Monday, May 26, 2014

Mount Vernon, A Stallion & Cinnabar - Part 1

Today's post is a little closer to home than Ireland, which I wrote about two weeks ago.  This time, we learn a little history about the town of Mount Vernon, which is located in the high desert country of Eastern Oregon.  Nestled in the John Day Valley, Mount Vernon is a city of  527 people, according to 2013 statistics.  Mount Vernon or Mt. Vernon,  is situated at the crossroads of Highways 26 and 395, in the heart of Grant County.  

Mount Vernon, Oregon
The town is uniquely named not after a mountain, but rather a black stallion.  A racing horse, Mount Vernon was considered so valuable that his owner built a stone fort or stable for him in 1879.  This was done to protect the stallion from marauding Indians, who were known to be on the lookout for good quality horse-flesh to sell or trade.  Aware of this, and not wanting to lose the prize-winning horse, two stonemasons were called upon to build the fort.  

With his excellent bloodline, Mount Vernon was prominently known as a high-class racing stallion.   His safety was assured with his high-class stone stable and he went on to live out 42 years in his retirement home.

Mount Vernon Fort
This fort is still standing on the north side of Highway 26 - about 3 miles east of Mount Vernon.  A fence was built around it to preserve the structure from elements of nature, which can include frequenting wild-life and grazing cattle.

Mount Vernon is situated in the scenic Aldrich Mountains that is part of the larger Blue Mountains range, one of which is called "Cinnabar Mountain".   Located close to the town, this mountain contained an ore called cinnabar which was used in mining.  It is a primary ore of mercury and utilized by placer miners in nearby Canyon City and vicinity in the gold rush of the 1860's in recovering gold from stream sediments.  Like several other red materials in nature, cinnabar was often known as "dragons blood" in earlier times because of its' vibrant red color. The mine has been abandoned for many years following the decline of gold-mining operations in the early 1900's.  
Cinnabar Mountain
Every year, Mount Vernon hosts a weekend event called the "Cinnabar Mountain Rendezvous", deriving its name from this particular mountain.  It is a community celebration complete with parade, competitive activities, potluck, dancing, even a toy duck race in the John Day River.  A patriotic city, it is held over Memorial weekend and is festive with displays of the American flagThe two photos below were taken on Saturday, May 24...

Flag Raising
Cinnabar Mountain Rendezvous Parade
Be sure to 'tune in' to Part 2 of another segment on Mount Vernon.  We will explore more history including showcasing local talent from cuisine to wine and let's not forget the beautiful surrounding scenery!  Join me on Monday, June 9  for the rest of the story...
Mount Vernon Sunrise

Please Note
Since today is Memorial Day, check out this post that I wrote last year entitled, "The Rite of Remembrance" in honor of the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  The link is:

"To Make Men Free" by Norman Rockwell

A lyric from "Taps"
Falling light... falling night...
Trumpet calls the sun sinks in flight
Sleep in peace, comrades dear...
God is near.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ireland - Duiske Abby & Graignamanagh

I wrote about "Ireland and St. Patrick" on March 17 of this year... the first of a series that I will publish about my travels in Ireland.  Today, we revisit Ireland to an unspoiled haven of Craignamanagh, known as 'the Village of the Monks' and also 'the Valley of the Holy Savior'.  It is a medieval village in County Kilkenny in Barrow valley. They call it Ireland's best kept secret because of its' treasure in scenery and ancient buildings. 

One such ancient building is Duiske Abby, which was founded in 1204 by monks from England and was completed 40 years later.  The largest Cistercian Abbey in Ireland accommodated 60 monks and some hundreds of lay brothers and served as a hostel, hospital, school and farm.  The monks were suppressed at the time of the reformation in 1536, its' community dispersed and later went into ruin.  In 1728, a thatched "Mass House" was erected and in 1812, converted to parish status.  In 1974, a major restoration was commenced and six years later, the Abby church was rededicated.

Duiske Abbey - Roman Catholic
Walled portion of Duiske Abby
Processional Door
 It is always an amazement to me to be in in such places of ancient history.  If only the grounds and structures could talk!  What stories they would tell.  One such story that is incomplete is about the Knight of Duiske found in the Abbey.  This figure is a cross-legged, sword-seizing knight on a limestone base and dates from about 1300 and is one of the finest medieval effigies in Ireland.  Carved in Ireland from local stone, it reflects a style of profound knowledge of contemporary English fashion according to history "trivia".
Knight of Duiske
Who is he, this Knight of Duiske?  No one knows.  What is certain is that he was a 13th century knight of stature and most likely a benefactor, since benefactors were often buried inside the church.  The effigy is known locally as the "Crusader".

Duiske Abbey is also home to exquisite stained glass windows.  Since I am a fan of stained glass windows, my camera was always 'set to go' whenever the opportunity came about to take photos of these wonders in transparent color.  The following photos are a just a few that show off the artistic beauty, which leaves the viewer in awe of designs in a colored spectrum that floods the sanctuary and inspires the soul...  (click on the photos for enlargement to see greater detail)

Duiske Abby Altar
It is interesting to note that at the time of dispersion in 1536,  Abbot Charles O'Kavanagh sent some of his younger monks to the Celtic monastery of Regensburg in Germany.  There they perpetuated the Irish traditional form of singing "Gregorian Chant".   The Craignamanagh people, after the struggle of successive generations, have determined to maintain the continuity of worship in the Abbey bequeathed to them over the centuries by their fore-bearers in the faith.

We will return to Ireland in a future post about more of my travels in discovery of the history and timeless beauty in this ancient land.  

Until we meet again (Monday, May 26).... here's a bit of Irish wisdom, "May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far."