Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Late November Clan Subset Gathering

(Note: this post was composed using Microsoft's "Live Writer," which I don't think I'm going to use again.)

A subset of the extended clan gathered at Ft. Harrington on Thanksgiving (US variety) weekend to indulge in non-turkey feasting – and to gather up presents from Ireland that somehow had not yet been distributed.


Dessert Time. Clockwise from left: Grace, Andrew, Lynda, Adam, Gisella, Ryan (behind his mom), Mrs. Fort. Grace’s mom, Adrianne, had to leave before chow time.

Lasagna, salad, garlic bread (yummily not turkey, which all of us had over-ingested in other places the previous Thursday) followed by two kinds of pie: apple and pumpkin (pies accompanied by an ice cream option, of course) – Diane put on her usual fare with country flair.


Adam and Gisella, closer-up.

Gisella is Lynda’s daughter Jamie’s little girl, which makes her Adam’s step-granddaughter.

Which makes her my step-great-granddaughter!


Ryan and his hat from Donegal.

Ryan took an afternoon off from his waiter’s gig – and from studying for his EMT course. (If all goes well, he should be licensed for the latter by early next year.) He couldn’t bring the lovely Casey with him this time, but we all were thinking of her.


Adam and Grace with their Irish souvenirs. Note old Kelsey-the-Dog in the lower-right.

“My dad went to Ireland and all I got was this rugby shirt.”

Adam’s shirt – identifiably Irish by three discreet shamrocks about where Grace’s wrist is – came from Kenmare as did Grace’s cap. Her necklace is from Mullingar, as is a belt-watch for Andrew (which can’t be seen in the picture below.)

DSC_4187Andrew with Emma


Grace and her mom compare knit goods. The champagne flute is also from Mullingar.

In the above picture, Adrianne is not wearing a significant new piece of jewelry that she recently acquired: an engagement ring! She and her Ryan (“her” to distinguish from Diane’s Ryan) will marry in May or June.

GracieBlingGrace models her new bling. Notice Emma-the-Spaniel in the lower-left: she still absolutely adores Grace, and is never more than a few feet from the girl whenever she visits.

Now eight years old, Grace has developed a wide variety of facial expressions and uses them to great effect.

DSC_4186Grace and old Fonzie.

A Late November EveningAfter the ruckus

Once the leftover containers had been filled and taken, after the last hug and kiss good-bye of the evening was done, the various animals in the Ft. Harrington menagerie had a variety of different reactions. Extremes of that spectrum are shown here. Jax, bred as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are to be sociable and intoxicated by children, was exhausted, collapsed on his pile of pillows on the couch, and was dead to the world for hours. Finn McCool, on the other hand, still not comfortable with people he doesn’t know, hid under the bed all day, so when everyone left he was wound up, energized, and ready to rock and roll! If this were a video, you’d see his tail whipping back and forth.

I hope you all had a pleasant Thanksgiving weekend, too – and, from all of us at Ft. Harrington of any number of feet, we wish you a warm and happy holiday season ahead!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It’s November 14th Again, Isn’t It?


“HEY now, Popsie! Bet I could do that!” Douglas M. and Sherwood Harrington, January, 1967. Photo by Lynn Harrington.

Doug left us four years ago today. Between the above photo and then, he actually did manage to learn to play the guitar.

Just a little bit.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Come Sit with Me a While


When we visited Birr Castle Demesne the first time, in 2006, I was fascinated by the carefully-collected and maintained forest of the place, the product of multiple generations’ passion for and expertise in dendrology. Among the thousands of trees cared for by the current Lord Rosse on this 135 acre estate is a group which compose the “Red Tree Trail,” four dozen specimens of great interest (for a variety of reasons). The trail itself winds through almost all of the Demesne, and following it is a good way for a visitor to become familiar with many of the nooks and byways of this marvel of private forests, gardens, and meadows.


A copy of the little guide book for the trail, Fifty Trees of Distinction, is available to tenants of the cottage we stayed in then (and again this year) and copies can be bought at the Demesne’s Science Centre; the Bothy copy is pictured here by the four-century old “Carroll Oak” midway through the trail. (Two trees of the trail have died since 2006, hence the difference between the booklet’s title and my “four dozen.”) The booklet gives great descriptions of each tree along the way, including scientifically-noteworthy aspects of the species or the specimen or both – but it lacks pictures.

We of course bought our own copy of the booklet to take home with us, but the lack of illustrations bothered me. I set out to fix that for us, personally, by recording as many of the 50 as I could in photographs so we could look back at them at leisure when thumbing through the booklet at home. The project was a very nice exercise for me in 2006, introducing me to parts of the Demesne’s parkland that I might not otherwise have seen.

The effort was a great success. I managed to document at least three images of each specimen: one full-tree, one bark detail, and one leaf detail. Those images were put on the web as The Red Tree Trail on our personal website, and they’ve evidently been of use to more people than just Diane and me. According to Google Analytics, the title page alone has been accessed more than 5,000 times by people in 103 countries (which is probably pretty much all of them), and individual trees’ pages much more than that due to searches for images of individual species.


When we arrived this past August for our second stay in the Demesne, I had no particular such project in mind – until the first time I sat on a bench near the Bothy, enjoying the view and thinking about some of the requests for photos that I had solicited from readers earlier this year. Particularly, I was thinking about my friend Margaret Ryall, who stayed in the Bothy in 2008.

Margaret, a very fine artist and educator in St. Johns, Newfoundland, produced a wonderful suite of works based on her experiences in Birr called “Reading a Garden.” When I asked her if there were any photos she wanted me to take this year, her reply was that I should take a “Margaret picture,” which she couldn’t specify ahead of time, but she was sure I’d recognize when I saw it.

I did. And it wasn’t just one picture, it was a whole series.

Many of her works based on her stay in the Demesne focused on its benches, and the sights both large- and small-scale a patient viewer could see from them. So, I thought on my bench in early August, what better “Margaret picture” than views from the benches themselves?

So I set out on a gentler project in 2010 than 2006’s Red Tree Trail: one in which I’d produce for a number of benches not only the view (in large-scale, panoramic form), but also a context-establishing shot of the bench itself and a detail from the view that especially captured my interest for one reason or another.


Detail from Bench #5.

The result is a set of web pages that requires a bit more participation from the viewer than Red Tree Trail does. The panoramas that make up the heart of the project are very large files that the viewer needs to download. The panorama files are in a format that is designed to fill typical monitors’ screens top-to-bottom (or nearly so), spilling well offscreen to left and right. Then, panning left and right will give the viewer a little better sense of “being there” than a single, static snapshot can do.


Please come and sit a spell once in a while with me on the benches of Birr Castle Demesne. The views are not intended to be seen all in one sitting; come back once in a while during your long winter and sit on a new bench and take in its fresh perspective from an Irish summer. And, if you really need transporting, a good soundtrack is provided by The Gardens of Birr Castle Demesne by Karin Leitner and Duccio Lombardi on flute and harp.

Here’s the link:

Birr Castle Demesne: Views from the Benches


(And thank you, Margaret.)