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24 June

M i ds u mm er

Litha

S t Jo h n’s Eve

Midsummer S k e t c h e s

1 A u gus t

L am m as

L u g hn a ssa d h

John B a r l ey c o rn


Midsummer Sketches

In June we invited a number of artist colleagues, friends and family to mark one moment in the time between St John’s Eve and Lughnasadh and send us a photograph and some text. In this Gallery Book we share the work of all who rose to the occasion.This has been a labour of love and not associated with our work days. However, we acknowledge Tallaght Community Arts support in enabling us to share the work. Enjoy

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Midsummer Sketches

St Johns Eve – 23 June Near Knockaderry, County Limerick a curious custom was repeated each St. John's Eve. The young people used to gather from the marshy ground near the River Deel the large leaf and strong stem the hocusfian as it was called and each youth armed with one of these went around lightly striking each person that he or she met.This was supposed to protect those who were struck from illness and evil influences during the coming year. Afterwards, the hocus stems were thrown into the fire.

At sunset on June 23rd, an ancient fire festival begins. This midsummer festival was known as St. John's Eve, or Bonfire Night, and not that long ago, it was a wide-spread tradition throughout Ireland. The following description is edited from a piece written in 1943 by an old schoolmaster who lived in We s t L i m e r i c k : “...old people of thirty years ago and more remembered how the fire used to be lit exactly at sunset and had to be watched and tended until long after midnight. Prayers use to be said to obtain God's blessing on the crops, then at the peak-point of summer bloom.”

Old people told me that it was customary to jump over the fire from side to side.” Bridget Hegarty - St John’s Eve in Old Ireland

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24th June 2020. Nine fifty one and twenty seven seconds, St John’s fire is a blaze.

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Walking with people from the towns of Catskill and Hudson in support of Black Lives Matter.

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Perhaps things will be different this time.

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Nobody sees a flower really it is so small it takes time we haven't time - and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time -  Georgia O Keefe

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I dig an allotment in Deptford, South East London. It’s a miracle of abundance. Every year, I have to think about what to do with the red and blackcurrant harvest. Redcurrant jelly takes a long time to soak through the muslin but is worth the wait.  

Chutney is quite quick and easy once the ingredients are prepared. Here is Redcurrant, Rosemary spiced chutney in the making and in jars on the windowsill waiting to be labelled.

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Inquisitive nature Makes the touch compelling Yet deceptive fuzz can impale Only touch with your eyes They say Gaze softly at the spikes A tiny presence Comforting in its offering Of danger averted For touching is never required To know the tickle And feel the breath

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Summer 2020 is a summer for staying close to home. I am fortunate to have my studio in my back garden and the last few months have been very productive and I am painting every day. I also take several daily walks within a few kilometers of my home in Goatstown, a location that often features in my paintings. I keep a visual diary of these walks by taking photographs with my phone.

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High summers. I think I remember them. My memories of Belfast Julys were of endless evening light so bright that I could hold up the corner of the blind in my bedroom and read – at least until a parent looked up from the garden and caught me. Sleeping urged, book confiscated. Moving south I thought this had been mere childish gilded fantasy, like the way your house revisited as an adult seems so much smaller. And then I came north again, even further, and found that this memory at least was no nostalgic delusion. The north gave me back those summer nights and all the books I had read with all the extra time they offered. Now, in this different twilight zone of lockdown, the night light is no friend. Sleep brings only anxious dreams: of missed trains, of endless cycling to elusive destinations, of lost luggage, lost friends, loss of all sorts. I jolt myself awake and open my eyes for reassurance but there it is, the light pouring in past inadequate curtains, and that’s the end of the effort and the beginning of more long days.

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The day we got out We edged cautiously out of the house, along the reawakening roads, to the edge. And there it was – the unbounded sea, as joyous and reckless as it had been all the while we were hiding. There is a ‘normal’ that is bigger than us. We may not get ours back but it doesn’t matter. We are so small and matter so little.

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I'm as restless as a willow in a windstorm I'm as jumpy as a puppet on a string I'd say that I had Spring fever But I know it isn't Spring I am starry-eyed and vaguely discontented Like a nightingale without a song to sing Oh, why should I have Spring fever When it isn't even Spring? I keep wishing I were somewhere else Walking down a strange new street Hearing words that I have never heard From a girl I've yet to meet I'm as busy as a spider spinning daydreams I'm as giddy as a baby on a swing I haven't seen a crocus or a rosebud or a robin on the wing But I feel so gay in a melancholy way That it might as well be Spring It might as well be Spring

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Stargazing A place so warm that only “madmen and the English” venture out while the sun is still high, The summer brings the heat and with it my eczema worsens, Summers beauty spreads a rash across my figure, Yet still I’m drawn to it.

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A forest is a magical place. I love to wander and imagine I might find a portal into some other time and place. The sound of the wind through the trees and the way the light shines through the branches onto the forest floor. I long to find that magic door…but its only visible at midsummer and I never manage to find it in time before it disappears…or was it really there in the first place? It feels like I’m living in a parallel universe right now with my real life happening on some other sphere… stop the world I want to get off! Well, I think this is what it must feel like to get off. Get it moving again…I want to get on, but maybe this time not quite as fast.

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Blue Summer

Swing cotton on high Through the dance that wind provides Blaze against the sky

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One is from our holiday in Wexford last week. Stayed with family and spent our time trying to find places that there weren't many people which can be hard with everyone searching out places to holiday at home this year! Found a 'secret' entrance to the beach and had it to ourselves most days! The position of the figures in the photo just remind me of the 2 metre rule people keep being told to remember and the surprise appearance of the man with the dogs was unplanned. Kind of an intruder in 'our secret' spot but he still maintained social distance! In our beach you could build damns, surf and splash in the sea and Covid 19 is a distance memory for a while.... Bliss! 

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Second photo is a beautiful fox I spotted along the Dodder river.... Well when I say' I spotted' I kind of gate crashed a bunch of serious wildlife photographers spot as they all waited patiently for the perfect photo. Like the paparazzi folk, I clicked away as the beautiful fox almost posed for us! Not bad for a Huawei phone!! This sly little fox looked like it was patiently waiting to pounce on something. He reminds me of how nature thrives while all around human life is in abit of a pickle due to Corona Virus among other things. 

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Out of lockdown, AÂ first day out

A densely planted paradise And a shed that needs attending too

Just like we all do in this time of solitude

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Sea Holly Brought when who knows? Arkow beach?

A seed planted in that last innocent year .......

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Spring and summer 2020 has been a period of upheaval and change for people world-wide. Illness, bereavement and loneliness for some; extended periods furloughed and concerned about employment for many; working and studying at home for others. We have been fortunate to escape relatively unscathed from the negative impacts of COVID-19 so far. We have been able to work from home and (slightly surprisingly) have enjoyed spending more time together as a family, plus taking stock of some of the simpler things in life. We also made the momentous decision to add a puppy to our family. Alfie (the phantom Cockapoo) joined us on in early July aged 8 weeks old and has been a source of mischief and delight.

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Over this

Past it, by now. Past the benefits of solitude,  not past fear or the ways  I don't wish to go; past the splintered fence,  across these bitter yards and the foxes’ run, the wall between the backs of houses.

In time it might subside, I won't dwell on it but instead, will give my efforts  over to the sun or sky, the wind or the tremor in my limbs; because I know nothing,  my allotment of  small panic and fears,  planted like winter bulbs in the broken sods  outside my door has grown - 

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the soil, so long fallow, is productive enough and as each day passes  my crop grows, more abundant as each day grows unresolved  and certainty flees like a fox,  down the wall, out of sight,  with something feathered  in its jaws. 


Midsummer Sketches

The valley in lockdown Hens free ranging Bees busy in the borage Butterflies flying over the brassicas Slugs gobbling the lettuces Abundant feast for everyone. Beautiful Glenasmole!

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This lockdown gave us more time together with our fluffy family members, now looking back we are so grateful for that time as Holly and Jessie have gone on to the rainbow bridge. Best friends in life and beyond. They have left a hole in our hearts now that they are gone, but to know they had a happy love filled life makes it a little easier to say the most painful of goodbyes.

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My Hollyhocks, memories of France. Seed heads from Le Chay six years ago. No trip to France this June, flights cancelled.

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My garden has been so special this year. I have spent so much time watching different plants appearing. It has been a real pleasure, filling the gap of not being able to see and spend time with my family in Dublin.

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Glengara woods, County Tipperary.

An avalanche of greenery. A cascade of everything kept locked away by five kilometres. Coming out of my prescribed hibernation to a natural world boiling with growth. A nature I may have taken for granted once now, as the nation tenderly opens,

Where to look? What to listen to? How should I Feel? …Smell?

I dive into it headlong. Still foggy from seventy odd days of the same scenery. I take in all the majesty of it, try to.

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Eden is down the road, a weekend break, a staycation. I’m taking pictures, stealing what I can from the garden. Pictures are flat though. They are a wash of green. The pictures are raw snapshots of eyes trying to remember the golden ratio, rules of thirds and Italian masters with turtles for names. I’m dazed and confused but happy. I have been to Eden and gathered some aspect of the tempest. The freeform jazz of nature which had simmered beyond a five kilometre perimeter.


Midsummer Sketches

"A mystical vortex of ancient trees and darkness that draws you further and further in to explore its impenetrable silence"

One Tree Hill Sevenoaks Kent

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The Curious Case of the Dog and the Budgerigar. I am aware that this bird is not a budgerigar. This is a Dove, or a Pigeon, or a cross – I’m not sure. What I am sure about is that this bird crash landed into my garden amidst a flurry of feathers and furious noise around 36 hours ago. Since then we have developed a wary entante cordiale… wherein I agree to not get too close but am allowed to shift territorial boundaries with an occasional waft of my arms. The bird needs time to recuperate from whatever airborne battle sent it unavoidably to seek refuge in my garden – and whilst watching it, willing it and feeding it, it got me thinking about individual perception, about standpoints and beliefs, about the things we have taken for granted for years, and how they have been challenged over recent months.

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Around 45 summers ago I watched the family dog stare out my budgerigar which perched in its cage, suspended above him under the staircase. I became transfixed, as the dog sat quite still and didn’t respond to any of the usual calls for walks, treats or play, and the minutes passed. ‘What’s up with the dog?’ I asked but got no answer from those absorbed in television or chores. The usually skittish Barney the dog was intent, and intense for a good ten minutes, and then suddenly let out a single, piercingly loud bark – at which point my budgie fell off its perch and hit the sandy cage bottom stone dead.

I was incensed: the stupid dog had freaked out my bird with it’s stare and then given her a stupid heart attack with his stupid bark – this tiny frail little thing against this stupid huge hairy stinking barking stupid idiot stood no chance. Some hours later, with tears and a small ceremony attended by close relatives and absolutely no dog, the bird was buried under the roses in the garden.

For over 40 years I have told this little story of the family dog barking my budgie to an untimely death. Except… as I watch intently the bird in my garden struggle to regain its strength enough to fight another day… I wonder… did the dog sense that something was wrong with the budgie and try it’s best to alert us to it – and in that final second, bark not to cause it to fall, but because it fell. Perhaps the ‘stupid’ dog, was not so stupid after all.

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'Once upon a time Eva was walking down the street with her Mommy and she saw that flower. And the little flower bloomed.'

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'This is Stephen's Green playground. Swinging again for the first time felt like happiness.'

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This part of our garden was mud and weeds before our covid lock-down. This time, with it's existential concerns etc, was also a special time, a precious time, to slow down and take time out of the usual manic constant motion and be home, together...

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Out on the canal in my inflatable kayak there's space and calm. I can't be doing something else as well as being here. Lockdown wasn't the Lazy life it could have been.   It was mad and hectic and perpetually confusing. And frightening Nothing pushed it all away like the gentle shove of my paddle against the canal's edge after another giddy day.  Paddling the neat Union Canal let me reflect on what I was missing: friends and family, students and places. A chance to reflect and care. Not just cope

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CALMING I have used this time to think about how I have been living my life, the pace at which I do things, want things, and the pressure I put myself under to get the job done. I have found myself calmer in mind and body during this time. It is as if the world has told me to take it easy and spend more time with ME. OUR TIME I have spent this time with those closest to me, my immediate family, it has been a time to get to know each other again as adults. We have eaten family meals together and have taken the time to discuss, debate, argue, laugh, and cry together.

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Invitations

Decisions

Vacations

You are hereby formally invited to join Ireland in a celebration of community, country & f a m i l y.

I have used this time for decision making while I look forward to working again and meeting up with friends socially, I want to hold on to the more relaxed person I have become.

I have used this time to holiday in my beautiful country. As a child I travelled Ireland with my parents and sister, on camping holidays. I have been thinking about these holidays. I remember sitting in the rear seat of my parents battered old Ford Escort with my sister feeling very bored and uninterested in all the back roads of Ireland, I was the typical teenager! Oh how this has changed I now really appreciate all that there is to see in Ireland the beaches, the mountains, the towns and villages and take great pride in in the fact that I do actually remember so much about the counties of Ireland, so it would appear that even though I was a complaining teenager I did retain what I learnt back then.

This has been such a worrying time with so many people having their lives completely upended. People having no close contact with loved ones, losing jobs, no school, health workers and essential workers going above and beyond. I have seen my local community come together like never before. We held afternoon Tea in our gardens on Saturdays, movie nights on our streets, we looked after our elderly and vulnerable, checking in on them to make sure they had everything they needed. We spoke with neighbours, some of whom we had not spoken to before. There has been such a huge feeling of togetherness. I hope this will continue.

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I never thought choosing a photograph from my garden would prove so very difficult.  During this Pandemic you see, my garden has become my very private and therapeutic space.  Anyway decision made photo attached – enjoy, as I do.

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I have always loved being by the sea, and letting its calmness wash over me. But during this time of madness, the river in all its peacefulness has brought me joy. A sunset over water can take you anywhere.

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I first noticed how wire insinuated itself in nature while out cycling my 2km area under the Dublin mountains. The barbed wire represented my frustration and resentment of being denied access to the places I usually like to go, most especially, the sea.  However, being forced to remain local was a great experience; it made me slow down, take stock and appreciate the incredible beauty I have right outside my door. 

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Kilkee An evening walk in Kilkee with my best friend. We had to sit down to take in the beautiful sunset.

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1)' Falling'

2) 'First summer'

3) 'Impermanence'

Black ink in water taken while filming a, 'Meditation on Grief' which I've been working on over the Summer.

I know you probably have a heap of flowers but I included this, 'Peony Rose' because of who gave it to me, a dear friend, John Beesley, who died at the end of last year. This is the first summer I've seen without him and there was something very powerful but also haunting about seeing it bloom and decay, as the summer progressed.

Coming across this on a walk to Supervalu literally stopped me in my tracks, it was the essence of the everything and a visual representation of the crisis atmosphere in pigeon form!

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4) 'Locked'

5) 'Weave'

6) 'Assumption'.

I documented the signage on businesses and buildings in Birr, Co.Offaly during lockdown and this one particularly hit me. It's Birr Theatre and Arts Centre, locked, dark and silent.

This a work a progress, a weaved stair gate made from recycled fabric and part of an old barbecue.

It's of Vitamin B12 injection vials, I had 6 injections over 10 days in June/July and these were the remaining 3.I had assumed that my 'wrecked tired' fog state was from working too hard, or a fall out from the circumstances, in which we currently find ourselves,

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White clouds roll into rural Tipperary at the height of summer. The false Acacia glows acid yellow in the bright afternoon sunshine.

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“A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going.�

John Steinbeck

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Keep looking A lichen stained rock Keep looking Sand and a green hill Keep looking The light illuminating the earth

Silver Strand Louisburgh, Co Mayo

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Dublin Docklands, Backside Caveman off concrete bollards. I’ve spent this summer skating, it is liberating, it gives me something to focus on and by doing so I escape reality in a way.

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Midsummer Sketches Midsummer Eve Under a sickle moon, the fire spits and devours wood like our bodies hungry for each other. We move against a waning light, eager for the last dregs of it. A donkey brays, dogs whimper, restless in their dreams. Flames leap, the smell will linger for days on our clothes, a Gypsy air.

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Happy to be white? Or sad not to be red? You choose!

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No holidays this year but our trek around the high lake in Glendalough was a real adventure.

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1st August 2020. Nine forty three and nine seconds, raising a glass to John Barleycorn.

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Lughnasadh – 1st August Lughnasadh was named after the pagan god Lugh. It was believed in ancient times, that Lugh began the festival as a funeral feast and games for his mother, Tailtiu, the earth goddess. During the festival people would meet and trade goods such as corn, cattle and various goods. The festival’s main event was a large feast of the newly harvested crops and livestock. Everyone took part. People also picked bilberries which have become significant to surviving rituals relating to this day. The festival of Lughnasadh was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. In Wales a similar festival of Calan Awst was celebrated and in England it was known as Lammas.

There was three men come out o' the west their fortunes for to try, And these three men made a solemn vow, John Barleycorn must die, They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in, throwed clods upon his head, Til these three men were satisfied John Barleycorn was dead. John Barleycorn – Traditional English

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Our thanks to all of you for sharing your moments between St John’s Eve and Lughnassadh during this strangest of years

Jonathan & Tony

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06/54.Jonathan Stokes

21. Tony Fegan

37/38.Pauline Dalton

07/08.Barbara Heinzen

22.Tadashi Kato

39.Ruth Clancy

09.Bernie Marsterson

23.Rebecca Stokes

40.Chinh Hoang

09.Helena Powell

24.Martin Meyler

41.Jackie Gray

10.Julia Rowntree

25.Mohammad Rayhan

42.Alex Moloney

11.Hannah Levy

26.Sarah Sinnott

43/44.Rowena Keaveny

12.Mary Burke

27/28.Jane Stokes

45.Sean Laffey

13/14.Fiona Ellis

29.Cian Laffey

46.Deborah Mullins

15.Maureen Carroll/McCormack

30.Clare Crow

47.Carla Fazio Morris

16.Shane Ryan Croasdell

31/32.Andrew “Sid” Siddall

48.Hamish Stokes

17.Cinzia Hardy

33/34.Eva Moore

49.Siobhan Daffy

18.Annette Barnaville

35.Martin Dunne

50.Rudi Genbrugge

19/20.Caroline Hyland

36.Tabitha Neal

51.Joe Clarke

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Book design Jonathan Stokes Text Tony Fegan

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Midsummer 24th June Midsummer Litha St John’s Eve 1st August Lammas Lughnassadh John Barleycorn

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Midsummer Sketches  

Midsummer sketches is a book of memories, photographs and accompanying texts curated during the summer of 2020, between 24th June and 1st Au...

Midsummer Sketches  

Midsummer sketches is a book of memories, photographs and accompanying texts curated during the summer of 2020, between 24th June and 1st Au...

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