Ireland: A Landscape Built in Dreams

The Lagan, near Belfast after a rain

All my books about Ireland were written looking from my window at the rain-parched landscape of central Texas. If ever I needed an inner eye, an active imagination, it was when Caylith and her immigrants first walked on the soil of Éire–when they embarked from their little skin-clad currachs from the bay where today stands the city of Belfast at the juncture of the Irish Sea and the lovely Lagan River.      

From there, I needed to envision the lush rolling hills, the green bogland, the cattle-dotted land between the coast and the huge Lough Neagh, Ireland’s largest lake. And the home of Father Patrick, the famous hill of Emain Macha, had to be not just distinctive but awe-inspiring–the place where the faith of a whole nation was born through the dedication of a man and his ever-widening ministry.

A panoramic view of the Hill of Macha, showing a modern roundhouse on the top

The Foyle not far from Derry

On the hill of Macha I set a large clay-and-wattle roundhouse and a perpetual bonfire, a reminder by Patrick to the people of Christ’s immortality. Even though that fire was my own creation, still it seems a logical fixture in the place where the later saint started his ministry.

Once Caylith and the pilgrims made their inland trek north to Derry, the settlement they built along the River Foyle, she naturally sought out the swift river and the large rocks imbedded along the bank and in the water itself. There she could fish for salmon and trout as she lay on a large rock, daydreaming as the cold, flashing currents swirled and leapt their way to the lake beyond, and from there to the northern sea.

The mighty Foyle, swiftest river in Éire

Many of those visions were mental ones. Writing that first romance, Storm Maker, I did not know how to navigate the web, how to instantly call forth the photos I show today. I’m surprised now, in retrospect, how close my imagination came to reality. And in some locales, I’m shamed at the disparity between the site and my inner perspective of the place.

One view of Trawbreaga Bay, Inishowen

Never mind.  The sites are vivid to me each time I re-read the passages where, for instance, in The Wakening Fire Caylith and Liam stopped on their way to Limavady and conceived their first-born under a red-berried holly. Or the winding bay, the lovely Trawbreaga Bay in Inishowen, where the two of them washed off the stench of their captured enemy in Storm Maker; and where later, in Fire & Silk, a future king established his first domain.

As the books continued and my ability on the computer improved, I was able to see actual photos of the treacherous Tory Island that figured so prominently in Captive Heart, the pyramidal Mt. Errigal with its rose-quartz color at sunset, the fingers of lightning that plague the north coast of modern Donegal, and much more, in Fire & Silk.

A rocky strand on Trawbreaga Bay

And yet, even with photos in front of me, I still needed to walk the land and sift the soil between my fingers. I needed to see the broken-knife shapes of the rocks on Tory and imagine them as resurrected warriors. I needed to see through the eyes of a future king the hill fort overlooking the Swilly River, and much more.

And so, even though these photos capture part of the spirit of my books, I can honestly say that my imaginary landscape is lovely and compelling too.

Mt. Errigal seems to reflect its color back to the clouds.

I’ll leave this flight of fancy with my imaginary waterfall on Mt. Errigal, as Mariana saw it:

She stood under a tall, rough escarpment, one that lay at an angle that would shield this low ground from the force of the prevailing wind. And then her ear was caught by a growl so continual and insistent that it took her several seconds to understand that a waterfall flowed from the bluff, hidden by a line of nearby tall pines. Enthralled, she walked toward the sound.

Emerging from the trees, she stood openmouthed. She had never seen a waterfall before. This one arched from the highest part of the bluff, catching the sunlight in its crystal sprays, tumbling and singing down the side of Errigal like a jeweled ornament. She soon understood the roar as a series of sounds—the rush of the water itself, the pounding of waves on rock, the echo it made as it tumbled and fell from Errigal’s thighs. Yes, she agreed with Flann. Errigal was a woman. She was a wanton, a beguiler, a siren, and a summoner of men. For the first time, she began to form an idea of Flann’s attraction to this place. 

As far as Flann goes,

He was walking into [a] recurrent dream. He wanted Mariana to see his mountain, his waterfall, through his eyes. Would the myriad diamonds of the cascades reflect back in her eyes? Or would the flashing brilliance of her eyes jump and swirl in his waterfall? He ached to find out.

Please come with me to ancient Éire and experience the landscape for yourself–both the real one and the one conjured in my dreams.

“Baylor’s Teeth” on Tory Island

Storm Maker…  http://amzn.to/O218y7
The Wakening Fire…  http://amzn.to/N1Gc6C
Captive Heart…  http://amzn.to/Qm8b1X
Fire & Silk…  http://amzn.to/P6jZtn
Warrior, Ride Hard…  http://www.bookstrand.com/warrior-ride-hard
Warrior, Stand Tall (coming Sept. 5)

About these ads

30 thoughts on “Ireland: A Landscape Built in Dreams

  1. These photos are beautiful, but the descriptions in your books are so vivd that they not only give us a mental picture but also carry us faraway to another place and time.

    • Dear Janus,

      Thanks for pointing out that my landscapes were from 1500 years ago. I have to choose carefully to leave out the people in baseball caps, the automobiles, the jet trails…And yet I think that even all these years later, there is probably no more lovely spot on earth than Ireland.

  2. As usual Erin, lovely piece of writing. from the comodity of home you have offered us beautiful descriptions of tha land I see you love so much. Thank you.

    • Dear Elena,

      You’re right to say that I love this land. I think that somehow I lived back then, and I’m now reliving the scenes in my dreams and in my books. Someone who lives in these places today would be right to chastise me for my fanciful images. But I hope they’ll let me keep dreaming! Gracias por todo.

  3. Such an awesome history in your books, with beautiful descriptions, now seeing the pictures, you describe them perfectly. Excellent and thank you.

    • Ah, Kim, I wish that were true! But thanks for your kindness in saying so. Can you tell that I have chosen a land I’ll leave only briefly, and when I do, it will be to nearby Britannia, Wales and Scotland? All those locales have their inherent beauty, locked in the embrace of history. Thanks so much for coming by this week.

  4. When you are looking out of your window, do you see any lovely Irishmen pass by lol. Beautiful pictures as ever Erin. One day I hope my feet will walk on Irish soil and to kiss the land of beauty.

    • Hey, girl, I wish! Although my hubby is quite kilted enough for me…I wish I could go with you on that trip. I swear I’d return with shells, rocks, pieces of wood and thousands of digital pix. When you go, kiss a blarney stone for me.

  5. Erin,
    As usual you take my breath away with the photographs you choose to show the beauty of Eire. I only hope I can make half as good a job of it when I get the opportunity later this year!
    Paul

    • A mo chara Paul, don’t forget that I didn’t take these photos! The ones you took at Chester/Deva were fabulous. Thanks so much for coming by. Whenever I’m writing my blog, i think in terms of what someone like you would prefer–a learned person, one with an eye for beauty, someone with knowledge of Ireland and of things Gaelic–what would a Paul-like person like to see and read? This time, I gotcha!

  6. Erin, these are great pictures that do justice to the beauty that is Ireland. Your descriptive pictures do the same, never fear. I think of it as God’s playground. I cannot wait to be back there watching silver ribbons of water run down the hills of Connemara or cloud-shadows moving across the hills and pastures.

    • I think you know how envious I am that you’re going to Éire, Miriam. I guess I’ll stick to mental inspiration, along with lovely photos. I love your own descriptions. Be sure to keep a travel diary and give us all a day by day on your CelticRose blog when you return, along with photos!

  7. I loved gazing at these beautiful pictures of Ireland and I am positive that, when you described the scenes in your books, you brought to mind the spirit of Ireland and its wonder. My sister is taking her granddaughter to Ireland next year–if all goes well and the creek don’t rise. LOL All the best to you, Erin.

  8. Dear Sarah, thank you for your nice comments. Too bad you can’t hitch a ride with your sister! The only thing that’s stopping me s that I’d have to go alone–no way would my husand give our cats up to a boarding kennel while we’re gone. But I can dream. I’m really happy you stopped today to smell the shamrocks…Slán, Erin

  9. Some fine photos here, Erin. Seeing them makes me feel a tad wistful, sitting in my hotel outside Shannon Airport, preparing to return to New Hampshire after three wonderful weeks exploring Ireland again. You’re doing a great job describing the place as it might have been. I hope you’ll soon come to see it as it is. All the best, Pat.

    • Wow, Pat, your words give me a little shiver, knowing that you wrote them while still right there in Ireland, on your way home to the States. You’re so right that I tell of the “Ireland that might have been.” And it makes me a little sad to think that I may never see it as it is. Welome home, Pat. I look forward to “seeing” you on your own blog. Bon voyage!

    • Thanks for visiting my site, Paula. I’m glad you like these. If Caylith were to have kept a travelogue of her journey through northern Ireland–and if she had thought to bring along a digital camera–these are the places she would have photographed. The places she went were dictated by the novel plot, yet lo and behold, no matter where she went, the country was spectacular. Did she just get lucky? ;) How I long to go. I’ll have to get by on the memories of my friends like you, and on dream landscapes.

  10. Had the famine not forced so many to leave its shores, I doubt anyone would have in days of yore. Pictures of Ireland are nothing short of a feast for the eyes and senses. I’ve never been to that lovely place, but I often think of my days on our Southern California ranch when I could look out on an adjoining hill and see green, and marveled at how many shades there are. Ireland is the champion in that regard, I’d say. LOL Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes, Joyce, 50 shades of green and counting….I too wish I could see Ireland. Lacking that, I explore her through my characters. The trip is intoxicating, because I truly do begin to live through my own descriptions. We authors have that ability, some more than others. Welcome to my blog, and I hope you’ll visit again soon. :-)

  11. cool photos … you know sometimes when you imagine somewhere you can write about it more vividly and emotionally than if you were actually standing right there.

    • Thanks, my friend. My imagination was on overdrive all through these books. And you’re right–it was an emotional journey. Glad you could see that. Thanks for coming by. Slán, Erin

    • How marvelous that you took the time to stop and comment. Thank you kindly. Ireland is a land I will visit in my dreams until the day I can see it from above. ‘Way above (I hope!!!). Go raibh maith agat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s