David and I weren’t far behind. Two hours of head bobbing sleep and it was time to wake and prepare for landing. It was 6 a.m., Irish time. The excitement competed with the exhaustion and for the time being the excitement won out.
Luggage arrived safely, passport control and customs were a breeze, and car rental took a bit of time, but wasn’t too challenging. David and I were starting the see the effects of little sleep, as small decisions took the brain power usually reserved for Latin translations or calculus class. We had thought we’d stop at a B&B and have breakfast and sleep for a few hours but it became clear that the boys were too keyed up and such a stop would not be very restful. So we stopped for a quick breakfast in a creepy Dickensian hotel, then hit the road, a four hour drive to Ballycastle in front of us. The boys fell asleep and David attempted his conversion to driving on the left side of the road. He did remarkably well on day one, although I know his brain hurt from focusing so hard. Both of us found that in order to shift into driving on the left side we had to put our brains in “topsy turvy” mode and we tried to translate everything into its oposite. If directions said to turn “right” our instict was to turn left. If the car got too stuffy and warm I would turn the heat up now down. Yep, we were tired and the switch to driving on the opposite side inspired some oddball decisions and behavior. I’m grateful we got to our intended destination and didn’t end up in Istanbul.
We got to Ballycastle around 1 p.m.. We went straight to the Ballinglen Arts Foundation office, met with the program adminstrator, Una, and got a tour of the Foundation’s facilities. David’s studio is small, a white box of a room. It’s hard to see him doing much painting here, as it’s so different from the busy jumble sale of a studio back home. He thinks he’ll use it to do landscape paintings from photos on rainy days. We met a couple of the other artists – Patty, from Alberta, Canada; Andrea, from Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is here with her husband and 2 year old son, Soren. The staff think it’s a hoot that there are 2 two year olds with rhyming names here at the same time. It will be nice to have another family around and Andrea has already been helpful in giving us the scoop on a couple of activities and resources for kids. It’s nice that the artists come and go on staggered schedules, as there is this ability for those who’ve been here a few weeks to lend advice to the newbies.
After about an hour at the Una took us to our house arts center, Una took us to our house. It’s just at the edge of the tiny town – the sidewalk ends just a few more houses up the road. The house is small – what a change from our place in Maine. It’s white stucco over stone, walls about 4 feet thick. The door is painted dark green. It’s in a cluster of other homes the same size and color, each with a different colored door. The houses are arranged around a large grassy area that has a mysterious slate and concrete structure in the middle of it. The boys love playing on this structure. They also love the local boarder collie who comes to visit us frequently. Patty lives in the house nextdoor (purple door). The other houses sit empty, apparently summer vacation homes of people who live in eastern Ireland.
Back to the house tour: living room/dining with peat burning fireplace, teeny kitchen, three bedrooms (two on the first floor, one on the second floor. The boys have one room on the first floor and David and I have the other. The second will be saved for visitors. The size and look of the house unfortunately don’t lend themselves to being scenes for David’s paintings. He’s feeling a bit adrift in terms of what to paint, but hopefully the confusion will clear and inspiration will hit. Luckily the landscape is gorgeous and the coastal location creates dramatic weather patterns and unusual light. We are about as close to the ocean as we are at our house in Maine. Between us and the water are farms, fields and cows. The smell of burning peat, cow pastures and sea air will forever be imprinted on my mind. I’m guessing it’s not going to be part of Chanel’s next parfum series.
The boys are demanding a walk, so I’m going to end this soon. The other quick highlights are a wonderful long night of sleep, a run first thing this morning (taking me through town, through farmland, along the ocean and then back home), Finn’s first day of school (where there’s another Finn in his class and where the children learn Gaelic phrases along with their numbers and letters) and a trip to the large town of Ballina for groceries and library card. Have we really only been in Ballycastle a little over 24 hours? I think kids force a quick transition to being settled.
I hope you’re all well.