The past three days we have been in Donegal and Derry/Londonderry. Donegal is a county in the northern part of the Republic of Ireland (not to be confused with Northern Ireland). Derry/Londonderry is in Northern Ireland. The county has two different names because depending on if you are against British rule in N. Ireland or for it you call it by a different name.
This trip was our opportunity to experience Irish literature. We have been reading Irish plays, poems, and novels by Yeats, Heaney, and Joyce and this was our chance to see some of the places that inspired these famous riders. Each day we focused on a different author, although they did overlap a little. The first day was Yeats' turn. A lot of his poetry was inspired by nature, so our day was spent outside. We went to Doone Woods, looked at the Isle of Innisfree, walked around a waterfall, and discussed poetry. I felt like I was 5 again! Wandering around the woods, climbing trees, looking for faeries in the woods.... not a bad way to learn about poetry. We also did some serious learning and went to the Yeats Center and learned all about his life and history. After that we visited his grave. The inscription on it was really interesting... "Cast a cold Eye on Life, on Death. Horseman, pass by."
Tuesday we focused on James Joyce's writings. Our first stop was at a round tower that he wrote about it in Reading in the Dark. It was so foggy! But we had a great time wandering around there. The structure is a large circle... kind of like the colloseum. So the boys pretended like they were warriors and put on a show battling it out. Then a few people pretended it was a stage and did some of the Irish dancing we had learned. Then we went into Bogside which is in Derry. This city was also torn apart by conflict during the Troubles. We walked on the wall that seperates parts of the city and got a tour of all the murals. It is interesting to see how people have dealt with and processed the Troubles through art.
Our last day was spent talking about Seamus Heaney poems, in particular his poem about Station Island. This is a place where people will go on 3 day pilgrimages to focus on God and pray. Since we are trying to understand literature better by experiencing it, we got to go to the island! Now we all pictured a wooded island with maybe a couple log cabins on it for housing. But this island was crazy! There were huge buildings everywhere. You were almost worried the little piece of land would give way under all the stuff that is on top of it! But it was really cool to see and hear about. Heaney's poem about his pilgrimage on the island also made much more sense after seeing some of the places he was talking about. Gotta love active learning!