Three Times is Never Enough


Today, I’m at Jansen Art Center in Lynden, Washington on a writer’s retreat with 11 other writers. We’re all sitting in the library upstairs, sipping coffee and tapping away on our laptops. I’m pouring through photos of Ireland and trying to gain inspiration to finish writing the final chapter of my book. Yes, the FINAL chapter! And as I wrap up my thoughts on my journeys through Ireland, I find myself missing it again, longing for the rain slicked streets in Dublin, the perilous country roads, the rainbows springing up around castle ruins, and talking with boys in bars. Maybe one day, after my book is published, I’ll have the opportunity to go again. One, twice, three times – with some places, it’s never enough.

The Replacement Temples

When I visited Dublin in 2010 and 2011, The Temple Bar (within Temple Bar) had two painted panels flanking the front door, one of Lady Martha Temple and the other of Sir William Temple. I thought they really brightened up that stretch of road. Sadly, when I returned in 2012, the bright, colorful paintings had been replaced! I prefer the original, but I also don’t deal well with change…

I actually made a print of the original, and it’s hanging in my dining room. I had wanted to return and get a picture of Sir William Temple without a man standing in front of it so that I could have a matching set. Alas, that will not happen. Although, the man by Sir William does add a little charm to the photo.

The original Lady Martha Temple
The Original Sir William Temple

Viking Invasion of Ireland – Day 2

Alley off of the Meeting House Square

I just arrived in Belfast and want to explore, so I’ll be a bit more concise with my story-telling today and then post a few pictures from day 2 in Dublin…

Yesterday I took what seemed like a very long walk to the Guinness Storehouse after Paul and I visited Steve McCurry’s exhibit.  This lead me past old cathedrals, Dublin’s first pub, and countless other little points of interest. I wanted to visit the Jameson Distillery as well, but I didn’t leave myself enough time and ended up at Dublinia to experience Viking and medieval Dublin.  It was a self-guided tour, which I enjoyed immensely because I learned a lot about my Viking ancestors.  Interestingly, there weren’t really full-time Vikings.  Mostly they were farmers who were just part-time sea terrorists looking for extra income.   Definitely worth the price of admission. 

I didn’t go out with Paul’s friends yesterday evening.  On my own instead, I visited Oliver St. John Gogarty for the second time and struck up a “conversation” with a man from Barcelona.  He didn’t speak English, so by conversation I mean pantomime, over exaggerated hand movements and pretty much just saying words neither of us understood LOUDER.   This was too exhausting for me despite his good looks, but he was really excited about having an amigo and decided to follow me around for a while.  Not really wanting a stalker that I couldn’t understand, I ducked back into the Clarence where I ended up meeting two older brothers named Liam and Colin in the hotel bar. 

Liam and Colin were your traditional Irish story-tellers who kept me entertained until well after midnight.  By the time they left, I’d struck up a conversation with the bar supervisor, who after closing it down, kept it open for the two of us so we could chat.  And chat we did!  Over Midleton Rare until 6 a.m.  He may have gotten into a weeee bit of trouble for that one, but he gave me his phone number.   Unfortunately, there really wasn’t time to connect after my three hours of sleep because I had to catch the train to Belfast.  But, who knows?  Maybe we’ll cross paths again.  I really don’t want to book a THIRD trip here.  I love it, but really.

That’s the reader’s digest version.  Enjoy the pics!

The oldest pub in Dublin
She looks a little thirsty...
Guinness and a horse with a wig made of the Irish flag colors. What more do you need?
Guinness Storehouse Exit

Dublinia exit towards the cathedral

Viking Invasion of Ireland – Day 1

I had been concerned that my Irish luck had run out (given the changes of plans with a certain boy and all of the added expenses), but I’ve been pleasently surpised so far.

To start, the flight from Seatac to Amsterdam had been overbooked, and I got a boarding pass without a ticket number.  I was instructed to see the attendant at the gate for my seat assignment, who later told me to wait until my name was called.  After hearing a dozen other names called to the desk for their real tickets, I began to worry.  But, a man who had been on the shuttle from Bellingham assured me that they were simply upgrading other passengers and that I’d eventually get a seat.   And he was right.  I actually ended up with one of the best seats on the plane outside of first class. I was in the exit row right behind first class, right next to the flight attendent station.  WIth plenty of leg room and easy access to some friendly attendants who knew how to pour a glass of wine, it was a great flight!  Not only that, but the man sitting next to me, who was going to Spain for three weeks, has a daughter teaching photography to kids in India.  Well, if you know me, you know that sparked my interest.  He gave me her contact information so I could ask her about her work there.

After deboarding the plane, I spoke with the man from Bellingham a little more.  It turns out, although he’s going to Italy to teach a class on counter terrorism (there’s a good chance I’m making that part up) for a week, we may actually have the same return flight out of Amsterdam next Wednesday!  We both thought that was a big coincidence, so we also exchanged contact information.   I lost both of my new friends, however, when we separated at the different security checkpoints at Amsterdam to our respective gates. 

The second flight into Cork wasn’t nearly as interesting, and since I was still upset about the whole situation I kept thinking “fecking Cork” the whole way there. 

I was scheduled to take the train from Cork to Dublin, but managed to get lost despite receiving very clear directions.  Luckily, I stopped a little old man to ask where I was, and he was so incredibly sweet – even walking me to the train station.  He told me that Dublin was just a big city and that I should come back to Cork to visit, because it’s a “town” and there are plenty of good pubs at which to meet people. 

I managed to actually get a train an hour earlier than the one I’d scheduled and arrived in Dublin early.  Exhausted, I managed to walk right past The Clarence and get lost again, kind of.  I stopped to ask a Leprechaun where it was (I’m being serious), and he took off his spritely head, pointed at his mouth, shaking his real head and said, “Croatian”.   A Croatian Leprechaun who doesn’t know where The Clarence is?   Interesting.  Well, needless to say I found it.

Dublin fits like a glove.  Despite being a big city, it’s been comfortable and welcoming.  After hanging out with Paul’s buddies, I ended up meeting two new girlfriends last night who are going to take me out to some traditional pubs for my birthday this evening. I’m really excited about that, but before that happens, I’m going to see the Steve McCurry exhibit and hit the Guinness Brewery.   More tomorrow!  Here are some pictures from my first night back in Dublin…

The Croatian Leprechaun
I LOVE street musicians.
The O'Connell Monument...with bird


Daffodil in St. Stephen's Green


Another street musician in Temple Bar


Outside the "Temple Bar" in Temple Bar

Viking Invasion of Ireland Part II

“You have to take risks.  We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.”  – Paulo Coehlo

Booking a return trip to Cork, Ireland for a man was a huge risk.  Separated by 4,500 miles of land and ocean, anything was likely to happen between the mid-January booking and the late-March arrival.    While I dreamed of driving Irish coastlines and peering over cliffs, old castles, and his green eyes, my Cork man was getting to know a woman who’d unexpectedly entered his life. 

It’s a truth that borders a lie to say I’m happy for him.  It’s good that he met someone in his own country and that he’s happy.   But, that didn’t change the fact I had a non-refundable ticket to Cork, Ireland.    And since the only reason I was going was for my Garda, I began looking for alterative trips.

I will have a layover in Amsterdam, so I called the travel agency that sold me the non-refundable ticket and asked what would happen if I just disembarked in the Netherlands.   Unsympathetic to my situation, the phone specialist advised me in broken English that it’d be $400 to make any changes to the ticket because I’d bought it at such a super-reduced fair.  That was crap, and between his stupid broken English logic and refusal to punch me through to a supervisor, I became angry and slammed down the phone.  I called the airline directly, who advised there was nothing that could be done on their end since I bought the ticket through a third party.  

Frustrated and upset, I then called my friend Paul in Dublin.   Finally, a reassuring voice!  I remember staring out the window at work at the most amazing blue sky as we chatted about taking the train to Dublin and spending the week with him instead.   I felt like things would be okay.  Well, it turns out more recently that his girlfriend may also have an issue with us spending too much time together, so it seems like – aside from the Friday and Saturday of my trip – I’m on my own.  I cried most of the afternoon today.

I met my friend Kimberly at The Fountain this evening.  Kimberly is one of those rare women who is both beautiful and intelligent, and we had the most amazing conversation about everything from work to vacations to the homeless to clandestine meth labs.   We are both writers (one day I’ll pay good money to buy her books), and we discussed how these disappointments are really opportunities.  Now, it’s no guarantee that the earth will move and my life will change, or that I’ll meet the love of my life, but the fact of the matter is – these events are pushing me towards some other destiny.  It may be an exponentially more expensive destiny at this point, but this is a wonderful opportunity to be alone with my thoughts, meet new people, and explore parts of a country I’ve never seen before.  It’s all perspective.  

I’m going to fly to Ireland.  I’ll meet people, I’ll explore.  I’ll blog and drink good whiskey and drive on the wrong side of the road and pave a way through my disappointments that catapult me into a new level in my life.   I alone am responsible for my happiness, and by God I will not let these men ruin my trip.  

I am that person who does have to make risks.  I will expect nothing next Friday when I land in Cork.

And I will embrace the twists and turns and ride out the waves of destiny with a Jameson in my left hand and a pen in my right, a Viking girl with a small chip on her shoulder ready to invade Ireland a second time with no regrets. 

Visit Harris Avenue Cafe

2010 was tough, but a creative gold mine.  I took thousands of photographs this past summer and fall!   I was scheduled to display my work at Harris Avenue Cafe this month, so I had to narrow it down to my 10 favorites.   This was quite the challenge.

After much debate and buying a $5 Home Depot hammer, I nailed my 10 framed choices to their walls.  So, if you happen to be up in Bellingham, Washington…and in the Fairhaven area…and if you happen to be hungry, you should visit Harris Avenue Cafe!   I personally recommend the Eggs Toulouse with smoked salmon.  

Here are the 10 I am displaying.  Which is your favorite and why?  I ask because, as a photographer, I’m always curious as to what moves people. 

8×10 Print; $50

Bellingham, Washington

8×10 Print; $50
Bellingham, Washington

11×14 Print;  $75
Whatcom County

12×18 Print;  $85
Bellingham, Washington

12×18 Print; $85
Mount Vernon, Washington

Twisted II
11×14 Print; $75
Bellingham, Washington

Vanishing Point
11×14 Print;  $75
Dublin, Ireland

8×10 Print; $50
Bellingham, Washington

Closed Door
11×14 Print; $75
Whatcom County

On Edge
11×14 Print; $75
Sedro Woolley, Washington; Northern State Hospital

You can purchase prints from my website at   If you are interested in any of the above photos, which are already framed and matted, visit my website for contact information.   I am willing to print, frame, and mat any photo of your choice from my galleries.  Canvas prints are also an option (much less expensive if you purchase from me directly than from the website).  

I love doing this stuff!

Irish Thrall

Dublin, Ireland

I’m still waiting to be released from the thrall of Ireland so life can return to normal.  I feel chained to the place, which is interesting, because I looked up the word “thrall” and found that in Scandinavian culture, during the Viking age, it was the term for slave.  

This is appropriate considering the Viking’s history of harassing the Irish and also somewhat humorous, because I jokingly apologized to my new Irish friends for the follies of my ancestors on several occasions.  Now here I am under the thrall of their culture.

Vague history lesson aside, what this means for me right now is I need to get my head on straight and concentrate on what’s to come.  There will be lots of change this next year, with or without any return trips to the Emerald Isle.  I even found a study abroad program with Whatcom Community College, where I’m taking some prerequisites, that would allow me to study in Cape Town, South Africa in Fall 2011.  That’s an opportunity I’ve been looking for locally for a couple of years.  Can’t get distracted now…

Interesting Door Art

While exploring Dublin last week, I found this door decorated with oxygen gauges in a back alley.  Interesting choice.  It makes me wonder what I’d find if I went wandering the streets of Seattle.  I was in such a hurry to get from Point A to Point B when I lived there that I never really enjoyed the randomness.  Sounds like a good excuse to hit up the Emerald City this weekend, right?

The Irish Really Do Love Guinness…A Lot

Image from Trinity College

What a great day!  I woke up to a wonderful Irish breakfast, followed by a brisk walk (in the SUNSHINE) to Trinity College.  The main objective of the morning was to get the college tour and view the Book of Kells, which I did after spilling out all my Euros on the ground trying to pay the guide.  Typical. 

After viewing the Book of Kells, the tour of Trinity College empties into the Long Room, which is literally what it is.  The Long Room is filled, floor to ceiling, with books that are hundreds of years old which can’t be touched or PHOTOGRAPHED.   And believe me, as a photographer that was the single most remarkable thing I saw today in a sea of truly exceptional subjects.   Ladders extended three stories past shelves packed with leather bound editions, carefully illuminated by sunshine.   It was like drooling over a locked pastry case. 

I followed this with a walk through the National Museum of Ireland and National Gallery of Ireland, impressed by the works of Jack B. Yeates.   A stroll through St. Stephen’s Green led my seriously aching feet to St. Patrick’s Cathedral before I made my way back to the hotel to take a nap.

Images from St. Patrick’s Cathedral

This evening I met up with my new friend, Paul, and was thrilled to meet some local people who could give me advice on the essentials of Ireland.  This was all over several rounds of Guinness.  I cut myself off after two…but the rest of the table, all of Paul’s friends, threw back at least five or six.   In the United States, it’s not uncommon to see someone buy a pitcher, or everyone order a different drink.   At the pub, everyone ordered Guinness.  (Picture forthcoming.)   I didn’t believe it before going, but Guinness actually DOES taste better in Ireland!    

So…tomorrow I rent the car and learn to drive on the wrong side of everything.  Keep me in your thoughts and prayers please…and everyone else on the roads.

Last Boarding Call for Jolene Hanson

My flight into New York City was late.  So late, that by the time I exited the aircraft, I was told I would literally need to run to the next gate to get to Ireland.  So I strapped on my backpack, weighed down with a laptop, a Canon 40d, a Nikon, several books, Felix Bobblinghead and everything else I couldn’t live without, and ran a half marathon across JFK.  (Thank God for my fire department training – I was used to the weight!)  I arrived at gate A6 in time to hear, “Paging Jolene Hanson.  Last call for flight 164 to Dublin.”

“I’m here!”  I screamed, waiving my hands.   The male flight attendant grabbed one of them and started running with me all the way to the next aircraft, which I entered sweating and out of breath.   I apologized to the rotund Irish man I was sharing space with for my profuse sweating.  He didn’t seem to mind.

I was doubtful that my checked bag would make it on the flight, but indeed it did.  The luck of the Irish was on my side. 

After a nap, I spent my first day wandering the streets of Dublin, trying to find all of the main attractions I want to visit tomorrow.  I found the buskers and street musicians the most inspiring today, so here you go!  

And some other random stuff…

From the side of the Temple Bar

Cool vanishing point in the Temple Bar area

Today ended with a Guiness at pub listening to live Irish music sitting next to three travelers from Spain and a woman from Chile.   It may have been a very long day, but it was a good one!