In honor of memory and storytelling, I began a project that I am calling my Aran Islands project.
I’ve traveled to Ireland twice. The second time, about ten years ago, I backpacked around Southwest Ireland with a friend, beginning in Cork, through Galway, traveling down as far as Sheep’s Head Mizen, up across the Bay of Shannon and back to Cork. One of the best days was the day I traveled alone to Inishmoor, the largest of the Aran Islands. My friend and I split up that day, and I took a ferry across the water to the island. There, I rented a bike and pedaled alone around the island for the day. I took all of the photos in this post, including any photos of myself. In the days before selfies, my digital camera had a self-timer. I would poise the camera atop a stone wall or a post, set the timer, and run like the dickens in the 5 seconds it gave me before taking the photo.
The island is covered with small fields surrounded by stone walls, tiny thatched cottages, (many still occupied,) various church ruins, “beehive huts” and several hill forts that are a few thousand years old.
While I did enjoy biking to Dun Aengus, a fort with more visible remains, it had many visitors due to its ease of access. (When I say many, I mean there were probably about ten people there when I reached the ruins.)
The seminal moment of the day, as well as the trip, was experiencing the Black Fort (Dún Dúchathair.) This is another ancient hillfort that sits on the very edge of the ocean, and it’s no easy trip. In order to get there, I had to ditch the bike and hike a mile over rough stones. You gotta work to see these ruins! As you move cautiously in and around the stones, you constantly hear this great pounding of the waves. When you finally arrive after your trek across the treacherous landscape, you find yourself looking down on this absolutely dark, lonely cove. I have never felt so overwhelmed by the power of land and sea. The solitude I felt at that moment, looking out over the sea on a cloudy day, and turning back to look out over acres of stones with no houses in site, was truly awesome and a little overwhelming, even for me, a person who cherishes solitude.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what this all has to do with crochet. Naturally, it’s a bit abstract and loosely connected! I came across a granny square pattern called the “Fisherman’s Ring” and I immediately wanted to make it in a beige color ala the Aran Island sweaters. According to lore, the stitches on Aran Island sweaters have some symbolic significance. The story goes that each type of knot and stitch represents some element of the island life. Being a community that depended upon their fishing economy, the cable stitch symbolizes fishermens’ ropes, with wishes for a fruitful day at sea. The diamond stitches are supposed to represent the small fields of the islands, while the zig-zag stitch stands for the winding paths on the cliffs.
The first is my “original” Aran Islands square. I included a picture of a second square just to highlight the knot work involved with this square. I don’t have a long story about the second square. I’ve decided it can just be a nod to my high-school fascination with 1960s psychedelic culture.
After completing one square, I decided I would document some of the real journeys I’ve taken, duplicating this fisherman’s ring square in different colors. Some of the journeys are those I haven’t taken yet; travels that are more “wishful thinking.” I hope you enjoy the tour with me!