Saturday, July 26, 2014

#1000 Urban Miles: An Invitation to walk in the Praeger spirit

Photo by Emily Walsh
It’s possible that you don’t know what walking is, what walking can accomplish, until you have walked a distance across a mountainy bog in Ireland. In the rain.

Earlier this summer, accompanied by a colleague and by 14 of our students from DePaul University in Chicago, I followed in the footsteps of the great Irish naturalist and walker Robert Lloyd Praeger (1885-1953). Praeger, an amateur naturalist and one-time Head Librarian of Ireland’s National Library, traversed Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries mapping the vegetation of that moist and verdant island. More than 60 years after his death he remains Ireland’s most influential botanist; an influence that derives not only the prodigiousness of his output (over 800 scientific papers and articles and 24 books) but in his advocacy for the basic methodology of the naturalist’s trade: walking. He hiked on foot across the countryside looking for hidden marvels.

Our hiking this summer along Praeger’s routes culminated in a trailless hike in the western park of Killarney National Park, a 102.9-square-kilometre reserve of wooded and boggy mountainside. Accompanied by park educator Chris Barron we took boats across the famous Lakes of Killarney and commenced our walk by leaping from the vessels as far as we could across the ooze where the bogland met the water. Only one one of the students lost footwear, and as we retrieved the boots from the slime she hopped onto only slightly more secure ground.

The walk wound up along a valley adjacent to the peak of the Eagle’s Nest Mountain. No eagles existed there for over one hundred years until white-tailed eagles were re-introduced to the park in 2007. This day we were greeted by a peregrine falcon who bolted out from the peak and into a stone-gray sky. We walked on through the lovely, though rarely visited, Eamonn’s Woods. Here oaks hunker down like resting giants surveying lonely terrain. We broke for lunch in a small landscape called Glaisín na Marbh, a name that translates, somewhat terrifyingly, as "little stream of the dead." It is so called because the few families that lived at the base of the stream died off during the Great Famine (1845-49). There is an unmarked famine grave in the vicinity, which may now be covered in a pavement of scree that tumbled down when the stream was in winter riot the year before. It says something about the remoteness of the region that the ground was not consecrated until more recent times when a priest made the hike into this part of the National Park.

Read on here 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Super Awkward Music Time (Playlist for my Study Abroad in Ireland)

Links are to Youtube clips of music (with an occasional poem)

Martin Hayes (and Dennis Cahill).  Martin Hayes (born 13 November 1961) is a fiddler, born in Maghera (between Feakle and Tulla) in East County Clare, Ireland, and now living in West Hartford, Connecticut. He has been the All Ireland Fiddle Champion six times... (Wikipedia)

Mary Bergin was born in Shankill, County Dublin, Ireland. Her parents Joe and Máire were melodeon and fiddle players, respectively. Mary started learning to play the tin whistle at the age of nine. Bergin won the All Ireland tin whistle championship in 1970. (Wikipedia)

Caitlín Maude (1941 – 1982) was an Irish poet, teacher, actress and traditional singer.

Padraic Colum (8 December 1881 – 11 January 1972) an Irish poet, novelist, and dramatist and folklorist. He was one of the leading figures of the Irish Literary Revival.

Horselips  are an Irish Celtic rock band that compose, arrange and perform songs based on traditional Irish jigs and reels. The group are regarded as 'founding fathers of Celtic rock. (Wikipedia)

Luke Kelly (singing Raglan Road). Luke Kelly (Irish: Lúc Ó Ceallaigh; 17 November 1940 – 30 January 1984) was an Irish singer and folk musician from Dublin, Ireland, notable as a founding member of the band The Dubliners. He is often considered Ireland's greatest folk singer of the 20th century. (Wikipedia)

Táim Sínte ar do Thuama  (version in Irish); I Am Stretched on Your Grave (by Scullion)

Seamus Heaney (here and here)

Planxty  Planxty is an Irish folk music band formed in January 1972,[1]:99–100 consisting initially of Christy Moore (vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhrán), Andy Irvine (vocals, mandolin, mandola, bouzouki, hurdy-gurdy, harmonica), Dónal Lunny (bouzouki, guitars), and Liam O'Flynn (uilleann pipes, tin whistle). They quickly revolutionized and popularized Irish folk music, touring and recording to great acclaim. (Wikipedia)

Seosamh Ó hÉanaí ( AKA Joe Éinniú; English, Joe Heaney) (15 October 1919 – 1 May 1984) was an Irish traditional (sean nós) singer from County Galway, Ireland. He spent most of his adult life abroad, living in England, Scotland and New York city, in the course of which he recorded hundreds of songs. (Wikipedia)

This is a partial list

Monday, June 2, 2014

A short reverie of urban greenspace reduced aggressive feeling, enhanced playfulness and peacefulness.

This is, of course, a study done on a modest scale.  The fuller, more comprehensive study is under-way. But results, such as the one above reports on, that I have conducted in classes at DePaul over the years have been unwavering in their direction: a reverie of a place with a profusion of vegetation always alters self-reported feelings of energy, aggression, playfulness, peacefulness, and general satisfaction with life.  Perhaps most surprisingly students dreaming of green score better on a numerical riddle!

Added: Since some of my colleagues in the environmental social sciences are emphatically pointing out the limitations of this "study" I'd like to emphatically concur that this is indeed a limited study (I'd never have made greater claims on its behalf!).  There is a small number of subjects, the students are in an urban ecology class etc.  That being said (and this is not to undercut an acknowledgment of the studies limitations) these observations were made, and these are the results.  The observations underscore the sorts of results that others have made on the implications of green space for human well-being (meant here in a very general way).  It should be used, perhaps, as a point of departure for examining these other more comprehensive studies.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Let us not rise from the earth too soon...

Let us not rise from the earth too soon.
Let us stretch upon the ground.
Let is bear witness to the soil.
Soil that dark, infernal, moldering, bewildering, aquatically capacious,
partially aerated, partially living, stubbornly inorganic, endlessly textured,
complexly aggregating, fractally creviced, indigestible, host to the dead,
cradle to decomposing things, suffocatrix of life and yet, for all of this, ultimately sustainer of life.

May 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

#1000UrbanMiles—Where Have We Gone, What Have We Seen?

A little over a year ago, in March 2013, I sat day after day in the library of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin and sifted through the archival records of Robert Lloyd Praeger (1865–1953), the most prominent Irish naturalist of his generation. Examining Praeger’s reprints, his hand-written manuscripts, letters to his wife Hedwig (“Meine Hedie”), his correspondence with botanical colleagues, his Zenith watch, notices from his landlord, newspaper clippings, numerous draft illustrations for his books, and so on, I learned three significant things about “Ireland’s Linnaeus.” First was the extent of Praeger’s walking in the Irish countryside; second, his interest in the urban environment (atypical for a naturalist of his times); and third, the sheer magnitude of the written reflection prompted by his fieldwork.

Over the months following my visit to Dublin, I read—or in many cases re-read—Praeger’s work and gained a fresh appreciation of the extent of Praeger’s travel around Ireland. Lengthy field days traveled largely on foot. The magnitude of these peregrinations becomes clear when one considers the footwork undertaken in order to write Irish Topographical Botany (1901), Praeger’s comprehensive account of Irish plant distribution. In each of the summers in the last half decade of the 1890s, Praeger walked one thousand miles throughout the Irish countryside, his vasculum in hand, plucking and storing plants as he went, sorting his collections only at the end of arduous days. With this renewed appreciation of both what Praeger achieved and how he achieved it (on foot, and with patience), I resolved to walk one thousand miles of my own in the year ahead.

Read on here