7000 Wonders

7000 Wonders

ArticleDances With Sheep

Edward Porper

Edward Porper

4 min read

History and culture, including political and social one, are two of the three traditional markers defining any particular country from time immemorial (science/technology has been added to the list over the last several centuries). The remaining member of the triad is Nature. While any particular characteristics of Nature - such as flora and fauna, landscape and climate, seismic activities or lack thereof - are often shared by many countries, any combination of all the above is quite unique. It's because of its uniqueness that any such combination is essential for understanding the country in question.

So far, Ireland has been almost exclusively represented in this blog by objects, structures, works of art and ideas created by Man. It is hardly surprising: living creatures are often interested first and foremost in their own species (as Xenophanes, a 6 BC Greek philosopher put it, “…if horses were able to draw, they would draw the forms of the gods like horses…”) - so, being a human, the author of the blog might be biased towards his fellow humans. That said, psychology isn't the only - or main - explanation: Irish East does seem to be dominated by a manmade agenda. Even Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, open spaces created by Nature as they are, are made unique by structures that people had built. There is a popular tour seemingly trying to address - and redress - that imbalance. It's called “Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough and Kilkenny”, and - as the title suggests - the emphasis of the tour is supposed to be on Nature. In reality, the tour rushes through the mountains, and the park between the Upper and the Lower Lake is indeed a nice park but not much more than that. There is a truly remarkable tower on a monastic site - it was used both as an observation deck to spot approaching Vikings from afar, and a fortress to hide from and defend against them - and a hilarious tour vehicle (along with several impressive medieval structures) in Irish temporary medieval capital


 but both have little to do with Nature. There is also a sheep farm that seems to have been planned for as an appetizer leading to the main menu. As it infrequently happens, it was that appetizer that turned into the meal of the day.

The relatively short visit developed into a smooth and free-flowing presentation featuring all three types of protagonists - dogs, sheep and one man, the farmer and actual presenter. It was so smooth that at times I felt like the alleged farmer was a hired playwright/actor/director who had written the text and staged the whole show

DSCF9286.JPGand that show had everything to do with Nature. Three little dogs, eager to please their master, and happy to be in the spotlight, were crisscrossing a pretty big lawn in a matter of seconds while barking fiercely at ruminating sheep  


that pretended to be scared - and complied. All the actors also pretended to ignore the audience that was roaring with laughter throughout the whole commotion.  The desired effect achieved, the farmer let his flock rest and returned to the story featuring “senior and junior dogs”, “summer time” high up in the mountains where sheep would graze and enjoy life for weeks, protected by the dogs and undisturbed by any human presence, and annual cycles of giving birth and nurturing the young. Holding such a young - a two-days' old ewe as it happened on that particular day - was clearly meant to become the emotional pinnacle of the visit that felt very warm and humane while also being very canine and sheepish!