The Giants’ Causeway to Scotland

Scientists say that 55 to 65 million years ago, the North of Ireland was subject to volcanic activity, and that molten lava cooled rapidly, creating fractures in the rock that looked like giant stone pillars, some reaching a height of nearly 40 feet.

It made a vivid pattern in the rock…

…and was such a unique natural phenomenon that in 1986  UNESCO named it World Heritage Site.

But if you ask me, that’s a bunch of blarney.  Better yet, ask any local.  He’ll tell you what really happened is that a giant named Finn MacCool was building a causeway to Scotland.
https://i0.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/2008Ireland1342-1.jpg

A Scottish giant named Benandonner tracked Finn to the causeway, looking for a fight.  He wanted to prove he was the greatest giant of them all.  He had already tracked down and beaten every other giant in Ireland, and Benandonner wanted to serve up Finn with the same sauce.

He hurried home to his wife Oonagh.  “Don’t worry, darlin’,” she told Finn.  “We’ll serve him up as good as he brings.”  She dressed Finn in a baby bonnet and put him in a giant wooden cradle.  Then she  baked 27 loaves of bread with 27 iron griddles baked into them, and one good loaf of bread.  When Benandonner arrived looking for Finn, Oonagh said, “He’s off to the Giants’ Causeway, to make paste out of some buffoon of a giant named Benandonner.  But come in and I’ll feed you the bread I prepared for Finn.”  Oonagh gave Benandonner a loaf with a griddle baked into it, and he broke three teeth on it. “Take it away or I’ll not have a good tooth left in me head!” he shouted.

“It’s just the way Finn likes it, nice and crunchy,” said Oonagh.  “Perhaps that one’s stale.”   Then she gave ‘Baby Finn’ the one good loaf.  When Benandonner saw him gobble it down, he shouted, “Sure I haven’t a chance against the giant whose baby can eat the bread that nearly broke my jaw!”

Oonagh smiled as she watched Benandonner racing helter skelter down Knockmany Hill. “When brains are called for,” she told Finn, “brawn won’t help.”

If you go to The Giants’ Causeway in Antrim, remember that you are walking in a land where giants once tread.

And never forget that many a man besides Finn MacCool would find himself in a pretty scrape, if not for his wife!

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel theme: Feet.

To Shorten the Road

There is an old Irish folk tale about a father and a son who set out on a long journey.

“Shorten the road, my son,” said the father.  His son walked faster, to cut short their time on the road.  But the father rolled his eyes and went home.  The next day, they set out again.

“Shorten the road, my son,” said the father.  The same thing happened, and his father turned back.  On the third day, the lad’s mother whispered, “Tell your Da a story he has never heard, and you’ll no be back again soon.”   She was right.

My family and I have just returned from a journey of our own, but we already knew how to shorten the road.  In fact the North Central Library System hired The Baltuck/Garrard Family Storytellers to come tell stories on the dry side of the mountains.

Along the way we discovered more than one way to shorten the road…

It’s amazing, the fun you can have with one little bag of Space Adventure Goldfish Crackers.

That’s  probably not what the Irish storytellers had in mind, but there were also plenty of stories told to shorten the road, and the miles flew by.  On our storytelling tour we visited ten libraries in ten towns.   Each town and each library was different.  I loved the bleachers at the Brewster Library, especially when it was filled to the ceiling with kids who had come to hear us tell “Stories that Go Bump in the Night.”

Jennifer, one of the librarians at the Chelan Library, even made us a campfire!  Over a hundred people came to enjoy it with us.

Between performances, we explored.  On the wet side of the mountains, we sometimes forget how beautiful it is on the other side of the Cascades.

The Methow Valley is not just for skiers…

There was wildlife…

…right outside our door.

Sunsets were breathtaking, from Winthrop…

…to the streets of Chelan.

Everywhere we went, we found stories to shorten the road.  Many were true stories of Washington pioneers, as featured in this mural in Omak.

At the historical museum in Chelan, we learned about the First People of the land too, and then played ‘dress up’…

After our show in Manson, we ate at Blueberry Hill, a restaurant steeped with stories and decorated with a lifetime of memories from Grandpa’s shed.  It gives me hope–and ideas–about what to do with my own overcrowded storage room.

We sat outside on the deck overlooking their own blueberry fields…

The blueberries were as big as grapes…

…and the food was great…

…but the stories were what made this place really special.


In Twisp, every grocery run is memorable if you shop at Hank’s.  Hank and his son share their passion for big game hunting by lining the walls and topping their shelves with displays of their hunting trophies. It is an odd, but personal touch that piqued my curiosity about them. Perhaps next time I will learn more of that story.

After performing in Winthrop and Twisp…

..we dined at the Twisp Pub with our friend Carol. She stays with us in Seattle every May during the Northwest Folklife Festival, and at Christmas. It was a special treat to sneak in an extra visit to catch up on personal stories while sipping local cider and raspberry soda.

On our way to the Bridgeport Library the next day, we watched another story unfold as firefighters fought to control a brushfire. On our recent trip to Colorado, we steered clear of the fires, but the road to Bridgeport took us right past this one.  These folks are of sturdy pioneer stock, and they seemed to take it in stride, keeping one eye on the fire and the other on the tasks at hand.

It is nearing the harvest season, and there is much to be done. Central Washington is farm country.

Apple orchards everywhere have stacks of wooden boxes ready to receive this year’s harvest.

https://i0.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/IMG_1614-1.jpg

On our way to Ephrata and Moses Lake, we saw acres upon acres, miles upon miles of wheat ripening in the fields, reclaimed from the desert…

…while the wind farms were busy harvesting nature’s energy.

Little towns and farms were carved out of the desert…

…and every road tells another story.

We passed through Dry Falls, a stark and dramatic landscape, reminiscent of the Badlands…

Before we knew it we were heading back over the mountains toward the ocean, the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier, and Lake Washington.


But we had filled up our story banks…

…on the roads of Washington, a land of stunning beauty, stark contrasts, good people, and rich history.  A well storied land.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: The Road Taken.