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My Kilrush Farmer’s Market treasures.

Bipolar West Clare awoke in a manic state this morning – dry, mild and bright! At least it did here in the Kilkee region. After a couple of weeks living with its depressive state, which had me feeling a bit like a character in a John B. Keane tale, this change of mood was overdue and very welcome. Also, as far as I am aware the fine weather today was not predicted, so it came as a very pleasant surprise. In the words of a local business owner, “Where did this come from?!”

The Nevsail Hut at the beach.

This morning, while Eoin was occupied in the Atlantic at Nevsail Watersports Camp, I enjoyed the beginning of this dry, mild day with a trip to the nearby town of Kilrush. After a leisurely breakfast of coffee and a scone at my favorite Kilrush hangout, The Potter’s Hand Café, I followed up with a visit to the farmer’s market in the square. Much to my surprise, not only did this market have the usual stalls selling such things as fresh produce, gorgeous flowers, homemade jams and local cheeses, it also had a vendor selling live chickens! After making my purchases, no chickens included, I took my time walking back to the car enjoying the warmth of the sun and imagining myself, produce and beautiful bouquet in hand, strolling through a village in the south of France!

After collecting Eoin at the end of Nevsail (where a seagull ate his lunch – but that’s another story!) we headed over to Diamond Rocks where I took a walk along the cliffs as Eoin, carrying his net and bucket, enjoyed the mild breeze and sun while searching the Pollock Holes for sea creatures.

Eoin inspecting his treasures.

Unlike last night, the only thunder I heard today was the sound of white, foamy waves pounding against the sun-warmed rocks beneath the cliffs. The cliff walk was a dazzling sight with the bright sun shining down from a sky of blue, highlighting a show of wild grasses in every shade of green sprinkled with tiny wildflowers of purple, yellow and white. This vibrant scene practically took my breath away after so many rainy days of muted colors under grey skies. And standing atop the highest cliff looking across Intrinsic Bay, with the warmth of the sun allowing me to finally remove my sweater for the first time in many days, there was no reason to imagine I was anywhere other than the west of Ireland!

As I write this it is after ten o’clock in the evening. The sky is still clear, the air is still mild and I hear the peaceful sound of cattle lowing in a nearby field – perhaps asking each other, “Where did this come from?!”

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Waves and and a seaweed whip - what more does a boy need?

Here is a boy who, even after a winter of taking private swimming lessons to prepare for his summer in Kilkee, still didn’t like to get his face wet, let alone put his head under water!

Now he spends hours in the sea playing in the waves and riding them with his boogie board; looking for, and even picking up, marine life at the Pollock Holes; using seaweed as a toy; exploring the rocky ridge called Tucker; observing the changing tides, crashing waves, rock formations and wildlife around the cliffs; and in general enjoying a life near the sea. Now I am even hearing enthusiastic talk about his plans to surf one day… a prospect I am not as enthusiastic about!

Much of the new Eoin, I credit to his time spent this summer at Nevsail Watersports Summer Camp . Thanks to Nevsail, Eoin is now willing to spend hours in the wild and cold Atlantic Ocean, both at the camp and on his own, afterwards. In the camp, he has had the opportunity to try his hand at such watersports as kayaking, canoeing, boogie boarding, snorkeling and more – and has even spent some time building a raft! The enthusiastic young instructors at the camp have been great about encouraging this shy, hesitant boy to try activities that he would never have attempted otherwise and their kindness and sensitivity have made him feel welcome and comfortable in the camp.

Eoin’s daily explorations around the bay of Kilkee and his experience within the camp, have made him, not only more confident and comfortable with the sea, but more confident in his own skin. This makes every minute I’ve spent squeezing him into, and prying him out of, his wetsuit – and then properly cleaning it after each use – well worth the effort!

Door of Reconciliation, wikipedia

If you have the opportunity to tour St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin you will see an old wooden door with a hole cut into it. The “Door of Reconcilliation” is said to be the place where the phrase, “chance your arm” was coined. This phrase may be used here in the States, but I only first heard it spoken when I was in Ireland. It refers to a person ‘taking a risk’ as in, “I may chance my arm and ask for a raise” or, “Life is full of exciting surprises if you chance your arm.”

The story behind this door and the phrase attached to it is that, in 1492 there was an ongoing bloody, feud between two prominant Irish families, the Ormonds and the Kildares. During a confrontation in Dublin, the Earl of Ormond, James Butler, along with several of his men, took refuge in the Chapter House of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, behind this very door. Butler’s enemy, Gerald Fitzgerald, the Earl of Kildare, stood on the other side of the door. Fitzgerald decided, in his desire to end the bloodshed, to make a peace offering. To prove his good intentions and honor, he ordered his soldiers to cut a hole through the door and then bravely, “chanced his arm” by thrusting it through the hole in the offer of a handshake of friendship. In doing so, he risked having his arm sliced off by Butler and his men. However, Butler magnanimously accepted this offer of reconciliation and with a handshake through the hole in the door, the feud was ended, and Fitzgerald was able to return home with both arms intact! Thus, in this case anyway, chancing an arm had paid off.

As a mother, I have in some cases advised my children to chance their arms… as evidence of this, one has a BA in English Literature and the other is about to finish a BFA at a Theatre Conservatory! I urged them to think less about taking the safe, conventional routes and to study what they love, work hard at their chosen subjects and the rest will take care of itself. I truly believe that no matter where their passions and pursuits lead them, they will end up more fulfilled if the starting point is at a place where their true interests and passions lie.

However, when it comes to advising my children to take physical risks… I am very protective and a bit of a coward! One example of this would be the threat they have lived with since they were very young that, should any of them ever purchase a motorcycle I promise I will sneak into their garages in the dead of night and put sugar in the gas tank. This is not an empty threat! As far as their physical safety goes, I have warned them to, “be careful” more times than I would like to admit… more times than I know I should have. A good illustration of my over use of the phrases, “be careful” and “watch out”, happened once when I was in a coffee shop with my youngest son when he was about 4 years old. He was having fun running circles around a small table. Suddenly, he came to a dead stop and with a concerned look on his face asked me, “Uh oh… do you think I’ll get dizzy and fall down?” I looked over at the people sitting at a nearby table who were having quite a laugh over his statement and said, “You know, that says a lot more about me than it does him!”

Hovering, worrying and warning my children when it comes to their physical safety and well being is just who I am… like my mother before me! So, this leads to my most recent conflict. Since Eoin and I will be spending our summer(s) at Rose Cottage, it is my intention to enroll him in some sort of summer camp in Kilkee to provide him with fun and an opportunity to meet some of the local children. Because Kilkee is a resort town during the summer due to its proximity to the ocean and the lovely Kilkee Beach, it makes sense to enroll him in a camp that will introduce him to the many watersports that are so much a part of the area. In my pursuit of this end, I came across watersport instruction, NEVSAIL Watersports, that is located next to the life guard hut on the beach and offers adult instruction and certification along with summer camps for boys and girls ages 6-16. As I browsed their website I read all the choices of watersports that this camp offers… kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, raft building, sailing, orienteering (whatever that is!), boogie boarding, surfing, fishing and power boating. The school guarantees high safety standards and states that, “Kilkee is regarded as one of the safest and most popular bathing places on the west coast.” However, my gut level urge was to run the other way! Do I really want to introduce him to, and perhaps begin a passion for, any of these watersports? Shall I risk having a son who spends his leisure time in pursuit of the ultimate wave?! Even raft building, which at first sounded a bit more tame, upon more thought, gave me visions of Eoin floating away into the Atlantic on a raft without an oar! And don’t even get me started on power boating!

So here I am, torn between a desire to provide my son with the opportunity to explore this new horizon that Kilkee has to offer him, and my gut level urge to find him a nice pottery camp! Do I chance my arm? Do I allow him to chance his?

from NevSailWatersports.com

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