The highlight of my trip to Ireland in 2015 was a visit to the rugged island Skellig Michael. I had wanted to visit for three reasons.
First, it is home to many species of birds, including Atlantic puffins, gannets, kittiwakes, and others. I was able to add some cool species to my life list and get very close and personal with these birds that are not afraid of humans. It was even puffin breeding season.
Second, the island is historically and culturally important, being the home of ascetic Christian monks for several centuries. They built the winding staircases up the rocks and also built stone dwellings. It is now a UNESCO heritage site.
Third, the island stood in for the Jedi refuge of Ahch-To in the new Star Wars films. They had been filming there the year before I went, and even though the movie The Force Awakens hadn’t even come out yet, I was excited to visit a Star Wars filming location. And I loved seeing and recognizing the footage of Skellig Michael on the big screen later.
But in the end, the reason that Skellig Michael is most memorable to me is the mental journey I took to get there. You can read the whole story of my trip here, but I will just say that I will always be proud that I was able to overcome my anxiety to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I can’t think of a place that better encapsulates the idea of “wild” than Skellig Michael, off the coast of Ireland. It was once inhabited by ascetic monks and is now home to colonies of seabirds, like these puffins that have little fear of people.
I really liked this picture this week because I see three of the four “traditional” elements represented here.
Earth: the sea campion and the rocks of Skellig Michael in the foreground and Little Skellig in the distance
Water: the rough waters of the Atlantic, pushing up against the two islands
Air: the puffins (Fratercula arctica) that nest on Skellig Michael. You can also see gannets and kittiwakes as little dots flying about in the distance.
My husband saw the image of Little Skellig as a battle between Earth and Water, with the Earth pushing up through the Water, and the Water fighting back, battering the rocks. There is definitely something primal about these islands, another connotation with the word “elemental.”
Are you sick of hearing about Skellig Michael on my blog yet? Yes? Well, too bad!
My mom made another of her amazing cakes for my birthday. It was a “traditional” Funfetti cake that she decorated to look like Skellig Michael, where the ending scene of The Force Awakens was filmed and which I visited last summer in a very memorable experience.
She used some small Bundt molds to make the mounds for Skellig Michael (on the right with the puffins and steps) and Little Skellig (on the left with the seals).
She knew I was going to blog about this, so she made sure to put only ecologically accurate animals on (though the proportions are still a bit off…)