Unbelievably, today is my last day here in Lovely Listowel. I didn’t think it was possible to beat the experience that Kerry and I had the first time we were here two years ago. Well, I was proven wrong!
Get yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine because this is going to take some time! We have been welcomed into this community with open arms. Mind you, they knew what they were getting into. I’m sure tales were told of the two crazy Americans who blew in here two years ago…I won’t rehash…go back to the first 30 posts of this blog to get an idea of the insanity!
Damian and Joan Stack, and Ger Greaney being spectacular!
This time, we have met more people, been embraced fully into the community (even though we brought crazy ideas with us), and have been treated like queens the entire time! We were taken on evening adventures by Damian and Joan Stack (owners of Stacks Furniture and Carpets) and welcomed into their home to carve our names alongside so many others who have received their hospitality. We dressed up as elves with their daughter Jennifer (owner of Coco Boutique) who, along with other business owners like Martina of Perfect Pairs Shoe Store, Catherine from Horan’s Health Store (she also was an elf!), Liz and Cora from Finesse Bridal Wear, Oonagh from Broderick Pharmacy (who saved me from having to have my arm amputated…read about that in an earlier post!), came into Olive’s gallery after work for a brain storming session to work together at Christmas time to make Listowel even more magic than it already is. These women are smart and enthusiastic and I couldn’t sleep that night over the ideas they all had!
I still can’t get over the group of women who showed up to make the elf costumes! Martha with her incredible sense of style and her singing of Christmas Carols! Kerry from Listowel Garden Center, Nina, Marie, and Mom (Olive’s biological and our adopted one) all were in the studio laughing and creating and putting their own brand of fairy dust on everything! Incredible! Keep in mind that we did this very early on in the month. Imagine living in another country for a very short amount of time but, every time you walk out the door, you are greeted by name.
This is my favorite picture from the day featuring Carol Stricks as Mrs. Claus, Olive being glam, Jennifer, and Catherine!
Imagine being in this place for a short time and getting a toothache and having the dentist down the street sort things out and give a smile and a handshake on your way out. Having Oonagh at the pharmacy fix your arm after an awful bee sting (the Irish bees are the only nasty things here) and then having her check on you to make sure you are ok. Or Mary from Lynch’s bakery across the street running over with some of the best cake you have ever tasted in your life so you can have something with your tea. Are you starting to feel the magic?
Damian stopped by regularly to tell us horrible jokes (which did make us laugh and only encouraged him) and then arranged with his friend Ger Greaney to take us on the tour of Knockfierna in Limerick after we closed the gallery one evening. It was these kindnesses that taught us, not only about the history of Ireland, but how proud the Irish people are of their country as they very well should be! These excursions that were so generously bestowed on us gave us a deeper understanding of this incredible country. When you see it, it’s beautiful. When you get to know it, it’s beyond words stunning!
Getting to know Damian Yumbo (our name for him) of Jumbo’s restaurant has been an extra treat this year! He is one of the organizers of the Listowel North Pole Express and I still cannot get over the good humor and fun he has shown us even when these crazy Americans were dressing him up as an elf to bombard the local businesses while making a video. He had to leave early and the description he gave of having to walk back to his car on his own dressed as an elf will still make me laugh randomly just at the though of it.
The idea of Yumbo walking alone down the street in this outfit still makes me laugh!
Which brings us to Michael “Pixie” O’Gormon who videotaped the insanity for the marketing materials for the Listowel North Pole Express! I took a selfie of us all outside the Lartigue Monorail Museum (where the LNPE will take place) and Mike is in the background covering his face…see below…I have to believe he simply didn’t want to outshine us but I think it’s more likely he didn’t want to be seen with this band of merrymakers! Wait…I don’t think I’m supposed to say that in Ireland. Oops! He kept his sense of humor while trying to give instructions to us all. Think Goat Rodeo! He was marvelous and did this to help promote this fabulous project and Listowel!
Please notice Pixie in the background. Why in the world didn’t he jump into the fray? We will never know!
And how can I not talk about our beloved Chic Boutique Mary? We made fast friends with Mary two years ago and have continued the friendship. We loved sharing her birthday with her this time (last time she was out of town on the day) and Mary, along with Yumbo, Catherine, Carol, and Olive (Jennifer came by, too) took us out for a surprise dinner complete with parting gifts. We still cannot get over the generosity of the people here! And by the way, Mary…we will be calling ye on September 2 when we have won! 😉
We were welcomed into the 6-9 club at John B’s Pub on Friday nights and enjoyed so much chatting with everyone including our beloved Mrs Claus Carol Stricks, Kathy (owner of Gurtinard House B&B), Colette, Frank, Phil (who runs the bar), and the amazing Mickey McConnell whose songs and the way he sings them still makes me cry! Pub Theatre is still the most amazing show in town and Billy Keane definitely knows how to make these crazy Americans feel welcome!
Then, of course, there is our beloved poet from Tarbert: Paddy Creedon! Two years ago, he took us to possibly the most beautiful site we had ever seen, came to our show opening, and wrote a poem about us that is so wonderful that it remains as a highlight of my 34 year art career. This time he outdid himself with a wonderful tour in County Clare and then taking me to see the Vermeer exhibit in Dublin. How do you thank someone for providing you with exquisite beauty from nature, from a master artist, and through the written word?
Best picture of Paddy EVER!
We have had way more fun with Mom this time! I cannot get over how talented she is and wonderful to be around! She has continually brought us treats and run errands for us! The most amazing of all was when we told her we needed sparklie things for the elf costumes and she showed up with a magic bag full of the most incredible sequined dresses and odds and ends that elevated these elf costumes in an inconceivable way! All we had to say was “do you think there is this or that anywhere” and the next day she would show up with exactly what we needed and more. I’m not sure how I can explain how much we will miss seeing her every day. Her beautiful sparkling eyes and absolutely irresistible smile has made us happy every day we have been here!
Last, but definitely not least, we have to thank Olive for being the very best hard hearted, slave driving, mean spirited….wait…scratch that…for being the most amazing woman we have ever met! The fact that she started this residency and accepted Kerry and Me as her very first Artists in Residence attests to the fact that she is a genius! hahahahaha But yeah, it’s true! I will never forget meeting Olive for the very first time two years ago when we fell into her gallery: our eyes wild from driving on the wrong side of the road. Since then, we have forged a friendship that spans the ocean and will last for the rest of our lives! She, and the incredible people of Lovely Listowel, have taken us into their homes and their hearts and shown us more about the beauty of the human spirit than can ever be explained in a blog post.
Some friendships are destined to be legendary. This is one for the record books!
Cue the ugly crying.
Kerry and I love you all for being more incredible than you can possibly know! Until we meet again…..