Buried Treasure in an Irish Farm Field
~ W.B. Yeats
Ten Small (But Mighty) Tips for Dublin
Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.
Like most voyages to Ireland, my solo writing trip to the West Cork Literary Festival began and ended in Dublin. As a woman on my own, I wasn’t comfortable spending as much time in pubs as many tourists. Because I was free to follow my own whims and interests, I walked for miles, enjoying the city’s extroverted hubbub as an introverted outsider: eavesdropping on the accents and conversations, focusing on cultural and literary landmarks such as theaters and museums, and exploring its wild outskirts, from the mudflats near Howth to the glacier-carved valleys of Wicklow. Through my camera lens, I captured the city’s small details. Here are some miscellaneous tips:
Visit the Outtrippin website to sign up now for our Dublin Uncensored: Bikes, Brews and Bloomsday trip from June 12-17, 2013.
Jazz, Food, Culture & Spirit
People don’t live in New Orleans because it is easy. They live here because they are incapable of living anywhere else in the just same way.
~ Ian McNulty, A Season of Night: New Orleans Life after Katrina
No outsider who followed the news of Hurricane Katrina could have predicted the Crescent City would recover its spirit so soon after the storm’s devastation. According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, the August 2005 hurricane and subsequent levee failures flooded over 80% of the city to varying degrees. Water that rose just one foot in some parts of town submerged the tops of buildings in others. A year later the city’s population had declined to 50% of what it was in 2000. The storm damaged 70% of all housing in New Orleans and displaced more than a million people in the Gulf Coast region. Together, hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused almost $150 billion in damage. Although New Orleans’ population has risen to 74% of its 2000 total, Hurricane Katrina Relief is still seeking donations and volunteers to help restore the city and prepare for the next big (inevitable) storm.
I first visited the Big Easy on a family vacation about a year and a half after the hurricane. The city was still suffering the disaster’s physical and economic scars. Widespread news coverage of the damage and looting following the storm discouraged tourists and reduced annual visitation from 10.1 million in 2004 to 3.1 million in 2006. During our week-long stay, locals thanked us for visiting over and over again. We felt welcome and safe and were entertained in typical NOLA style, with Creole cooking, brass bands, the French Quarter Festival, three Easter parades and historic walks under mossy oaks through Antebellum neighborhoods. We wore our Mardi Gras beads (a staple of parades throughout the year) with pride on our flight home.
Despite the 2010 British Petroleum Oil spill, New Orleans tourism has rebounded since then to almost pre-hurricane levels. But the post-Hurricane city has become wealthier, older and less diverse. While the influx of money can help the city’s redevelopment efforts, the increasing gentrification of the city’s neighborhoods has forced out low-income residents. A popular expression after Katrina said, “New Orleans isn’t the buildings, it’s the people.” Today, the city’s improved economic outlook is pitting them against each other.
I’m off next week to stay with friends for the 43rd annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. From its beginnings as a small event conceived to mirror the Newport, Rhode Island, and Monterey, California, jazz festivals, it now draws well over half a million visitors each year to celebrate “the culture of Louisiana with the combined fervor of a gospel hymn and the joy of a jazz parade.” This year we’ll dance and clap to music that reflects NOLA’s unique cultural gumbo pot of Native American, Creole, Cajun, Spanish, French and Southern influences. We’ll also be forced to choose between big-name artists like the Black Keys, Widespread Panic, Patti Smith, Willie Nelson, Tab Benoit, Jimmy Cliff, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Ocean, Stanley Clarke, Los Lobos, Taj Mahal, Trombone Shorty and Aaron Neville. We’ll make wild hogs of ourselves with Louisiana delicacies from crawfish bread to crab po’boys, catfish almondine, alligator pie, fried chicken, red beans and rice, shrimp and okra gumbo and fresh shucked oysters. As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez le bon temps rouler.”
Schedule Your National Park Visit in the Off-Season
In wildness is the preservation of the world.
~ Henry David Thoreau
Since my first visit jostling for camping space in the summer tourist rush to Yosemite, I’ve developed a realistic respect for official warnings about overcrowding in U.S. national parks. As a child in Oregon, I was lucky enough to visit Crater Lake with my family at least once every few years. Looking down on that pure blue water from above always made me imagine how the first white men to see the “Deep Blue Lake” must have felt. Klamath Indians believed the god of the underworld lived there, and their legends describe the eruption of Mount Mazama, the 12,000-foot volcano that created the crater about 7,700 years ago. For me, Earth’s seventh deepest lake evokes a vision of our Water Planet itself, or what the crew of NASA’s Apollo 17 moon flight called “the blue marble.”
I experienced the wild joy of discovery again last month, as I looked out over Yosemite Valley from Dewey Point on our annual cross-country ski trip. With few people around, wind, White-headed Woodpeckers and Steller’s Jays provided the soundtrack for a slushy day of spring skiing. In just a few weeks, Badger Pass Ski Area would close for the season, and melting snow would flow down Yosemite’s steep granite walls into the valley’s famous waterfalls.
A little over a month later, spring would begin with a steadily increasing stream of tourists to the most popular destination in the third-busiest national park in America. Although it represents only one percent of the total park area, Yosemite Valley gets most of the park’s 4 million annual visitors, and National Park Service statistics show that over 80 percent arrive between May and October. Yosemite Valley’s small size magnifies peak-season problems that plague all the most popular parks: noise and air pollution from excess traffic, inadequate parking and overnight accommodations, and accidents that might be prevented if rangers had more time to enforce safety rules. Federal budget cuts add to these challenges.
Since the first Earth Day in 1970, striking a balance between preservation and recreation has become a priority not just for Yosemite, but for all U.S. parks. To help relieve the pressure, you should consider exploring the busiest parks before May or after October. For added incentive, day passes to any of the nation’s 391 parks will be free during National Park Week, April 21-29, 2013.
Dark Skies Reveal a Rare View: Our Own Galaxy
We have children who grow up without ever seeing the Milky Way. It’s sad.
~ Philip Herbert Cowell, British Astronomer
Long before the first century B.C., when Roman writer Marcus Manilius compared the Milky Way to a luminous ship’s wake, our galaxy inspired art, poetry and stories in cultures around the world. According to ancient Greek myth, the Milky Way was formed when the god Zeus tried to trick his sleeping wife, Hera, into nursing his illegitimate son, Heracles. When Hera woke up and pushed the baby away, her milk squirted across the sky.
In Metamorphoses, Ovid described the Milky Way as a street lined with the houses of gods. Since civilization began, people have described the half-circular arch we see from Earth as a way to heaven; a guiding light for Romans, warriors and pilgrims; the Silver River, Winter Street, Fair Cow’s Path, Way of the White Elephant, Route of Scattered Straw and Fence of Stars.H. Heyer/ESO
Although the Greek Democritus claimed around 400 B.C. that the Milky Way was made of stars, no one proved that theory until 1610, when Galileo observed it through a telescope. In the 1800s, William Hershel (who discovered Uranus) tried to count the stars in the Milky Way to determine the galaxy’s shape. Since then, astronomers have learned that the Milky Way is a disc with spiral arms, made up of dust, gas and up to 400 billion stars. They named the black hole at its center Sagittarius A.
Although science has given us a better understanding of our galaxy, the awe-inspiring sight of what the Chinese called the River of Heaven has become rarer as modern society has become increasingly more urban and artificial lighting more widespread. According to the International Dark Sky Association, this light pollution is preventing up to 80% of today’s population from seeing this once-common, still awe-inspiring sight. It’s visible on any clear night from a dark location. You can get an even better view from any of the IDA’s eleven International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S., Hungary, Scotland or Wales, or dark sky places around the world. Happy starry sails!