Beltane 2012

Sue and her new Trinity.

The hawthorn tree behind the house is in full bloom, and the young Winter King hawthorn, planted in our garden three springs ago with buried offerings, is close to blooming.  This evening I stepped out and tied ribbons on its branches in honor of Beltane.

After a long, difficult break, I am harping again.  It has been a dark winter of illness:  one I am grateful to put behind me.

Not long ago I ordered Simon Chadwick’s new CD, Old Gaelic Laments.  He has assembled a selection of deeply moving and beautiful songs.  Just now I am listening to The Clarge’s Lamentation.  Watch for a review of the CD as soon as I have had a chance to listen carefully a few more times to each of the tracks.  To pique your interest, here is a video clip of Simon performing King James’s March to Ireland/Lochaber/The Wild Geese about a year ago.

Beltane Blessings of good health, fine music, and the gifts of the otherworld to each of you.

In gratitude for returning health,

–Sue

Poetry, Harping, and Brigid

It’s Imbolc, or Brigid, the first day of Spring on the Celtic calendar.  Crocuses are in flower in the garden, and the sun visited for the entire day.

Crocuses in bloom on Imbolc, 2011.

In honor of Brigid, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing, and in observance of the 6th annual Brigid poetry festival by some people I know, let’s listen to Giolla Brighde Mac Con Midhe, a late 13th century Irish poet who rails against the limitations set on poetry in medieval Ireland:

Had lays not preserved their deeds,/though they were noble men,/a cloak would long since have fallen/on Niall, Cormac and Conn.

The line of kings of Cashel and Cruachan,/The house of Three Hostels’ scions,/Tuathal of Tara and Dath Í:/Poets are the roots of those pedigrees.

Were there no poetry sung/To sweet-strung harp or timpan,/none would know of noble passed,/nor his repute nor manly prowess.

(The Celtic Poets, pp. 341-2, trans. Patrick K. Ford)

The concept of “manly prowess” raises modern eyebrows, but let’s remember the antiquity of this piece, and its intended argument.

On Imbolc 2011, I feel very wealthy indeed.  Today I spent some time reading Seamus Heaney’s new volume of poems, Human Chain, and enjoyed my warm house filled with shelves of good books.  My ancient cat is snuggled up next to me, probably in the last few months of her long twenty years of life, but still enjoying simple pleasures like a pool of warm sunlight on the rug in the late afternoon.  Just yesterday, I received a morning email from David Kortier, whom I commissioned over a year ago to build a replica Trinity College harp for me.  He sent photos of its progress, along with photos of a friend’s beautiful Sirr harp.  That was a thrill!

In spite of chronic shyness about my playing, I decided to post a not-a-video music clip on YouTube.  The music is Duncan MacRae of Kintail’s Lament, a piobaireachd that Ann Heymann introduced in a pibroch workshop at Scoil na gCláirseach in Kilkenny in the summer of 2009.  This past fall I played some variations of it at a fundraiser concert, with fairly good results.

Happy Brigid to you.  I hope that it is filled with poetry, inspiration, and music.

–Sue


Ancestral Greetings at Samhain

The ancestor altar, Samhain 2010.

It’s Samhain (Halloween) night, and I’m playing harp in the front room in between visits from trick or treaters, who are thick on the ground this year.  We’ve had nearly 30 visitors to our door, which may be a new record for this house.

I’m working on a piobaireachd with Simon, my teacher, and at the moment it is going well, but he hasn’t yet introduced the more dizzying variation sets that will likely reveal my dyslexia in all of its strange permutations.  There is no complaint from me, however.  I am happy.

This week I placed the photos of my beloved dead on the Samhain altar in my dining room, and just this morning after my harp lesson I cut a late bouquet of flowers in the garden.  The echinacea, pineapple sage in bright red, and black and blue salvia are still strongly blossoming, and so is that elegant old rose, Glamis Castle.  The dried Indian corn is from a small crop I grew in a garden at the old house over a decade ago.

Back to my laments, which tonight, are a fitting offering for the ancestors.

–Sue

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