Oh man. I began this blog with a very optimistic post about potatoes. It was all very meaningful, but after spending a weekend digging in dung and wheeling barrows of soil around the garden, my back is sore. I may even have to soak in a bath – and I am not a fan of baths. But my back is SORE and the optimistic potato post brings only the sound of hollow laughter now.
I stopped working in order to have more time to play. To write, take pictures, walk, have a different kind of life. Of course, when you stop working in a structured way you end up working all the time, or at least I do. Turns out I wrote more and took more pictures when I had a full-time job. The best laid plans, and all that.
So I made a plan to go to the Camino de Santiago in May, to take the time to walk and think for a couple of weeks. Life has intervened and now I’m bound elsewhere… life changes your plans, sometimes, and you go a different way. That excites me.
When the hill is in front of you
Yes, that hill, that one.
Or go down to the sea,
That water that pulls you
Deep in your bones.
I wake at night. Not every night, but often. I wake with a start, with a definite thought in my head. Sad things or stressful things have me sitting bolt upright at four am, wondering how to solve them. But sometimes – rarely – a moment of great kindness comes knocking instead, hazy and dreamlike.
For a lot of our lives we wander, head down and shoulders to the wind; following a road we chose or one that seemed to choose us. We tip our hat to life’s rhythms: we breathe, work, eat, blink, sleep and wake. We live and fight and love and get jealous and laugh. And the odd time, out of the blue, something brilliant comes.
He stood outside.
We’d had a fight, a bad one.
I was visiting him in New York. I’d said terrible things.
We spent that day walking, trying to find familiar ground.
Trying to make it alright
I love New York in winter.
I love the hard cold, the snow with blue skies,
People smiling like a movie.
Our breaths swam in the freezing air
As we watched store windows getting dressed for Christmas.
He kept telling me to go and look at clothes, if I wanted to, or shoes.
Or that Bodies exhibition. Whatever I wanted.
He stood outside, not caring about the cold, waiting.
After an hour wandering the Strand’s eighteen miles of books
We went for coffee.
The place was dark. Holiday tunes chimed through tin speakers.
We sat in a corner and
The windows dripped.
The man at the next table wore cardboard shoes.
I pulled out my new book of Rumi’s poetry
With pages that smelled like America
And, right there in that downtown coffeehouse,
My brother remembered poems from
The words spilled like jewels
Spilled out over the table and into the space between us
Like a miracle.
Spilled like rubies into my outstretched fingers
Luminous with love
Lighting up the room and
Making me catch my breath.
I once asked a bird,
“How is it that you fly in this gravity
A note: This is not a sad story. This is a story about a life filled with good things and bad things but always, always, an open heart for the great things. That’s why I look up.
I was sitting at a table outside a grass-roofed restaurant in Malaysia when I realised I’d already had my perfect job.
It was July and hot, hot, hot. The table was bright with candles, the food was good and the sky was brimming with stars. It had been a day of of white beaches and blue seas and now we were sitting, my fella and I, at a big table with six or seven happy strangers we’d met up with. An evening you might write songs about, if you were that way inclined and hadn’t given up the guitar after one blister.
Nanny changed when her husband died. A woman who’d never walked when she could run suddenly seemed different, though at twelve I didn’t really understand how. It was as though Pop’s death had surprised her into noticing her life, and looking around what she saw was busyness and work.
On Saturday I went to Inis Bearachain in Conamara with my sisters, their husbands, two small people and a friend whose father came from the island. We were going to visit a very particular art exhibition as part of Tulca, a multi-venue visual art festival. This is our afternoon in pictures.
We drove to Leitir Calaidh, got on a boat at the pier and sailed out to the island.
On a grey Sunday in early November I finally dug out the last of my potatoes. They were beautiful – big, pink oblongs of luscious spud buried in the incredible soil I’d bought from a company in Donegal at the start of the year. I live on a hill, more or less in the bog, and have soil beloved of none: acidic, wet and compacted. It’s also full of rocks.
Ag an am seo den bhliain níl uaim ach ceol na n-éan a chloisteáil agus solas an lae a fheiceáil ag síneadh amach. Tá teannas ionam agus mé ag fanacht orthu, amhal is go raibh mé ag faire amach do long seoil Valparaiso. Ní h-é nach maith liom an geimhreadh ann fhéin – is cuma liom é a bheith fuar - ach a mhac go deo is fuath liom an bháisteach agus an dorchadas, agus cuireann siad ag brionglóidí mé faoi thíortha i gcéin.
January. Wow. It’s been fun but I’m glad it’s over. Rain, wind and hard-as-stone grey skies. And yes, some wonderful people and a couple of kick-ass parties, but still. I’m glad the birds are singing again.
Anyway. I was determined to find something to love in the grey. This is what I saw. Happy longer days, all.
I clicked on a link in an email today and it brought me to a blog I love - Foxglove Lane. Catherine (whose every post is lovely, by the way – have a look) talked about the notion of letting one particular word inform your journey or become your intention through the course of a year. “Oooooh, lovely”, I thought. “I’ll do that.”
Here we are. The end of the year. It’s been a crazy month for me – lots of things finishing, glimmers of new things beginning, worries and inspiration arriving on my lap in equal measure.
I had an idea that I’d have the time and feel compelled (inspired by the muse etc.) to write something meaningful, in the true sense of the word, over Christmas. Instead I’ve been in bed for most of a week, sick and feeling a bit sorry for myself, thinking a lot about the end of one year and the start of another.
I’ll be forty next year. That puts a lump in my throat and I want, very badly, to delete the words. There are so many things I assumed would have happened by now, and they haven’t. (Please, I know forty isn’t bad. I know it has no extra meaning but let’s admit, at least, that society has tried to invest it with some. My logical and fairly intelligent mind already knows all the things people have said to try to convince me that forty is actually amazing. But this is my version, so bear with me).