St Leonard’s Well, Dunnamaggin, Kilkenny

St Leonard’s Well, Dunnamaggin, Kilkenny

St Leonard is the patron of Dunnamaggin, as well as women in labour and imprisoned people. KCLR fm have an mini documentary on this well with an interesting and charming interview with Ned Kirwan, the owner of the land who restored and maintained the well. There is a Swiss connection discussed and also the fact that no Dunnamaggin person is known to have died by “thunder or lightning”.

From the road through Dunnamaggin , one sees a neat sign :

And in a field , a well kept enclosure surrounds the well. You get over a small step-stile into the field and over you go.

There are information sheets posted on trees in the well:

This reads “St Leonard’s Well is midway between the old church and cemetery and the present church. It was a place of pilgrimage where a procession began and proceeded to the old church. The well has been renovated in recent years and in 2012 the annual mass of welcomes was celebrated at the well. The area is on the land of Ned Kirwan who maintains it to a very high standard”

“In ca 1800 an alabaster statue was discovered, presumably of St Leonard, by the Brennan family who owned the land. In cases of dispute among neighbours, arguing parties made declarations with hand placed on the statue believing that the testimony given was as binding as an oath.”

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There is also a longer sheet with a biography of St Leonard from Fr Alban Butler’s The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints. Unfortunately I cannot find the text of the third volume of this online… so here is a link to his Wikipedia page and Catholic Encyclopaedia entry

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#OceanOptimism & the psychology of powerlessness and hope from current BBC Wildlife Magazine

The current issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine has a fascinating cover story by Elin Kelsey on hope and optimism versus despair in how we think and act about the environment. Essentially, much media discourse on the environment tends to be gloomy, doom, and generally despairing. Kelsey cites a wide range of research on how this negativity effects how we think about the environment and our beliefs about what can be done – and therefore what is done – to improve things. The BBC Wildlife article is not available online.  This article from Smithsonian Magazine is briefer and has fewer references to specific researchers, but the ideas are the same:

Things are far more resilient than I ever imagined. Me, green sea turtles, coral reefs blown to bits by atomic bombs. In a twist of fate that even surprised scientists, Bikini Atoll, site of one of the world’s biggest nuclear explosions, is now a scuba diver’s paradise. Bikini Atoll located in the Pacific’s Marshall Islands didn’t just inspire the famous bathing suit; the US Army detonated the first hydrogen bomb there. Between 1946 and 1958, 23 nuclear explosions were carried out, at an incalculable cost to the people and the marine environment. Fifty years later, scientists record a thriving coral reef habitat that includes large tree-like branching coral formations with trunks the diameter of dinner plates. “It’s made a brilliant recovery,” says Zoe Richards, a scientist at the Australian Museum.

I’ve been awash in uplifting news about the ocean lately. Each day, tweets from #OceanOptimism alert me to marine conservation successes happening all over the world: a new marine sanctuary in the Galapagos Islands to protect the world’s highest concentrations of sharks; green sea turtles in Florida and Mexico no longer listed as endangered thanks to successful conservation efforts; a major fishing deal offers protection to Arctic waters.

Kelsey founded the Ocean Optimism project to highlight the resilience of ocean ecosystems, and the progress already made in preservation and restoration. This was inspired by her own experience of how children in particular react to environmentalist nihilism:

For me, the impact of doom and gloom on kids, in particular, came as a shock. For years, I had worked with aquariums, museums, and international environmental organizations, creating strategies to engage people with marine issues. As an academic, I understood the national statistics about what people in many different countries knew and what their attitudes were toward climate change, overfishing, and other problems. But how all that “knowing” felt was nowhere to be found in that vast pool of information.

I realized that omission when I was invited to speak with young people attending a United Nations children’s conference on the environment in 2008 in Stavanger, Norway. The participants, who ranged in age from 10 to14 years old, came from more than 90 countries and a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. “How do you feel when you think about the environment?” I asked. I don’t remember what I expected them to say, but so many of them expressed such a chilling sense of dread that I felt powerless to comfort them. I knew exactly what they meant. I, too, often felt despair about the state of the world. I just never imagined such feelings were shared among children living in vastly varied circumstances.

Global dread, eco-anxiety, environmental grief—despair about the future of the planet has garnered many labels in recent years. In our noble zeal to emphasize the urgency and enormity of environmental issues, we may inadvertently be raising a generation that feels hopeless about the future of the planet. Studies within the past decade from the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States find a quarter to a half of children surveyed are so troubled about the state of the world, they honestly believe it will come to an end before they get older.

Kelsey describes the legitimate reasons ecologist and environmentalists have for trading more in bad news than good – particular not wishing to play into the hands of denialists of various stripes (digression – AutoCorrect changed “denialist” to “dentists” just now) However, in so doing, they man be undermining the very efforts they are advocating for:

Hopelessness undermines the very engagement with marine issues we seek to create. According to researchers at Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, there are limits to the amount of concerns we can deal with at one time. They call it the “finite pool of worry.” Overburdening people’s capacity for worry with too much doom and gloom leads to emotional numbing. When we believe our actions are too small to make a difference, we tend to behave in ways that create the conditions in which those expectations are realized. By bombarding people with bad news about the oceans at scales that feel too large to surmount, we cause them to downplay, tune out, or shut down. Hopelessness is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The rest of the article is worth reading for its insights into how #OceanOptimism can move people from this position of hopelessness to one of hope and therefore potential action. I had not come across the “finite pool of worry” concept before. In the BBC Wildlife article Kelsey cites Elke Weber of Columbia University as the originator of it. The BBC Wildlife article also has a good quote from Nancy Knowlton  of the Smithsonian Institution that gets to the heart of the matter;

“I look at marine conservation biologists as akin to doctors of the ocean,” Knowlton explains, “and doctors don’t train just to write obituaries. They fill medical journals with stories of advances and successes”

The article is thought-provoking (and hopefully hope inspiring and action provoking in many ways, some of which I will explore on my more medical blog… but one link to a recent post here came to me – Marie Thompson on noise, “the conservative politics of silence”, and soundscapes. Thompson writes:

To my mind, the conservative politics of silence informs a number of assumptions that are frequently made about what are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sonic environments; it relates to a preference for the simple over the complex, sameness over difference, past over present, predictability over unpredictability, the ‘synthetic’ over the ‘natural’ (whatever that might mean) and, ultimately, quietude over noise. This ideological framework underlines much ‘common sense’ about auditory experience, however it frequently remains unacknowledged.

Perhaps what Thompson omits is that the “conservative” politics of silence is often really a discourse of decline and loss. Silence and natural (or “natural”, if you prefer) soundscapes are defined by their absence, by their loss. This kind of cultural pessimism can be very seductive. And of course, it is rooted in a reality . Gordon Hempton’s One Square Inch of Silence  is a good example of a hopeful project, almost archetypal of the better-light-a-candle-than-curse-the-darkness philosophy, and naturally enough having to fight against threats near constantly .

“sound as a way of sense-making”

Sound Artist Lawrence English on the Power of Radical Listening

From Observer.com

Interview here

 

How did you become interested in working with sound as a creative medium?

When I was a kid, I’d go bird watching with my dad at this waterfront area of Brisbane that’s now populated with condos. My dad would take us there and we’d look for Reed Warblers on binoculars, which is cruel for children because they can’t control their own eyes, let alone a second set of eyes that’s meant to help them see deeper.

I was constantly looking for this bird, and after several months of not seeing it, my dad told me to put the binoculars down, to close my eyes and listen. He said, “Now that you know where the bird is, put the binoculars back to your eyes and look where you sense the sound is.” I did that and I was able to see the bird straightaway. That was the first time I understood the role of sound as a way of sense-making, as a way of being into the world.

 

Later in the interview:

You intentionally collaborated more on Cruel Optimism. What can connection, real physical connection, do for us in these times? Are you hopeful that we can discern how to move beyond the issues that ensnare us in 2017?

I’m incredibly optimistic about the future. But, in saying that, I’m the past. My children are the future and their children are the future. My place is to support them and to love them and to encourage in them a way of being in the world that is reflective of the things we’re talking about. This is one of the most critical things I feel that I can do with whatever time remains for me.

There’s this great quote from Neil Postman, who was a wonderful academic who lived in New York. He wrote a book called The Disappearance of Childhood, and at the beginning he basically said, “Children are the living messages that we send to a time that we will never see.” That’s a profound way to think about the idea of time and our time on the planet.

 

Life in a Drop of Water: an interview with underwater photographer Liam Marsh

One of the blogs I follow is the Freshwater Blog, which is a wonderful resource. I have reblogged below an interview with underwater photographer Liam Marsh.The images that accompany the blog post are extraordinary. I particularly loved Liam’s line: “I’m fascinated by the idea of this entire world that goes on almost without our knowledge, just below the water’s surface” which captures the the fascination of freshwater – and I was glad to note he shares my love of dippers….on which topic it is well worth watching Liam’s short film Spring on the River:

The Freshwater Blog

fresh_water_shrimp Freshwater shrimp in a drop of water. Image: Liam Marsh

Liam Marsh is an award-winning natural history and wildlife photographer based in the Blackdown hills of south Somerset in England. His photographs of aquatic life – both above and below the waterline – are creative, unusual, and often beautiful. We spoke to Liam to find out about his approaches to revealing freshwater worlds through photography.

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Tell us about your work as a wildlife photographer: how did you get started, and what are you working on at the moment?

I have always loved photography, and as a process it encourages you spend more time examining the world around you. I’ve always found wildlife to be the perfect match for that approach. Photography has given met a set of tools with which to examine the many wonderful creatures that live around us. All of my images are a result of countless…

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The antithesis of anthropomorphism: Tarka the Otter

I have written here before on anthropomorphism, following John Lewis-Stempel’s musings as to whether it is such a dread conceptual offence as it often stated. Recently I read Henry Williamson’s “Tarka the Otter” and was struck by how, in Jonathan Law’s words:

Of all the strange books that have from time to time been thrust at children, Tarka the Otter must be one of the strangest. Shocking in its violence, heavy with descriptive detail, severely anti-anthropomorphic – it’s a long way from Watership Down, let alone Disney. Any normal child would surely be bored and repulsed (the young Ted Hughes read it compulsively for two years: it “entered me and gave shape and words to my world, as no book has ever done since”).

There are very many passages worth quoting, especially to illustrate the “severe anti-anthropomorpic” qualities of the prose. Here is one:

Late at night she returned with the cubs to the wood, and whistled for the lost one. She did not know it was dead; she knew only her longing for it. Her whistles went far in the still night, as she ran with nose to the ground, stopping to whine when her grief became acute. The cock on the apple bough heard her and crew to the dog in the kennel, who barked to its master. Hearing the bark, the otter took her cubs away, and at the end of the night, when they reached the big rive, the lost cub was forgotten.

Of course, in this passage Williamson does not imagine the otter mother as without what we would call feeling, but at the level of “longing” and in a markedly transitory way.  Elsewhere, in a brutal aside, Tarka’s mother simply forgots his existence once he is independent.

This passage is even less Disney-like:

Six hours later Tarka ran up Wild Pear Beach and his thin, hard cried piereced the slop and wash of waves on the loose, worn, shaly strand. He followed the trail over the weeds to the otters’ sleeping-place under a rock, and down again to the sea. In a pool off Briery Cave he scented otter again, for at the bottom of the pool lay a wicker-pot, holding something that turned slowly as the ribbons of the thong-weed lifted and dropped in the water. The long blue feelers of the lobster were feeling through the wickerwork; it was gorged, and trying to get away from the otter cub it had been eating. The cub had found no way out of the cage it had entered at high tide, intending to eat the lobster.