Ed O Connell Completed Portrait by Caroline Cunningham

Pure Thinking Post Office Inspires Carlow – Art of Caroline Cunningham

‘Art feeds the soul’ they say. But this year in Carlow town ‘Art’ aims to connect and inspire its community through the collaboration of a group of artists who came together under the banner of ‘Pure Thinking’ community for a project with a very special theme.

In time for the opening ceremonies of 2015 Carlow Arts Festival on May 29th, Carlow Post Office building will feature portraits of inspirational Carlow people.

Deighton Hall Pure Thinking Community Group

Deighton Hall Pure Thinking Community Group

Connie Byrne, founder and creative director of Pure Thinking is the initiator of this latest community project which brought together an eclectic mix of Carlow based artists.

A total of four workshops were facilitated by the talented artist Iwona Nartowska O’Reilly and took place in Deighton Hall. Twenty-eight artists took part in the project each creating a portrait in up-scaled version (80x80cm) of their chosen inspirational person.




Artist Caroline Cunningham - Pure Thinking 2015

Artist Caroline Cunningham – Pure Thinking 2015

The portraits of the group reflect a vibrant Carlow community with a special olympian, actor, artist, historical figures, loved one’s who passed away perhaps through illness or kindred spirit’s showing others how to enjoy life to the full.

I chose a local artist and neighbour who according to himself is now an ‘octo-geranium’ (pun intended). Ed O’Connell retired from a teaching career in Carlow Regional College (now Carlow IT) having taught and introduced the course on ‘Industrial Instrumentation’. He is a light-hearted individual who enjoys singing, playing music, fishing, gardening and painting despite the difficulties of arthritis of the hands and feet upon other ailments. He continues to enjoy life and has many friends in his community.


Artist and Teacher Iwona O'Reilly and her proud student.

Artist and Teacher Iwona O’Reilly and her proud student.

Personally, this project has opened doors for me. It gave me the opportunity to go beyond limits to create my best portrait to date thanks to Iwona’s encouragement and demonstration.

The atmosphere in Deighton Hall during the project was industrious and refreshing. I made wonderful new friends and have found new opportunities to display my talents alongside these fantastic Carlow artists.

Local photographer Michael Spudie Murphy was on hand to document our work and capture us in both in deep concentration and having fun. The finished portraits have been prepared for the panels of the Post Office building.



‘Pure Thinking’ was founded in 2007 by local hairdresser Connie Byrne. “I have always been fascinated by people, teams and artistic projects”, says Connie, “a successful common goal is only achieved through team work and allowing all talents to shine through. ‘Pure Thinking’ works on grass roots level to celebrate and create awareness of the different groups of people that live in our community.” Ed O Connell Completed Portrait by Caroline Cunningham

All portraits with details of each artists’ chosen inspirational person will be on display in Deighton Hall throughout the Carlow Arts Festival 2015 with an opening ceremony there on Friday 29th May at 8.30pm. All are welcome.

©Caroline Cunningham http://www.carolinecunningham.com

Artists Caroline Cunningham and Ed O'Connell

Artists Caroline Cunningham and Ed O’Connell

Inca Window in Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Whiskey On A Sunday – Journey In Peru

He stood in the doorway of the cafe with all all the magnificence of his Inca descent and the radiance of Machu Picchu in his heart. His spirit was overflowing with a joyousness that was instantly infectious.

‘Hola Charlie!’ This was the welcome greeting my friend Alex reserved for certain Peruvian men who visited his cafe. It had taken me a while to realise that it was an on-going joke with him to call certain of his pals this name. This particular Charlie hugged the younger man in the most hearty manner and I was introduced to him as a member of the family.

Alex and I had just part-taken of our evening meal after a days work. It was a quieter evening than usual, one of those days when folk most likely go fishing and just chill out.

Evening in Ollantaytambo's Plaza De Armas

Charlie sat with us. This man was a private tour guide who spoke several languages including English, French and Japanese. Like a child amidst visiting relatives I was put forward to show off my ‘Quechua’, the Inca language that is alive and well in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. It was always a source of amusement for my friends that I could repeat the phrases they had taught me. It also garnered respect amongst them that I took an interest in their heritage.

Charlie indicated to Alex that a few glasses would be necessary along with some ice. He dipped his hand inside this jacket pocket and from it withdrew a small bottle of whiskey, what we in Ireland refer to as ‘a naggin’. It was apparent I was being included in share. He poured the whiskey and we saluted the air and clinked our glasses to start the round of tales. It was still bright outside the sun had not yet dipped behind the curtain of the mountains. The first few sips were amidst a waiting silence.

The spirit was making its way to the heart of memories. Our new friend recounted some of his recent travels with tourists. This was easy company. He sometimes spoke in English for my benefit and sometimes in Spanish but always in a manner that both Alex and I could understand.



I wish I could remember all those stories which he told but perhaps that’s the doing of the whiskey, it seals the lips of those who’s ears were opened during the part-taking. But I do remember one tale.

He was on the mountain, camping one particular night when he first saw the light. An unusual light. It came very quickly from the distance and brightened with intensity as it approached. As he told the tale his speech slowed and his eyes were fixed on the ‘in between’. He became more serious and cautious while recalled how this mysterious light hovered momentarily before speeding away into the vanishing distance. He took another swig of the whiskey and we followed in his instruction. ‘What was it?’ I asked, urging him to continue with his story. ‘Aliens!’ he replied. He blessed himself. It was apparent the incident had had quite an effect on him. Some gentle teasing arose and I enquired about the whiskey on that particular night. ‘After that night I started going to church,’ he added as he shook his head and took another swig of spirit.

Nazca Lines Peru - Wild Star Landing

I had one more alien story to add to my collection. Aliens are quite common in Peru, many believe that the Nazca lines were instructed by these visitors from space and perhaps the Incas availed from their intelligence as of yet their engineering ingenuity is regarded as an enigma to modern engineers. I recalled a saying I heard many times in Peru. ‘In Peru everything is possible.’

Inca Window in Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Inca Window in Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Eventually the stories came to an end coinciding with an empty ‘naggin’. It was time to say farewell. It was an evening well spent in good company and the whiskey did its usual trick of coming good with interesting tales.

Author of Wild Star Landing

Author of Wild Star Landing

©Caroline Cunningham Author (and Owner of the Title) Wild Star Landing

Her Name Was Smile - Journey In Peru

Her Name Was ‘Smile’ – Journey In Peru

‘Where are you going friend?’. These were the words she spoke to me every single day I crossed the bridge from the ‘arty’ side of town. Her smile was infectious. In my new neighbourhood I realised I should introduce myself. I crouched down beside her, as she sat outside her craft shop, and practiced my Spanish lines, which I had rehearsed for such introductions.

Her Name Was Smile - Journey In Peru

Her Name Was Smile – Journey In Peru

She told me her name. I had to ask her to repeat it. I didn’t’ t like to ask a second time. It was a name I had not heard before. I had a go at saying it. She nodded, but I wasn’t sure I had said it correctly. To me it sounded like the Spanish word for ‘smile’. So I thought to myself, it suited her and in my own mind from then on, that was her name, ‘Smile’ (in Spanish of course).

I had to get used to her asking me that awkward question however, everyday. It’s like that other question, ‘how are you?’ The answer is supposed to be positive. ‘I’m so fxcking alive the world just can’t keep up with me!!’ Isn’t that one answer you might just like to give?

In honesty however, that is not how most folk feel on an everyday basis. And so we lie, against any inclined bone in our body to be honest about things, even with strangers.

‘Where was I going?’ Some days in that Peruvian town, even though for me it was a destination in itself, I just wasn’t sure, as I was about to cross that lob-sided wooden bridge. All I knew was this, ‘I have to move!’ Because if I stop moving for a considerable length of time I get in serious trouble.

Luckily I had some occupation there and I did my best to invent others. I had made some friends and I had plenty to learn about life.

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

One day I decided to reverse the questioning. I asked my smiling friend about her circumstance of sitting at the corner of this bridge where, ‘bizarrely’, in this UNESCO Inca heritage town of Ollantaytambo, heavy articulated vehicles and buses barged through on a regular basis. ‘Does it affect your health?’ I asked. She smiled, of course, and just shook her head. It was not a problem.

I figured she had a strong mental attitude to life and I was just a meddler from Ireland who had some stuff to learn. A week later however, I noticed she was not at her post. I enquired from the person minding her shop. My smiling friend was ill and resting. ‘ I tried to resist that gloating thought of ‘perhaps I was right after all’. I will never know.

So I got used to her question most days. ‘Where are you going friend?’ Until one day I had to admit to her that I was going very far away. Back to Ireland. I will never forget that day I said goodbye to those wonderful people in Ollantaytambo. Everyone of them broke my heart completely. Her words to me I will not forget. ‘You must return. And when you return you come here to find me. And if I am no longer in this place, you ask the next person where I am. And you come to say hello.’

I how I wish I could go there now.

Dear reader if indeed you do happen to be Richard Branson reading this little wee article, if you have a seat on a jet, or the galactic vehicle, do get in touch, as I’m sure I could parachute from space, if I had to, and therefore cause the least inconvenience. And P.S. I have dear friend in New Zealand who would love to travel also but I doubt he will parachute as he has bad arthritis in his knees. (o:

Crossing the Bridge in Ollantaytambo Peru

Crossing the Bridge in Ollantaytambo Peru

©Caroline Cunningham Author and Creator of the Title ‘Wild Star Landing’

Treedom -Caroline Cunningham Art

The Sacred Lives Of Tree’s – Art Of Caroline Cunningham

Reminiscent of dancers, great warriors and benevolent souls, tree’s are the visible evidence of how the ‘invisible’ forces of Nature (Earth and the Heavens) lend shape and character to our being.

My latest collection of paintings has been pleading it’s release onto canvas. Tree’s talk to me. We communicate. I see them as individuals each with a character of their own. They are constantly moving in unison and answer to the wind, the minerals of the soil, the light of the sun and the flow of water through the earth. All the while they clench the earth and reach into the heavens as they witness every moment of Earths revolution from night to day and day to night. They provide shelter and homes. They may blossom and wither always following the course of their natural design.

Visit ‘The Sacred Lives Of Tree’s’ at my website for further details.

Labyrinth - Caroline Cunningham Art

Labyrinth – Caroline Cunningham Art

Treedom -Caroline Cunningham Art

Treedom -Caroline Cunningham Art

Symphonic Trees - Caroline Cunningham Art

Symphonic Trees – Caroline Cunningham Art

The Evening Tide - Caroline Cunningham Art

The Evening Tide – Caroline Cunningham Art

Earthlings - Caroline Cunningham Art

Earthlings – Caroline Cunningham Art

Early Morning on the Arty Side of Town

Be That Kid – Journey In Peru

Walking to the Coffee Tree Cafe from the direction of the Fortalezza had a different feel. It was early and quiet. A torrent of visitors had already moved in the darkened morn towards the train station, with only Machu Picchu on their minds. Shop keepers were removing the shutters from their windows and throwing buckets of water onto the dusty cobbled stones. I was passing through the ‘arty’ side of town. I had yet to make all the acquaintances.

Ollantaytambo Peru - Bridge over the Patacancha River

Ollantaytambo Peru – Bridge over the Patacancha River

I crossed the wooden lob-sided bridge over the Patacancha River. The auto-taxi’s were not so busy at this particular time of morning close to 8am. It was always necessary to know their whereabouts as ‘rules of the road’ did not appear to be something of importance to these drivers.

My friends at the Coffee Tree were curious about my move to new lodgings. They were beginning to expect more from me by way of conversation in Spanish. So the question was asked about why I had moved. I tried to explain as best I could but it appeared my meaning was not so coherent. ‘You don’t like children?’ one of the younger women exclaimed. She followed with questions about motherhood and my intentions in that area.

I struggled as I sat there. My most private personal thoughts on the subject fought for justification of themselves. Until now the Spanish language was not the only barrier to their airing. The question hung stagnant in the air like withered onions. ‘When you decide to be an artist, it is necessary to make sacrifices!’ I couldn’t believe I had said this in Spanish.

The subject was changed. But the answer was only a decoy. It was true that my artistic drive, which only came in later years, was of great importance to me and possibly saved my life. But my art was an invisible one because it had to remain private until the time came that I understood its workings fully. I could deem myself to be a writer and a painter but I was only relatively new to using these talents. I did not know how to make my way in the world by being an artist of any kind. I only knew then and still that ‘I mustn’t give up!’

Ollantaytambo Peru with Fortalezza Inca Architecture

Ollantaytambo Peru with Fortalezza Inca Architecture

Parents nowadays want so much more for their children. They go to extremes to make sure the child has musical tuition, sports involvement and artistic development, all in the hope that they will have the best opportunity to succeed doing something they truly love.

In my generation the main concern was ‘get a job, any job and stick to it’. I certainly did not come from an arts or musical background and sport was great and fully applauded if you were a boy. When I stumbled upon my artistic path with the right teacher before me, it was like finding a life line. I decided then to be that kid. The one whose parents secretly wished he or she would follow their dream and use their talent fully.

Early Morning on the Arty Side of Town

Early Morning on the Arty Side of Town

Nature was set to conflict limits on my ovaries and time could be running out for having children of my own. But why give up? There were reasons other than fertility why motherhood might not be for me. So why give up just so that some unborn child has the chance to go forward in the world of dreams? Why not see the journey through to the end, whatever that particular end might be?
We sat silent in the cool of the cafe drinking our coffee and finishing the last of our bread rolls gazing out at the sunshine as it flooded the plaza. A busy day lay ahead of us.

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Fortelezza, Temple Of The Sun, Ollantaytambo, Peru

A Bright New Day – Journey In Peru

My eyes sprung open with the brightness of my first morning at La Casa Del Abuelo, my new home in Ollantaytambo, Peru. I had moved from the market side of town where the bustle of trade was evident. Men rushed along laden with the back-packs of Inca-trailing tourists and drivers called to fill their buses with those travelling to nearby towns and the city of Cuzco. Women sold their bundles of grass for the fattening of animals that ended up next door chopped up on tables ready for the cooking of dinners, providing strength for the workers in fields and offices and the raising of families.

Temple Of The Sun - Fortaleza Ollantaytambo Peru

Temple Of The Sun – Fortaleza Ollantaytambo Peru

The first ‘new thing’ I remembered, I had my own shower and I was given a vital tip by my host that it was best to use it at 6a.m. so as to ensure an adequate supply of hot water. This was a luxury after four weeks of sharing a shower that involved going outdoors. When I sat up in my new bed I remembered the second new thing. I had a window with a view and the view was going to be spectacular. I peeked out through a sliver of the curtain. Spectacular!

Fortelezza, Temple Of The Sun, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Fortelezza, Temple Of The Sun, Ollantaytambo, Peru

The sun sparkled its rays across the theatrical terraces of Ollantaytambo’s finest display of Inca heritage. The ‘Fortaleza’ as it’s called, warranted this town its UNESCO status along with its ‘living’ Inca culture too. And my favourite part of it was directly across from my window ‘The Temple Of The Sun’. I had a particular affinity with this part of the Fortaleza as it had inspired my writing of a novel of more than 60,000 words in the previous year. I don’t care if it is still unedited, unpublished and mostly private, I had the satisfaction of writing it entirely and when the remainder of these adventures are culminated I will sit still once more and meddle with it to my heart’s content with every effort to make it even more fictitious and fantastic than the first time round.

For now I was too busy living my way into the seams of a sequel. For, the best way to write any novel fictitious or not, is to go to source of your inspiration, put your nose right against the rolling stone of curiosity and watch carefully for the clearing that comes after all the dust has settled. The only trick I had to observe, not to spoil the ending of any of my unwritten stories by revealing too much in this travel oddity.

Chakana Inca Cross at Temple Of The Sun - Ollantaytambo Peru

Chakana Inca Cross at Temple Of The Sun – Ollantaytambo Peru

The third ‘new thing’? I also had WiFi included in my lodging. I could now talk more privately to my folks back home who were five hours ahead of me. On this bright new day, I dressed myself more spritely and made my way to ‘The Coffee Tree’, where I helped out with the catering from time to time. I’m smiling as I look back on it now. This was a good move.

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Peru Rail...train to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo Peru

4.30am Train To Machu Picchu

It woke me close to 4.30a.m. I’d never heard it from my enclosed bedroom on the other side of town. Outside in the darkness, folk were already making their way to the train station. The whistle blew one more time. The train for Machu Picchu was about to depart the Sacred Valley station of Ollantaytambo. My body was warm beneath the heavy woollen blankets while the cold crisp air stirred beneath my nostrils. I huddled deeper into my mould.

Train to Machu Picchu - Train Station Ollantaytambo Peru

Train to Machu Picchu – Train Station Ollantaytambo Peru

I closed my eyes and recalled the magic of the regal mountain. I pictured its drenched vegetation and misty atmosphere, the hushed voices of nations trailing through the genius of a five hundred year old civilisation, borne out in rocks. That was a year ago. I imagined that in all that time it continued to be glorious in its majesty and sacredness.

Peru Rail...train to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo Peru

Peru Rail…train to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo Peru

It was only a relatively short train journey away from me, yet I did not have a ticket to return. This was the high season. I was led to believe that tickets were more limited, yet I trusted it would all work out. I decided to wait. A wonder of the world deserves to be reserved for the most special of occasions, surely. My first night in La Casa Del Abuelo had passed peacefully. ©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog)