25 April 2013

the forest is alive and my hand is unsteady

So many plans, so much I want to do. But instead, looking at the magnolia leaves on the ground, all I can feel is time passing while I just sit and watch. Ah, the crucial leap between thought and action. I seem to have completely forgotten how to manage that.

Most evenings I ask myself if the time until the next morning is actually enough to somehow recover. Physically recover. You are such a wimp, says the voice in my head. No, you have a chronic illness, says my doctor. Bah, rubbish, says the voice. Don't fool yourself, says my doctor.
And so on and on. 

Meanwhile, one of the girls has done a runner from her "retirement center". There are only old people here, she cried over the phone, too many wheelchairs. It's not the right place for me.
So she packed got help to pack her stuff and has moved back into her little dingy place in the city where she can push her walker along the potholed sidewalks to the corner shop and say hello to the  men sitting at the bus stop with their drinks and try not to drop her pills and make her own breakfast and dinner again and we all keep our fingers crossed that the next fall plus fracture will not be for a while yet. And better not happen at night.

Just to think of it, me here slouching through my days and over there, our almost deaf and blind Nuala, standing at the bus stop with her walker ready for a day's outing to the sales and a bit of mass thrown in.

What am I doing with my life. What is my life doing to me. What was it again that I wanted?

22 April 2013

So here is spring again and this is magnolia week it seems. Next will be lilac week and so on. Much too fast, as always and I could get a bit panicky about it all being over too soon. Midsummer in two months already, first frost in six etc. Yes, I know this is not the way to approach it.
My child is poorly or has been poorly, something lingering that needs medical attention and she is struggling with that and her urgent and full life. A happy and healthy life it is. That is the most comforting part of it all. Could be nothing of course. But try and tell that to the heavy stone in my chest. She lives 18000 km away from me. I probably would be just as helpless if her home was around the corner.

20 April 2013

says Robert Redford

"I watch younger people, and there seems to be a lot of attention paid to child rearing, putting in time with the kids, expressing a lot of love and being really smart about it. Maybe I'm looking at a very small segment of society, but this generation of babies, they're going to grow up with a whole lot more of love that's been expressed. And some day they'll be out there making decisions with a value system that might help turn around some things that have been so devalued in our society."

19 April 2013

The plumber called and he was very polite. He fixed the dripping cistern and was most understanding when I told him that we were not interested in redoing the bathroom despite its present outdated state of design. Why replace something that is working, I asked and he looked around and replied, you are not one for the new trends then. Bless him.
The sun is out and the doors are open. I am getting used to the spring noises again, all the gadgets, lawnmowers and power hoses and of course my neighbour's teenage daughters across the hedge fighting at the top of their voices over lunch.
We have a loose door frame in the house which will forever testify that this was once home to my teenage girl, the one who would bang her bedroom door every so often. I could get quite sentimental touching this frame. I could get quite emotional, really. But there it is, she moved out and into the world many years ago. And I think that some of this world is a better place because of her. Gosh, that sounds awfully mushy. 
I did not sleep too well, all my aches and pains were at it in excellent team work. This will pass, I know but for now I shall resort to splendid distraction for the time being. Maybe things will pick up after that.

16 April 2013

On Sunday, R did his marathon thing, got it out of his system. I stayed home, baked some bread and when he came back, I put his sweaty things in the washing machine and that was that as far as I was concerned. And he expressed similar thoughts, shaking his head, muttering about the loud music echoing from the buildings, the millions of plastic bottles thrown on the streets, the mountains of rubbish collecting around the drains and the mad crowds. Never again, he said. He also said, this is crazy, just think of the crowds and what could happen. Irresponsibly mad.
So there.
And of course this is so shocking, it affects us all so much when the victims look like our brothers and sisters, the streets like our neighbourhoods. I scroll through the papers online, the Irish papers concentrating on how many Irish are affected or nearly missed being affected, the Dutch papers found a Dutch participant to interview and so on.
And I remember the Syrian taxi driver from last January, crying as I innocently asked him about the picture of his family on the dashboard. And the beautiful Iraqi post doc who ran into my arms screaming and shaking one morning after she had just found out that her baby brother had been hit on his way to school. And how clueless I felt with the impact of their grief.

Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

15 April 2013

Funny really, how quickly we adapt. Was it only last week that I was searching for the thick mittens again, trying to find an excuse for not going out, all that careful wrapping up every day. And the complaints, the misery, will it ever get warm, is this the climate change, would you shut up.
And once again, the air is balmy, a warm wind blows in my face, the trees are in full pink and white and yellow finery. Never mind the odd shower, even if it is a bit of sleet. That's just April, the jester.
We are in business. This is spring. What were we complaining about again?

14 April 2013

I'll start with the pots. They look old, obviously. Maybe something ethnic, from an African village maybe?, collectors' items. Of course, I would love to hold them, own them, place them on the shelf together with all the other bowls and ceramics I have been hoarding. To be able to touch them, run my fingers along the patterns. 

These pots, or rather "food vessels" as is the correct term, are safely hidden in a museum considering that they are from the Bronze Age. That is from the period 1900 - 1300 BC.
Sometime in the Early Bronze Age in places like Ireland people started to bury their dead in single graves. I can only guess what they may have done earlier, mass graves like the giant big megalithic tombs, leave them to the elements, recycle, cremate, eat them? I am not good at archaelogy. The dates, all these zeros alone are too much for me to comprehend.
For whatever reason, a change occurred in the way Early Bronze Age society was organised. Not every person, but certainly a growing number of significant individuals was buried that way. Significant apparently did not necessarily mean important as in political or religious leader. But again, I am baffled by the way archaeologists come to their conclusions. 
The individual graves were just large enough to hold the body and several accompanying pots, beautifully crafted, with drink and food for the journey from one state to the next.
But what is the most moving of these burials is that in some of them, the dead have been placed in a foetal position, curled up as if they were curled up in the womb.
Early Bronze Age people were obviously looking very carefully at the human body, they knew the shape of a child in the womb, they had the capacity to observe humanity. And looking at these pots I can glimpse their desire to transcend it.
I find that thought very comforting.

12 April 2013

the last picture from Ireland - for a while

I am standing just below the beacon which marks the entrance to Baltimore harbour looking out towards Sherkin Island and that little glimpse of Clear Island well behind it. After that it's the Atlantic all the way to the west. It is very windy and the little ferry to Sherkin will only go once today. 

The last time I stood here was on a very hot and sunny day and all that was behind my back while I took a picture of a grinning R in shorts and walking boots leaning on the beacon, holding our 6-months old baby.

09 April 2013

the girls

Everybody calls them the girls. Maeve will be 100 next week and Nuala will be 95 on Saturday. They could not be more different and yet are so much alike. Now, with age, they are almost blind, almost deaf, but show them a family photograph and give a few hints and they are off remembering every detail. Maeve always was the independent one, running her own business in 1950s Ireland, selling women's fashion from her own van all over the country when a single woman could not get a room in a hotel. In some places they let her sleep in the empty ballroom. I asked her if she was ever afraid, out there as a single woman and she gave me a puzzled look. Why? I never even locked the van. She married late, another independent soul and when he died, she took her sister Nuala along and travelled the world sending postcards from Hongkong and Buenos Aires and Alaska and Nairobi. Maeve's laugh echos from the walls, she never stops talking with her deep hoarse voice. Nuala, sweet little Nuala, was born at a time of great poverty when the family was going through a bad patch. She was ill for most of her childhood and has no education as she likes to point out. She was always carried along by her brothers and sisters and looked after children as long as they weren't too wild and worked as a housekeeper for some very nice priests. She knows all the saints and feast days and can rattle off the rosary in no time. As long as her eyes would let her she sang in a choir, even performing in the National Concert Hall when the nation could watch her on TV.
They are the last of seven siblings. I think they are absolutely gorgeous.

Cork and Jimmy Mac

This time, we bypassed Cork on the brand new ring road with the tunnel and all. And yet we knew without saying that somewhere enclosed by the tangle of roundabouts and four-lane roads lies this messy charming city where so much happened for us, where S was born, when work and money was scarce in a time full of energy and ideas and ideals.
A lot of time was spent organising benefits for campaigns, an endless string of concerts, films, readings in smelly pubs, dance halls, community centers. We danced against nuclear power, for the women of Greenham Common, home birth, anti-apartheid, Nicaragua, gays and lesbians, AIDS awareness, striking miners, free schools, you name it. And often, Jimmy Mac was there with his guitar, a quiet man who could bring a rowdy crowd down to a hush. He leaves it to others to record his songs. Mary Black and Christy Moore.

08 April 2013

We may see ourselves as many tribes, but we are one species, and in failing to speak out against injustices inflicted on some of our number and doing what we can to combat those without piling further wrongs on earlier ones, we are effectively collectively punishing ourselves.

06 April 2013

Easter Monday in West Cork

There are officially seven pubs in Baltimore. The pretty fishing village of Baltimore on the southwestern corner of Ireland that is. The first Baltimore or mother of all Baltimores so to speak. One of the pubs is the Algiers Inn, named after the attack of Barbary pirates from North Africa which took place here in 1631. It is a gruesome story of conspiracy, murder and slavery. The locals remember it well.

This picture hangs on the wall of another pub, O'Casey's. It is securely nailed to the wall in a dark corner which is why this is such a lousy picture. The girl in the picture is Bridie, she was 15 years old on that day in 1998 or thereabouts and she had no idea who these two fellas were. But they seemed friendly and in fact asked her to be in this picture. So her sister told me. She works in the pub and saw me take a double turn when I took a look. Apparently, not many people recognised these two when they came for a visit but the general opinion seems to be that they were nice enough. The locals remember it well. Bridie is now married with kids I have been told. Lovely kids.  


05 April 2013

Sandycove harbour wall

James Joyce lived down the road from this harbour wall. It was probably a much calmer day when he wrote this.

She was alone and still, gazing out to sea; and when she felt his presence and the worship of his eyes her eyes turned to him in quiet sufferance of his gaze, without shame or wantonness. Long, long she suffered his gaze and then quietly withdrew her eyes from his and bent them towards the stream, gently stirring the water with her foot hither and thither. The first faint noise of gently moving water broke the silence, low and faint and whispering, faint as the bells of sleep; hither and thither, hither and thither: and a faint flame trembled on her cheek.

(A portrait of the artist as a young man, 1915)

Just up and across the road to the left is Teddy's, where JC would buy ice cream for whoever was with him, kids, grandchildren, wife, daughter-in-law, neighbours, and we would all sit on that wall, watching the dogs running in the surf. On rainy days, we stayed in his car, listening to Gaybo on the radio.

The sublime and the ridiculous are always close in this part of the world.

Lough Tay, Co. Wicklow

It feels like a million times that I have stood on this spot looking down onto Lough Tay over the years. But never with snow and ice. The drive was tricky for a bit and we had to turn back eventually, unable to reach the Sally Gap.

04 April 2013

On the last leg, the very last leg of our journey, close to midnight, all things broke down and we were standing in a crowd of lost and tired fellow travellers in this gigantic cold railway station trying to hear the crackling loudspeaker snippets of signal box failures and detour options. And for the briefest moment I wished we'd never come back. How quickly I had become used to smelling, hearing, watching the sea again. Looking out over Dublin Bay yesterday morning, high up on Dalkey Hill, even with all the new buildings and roads, I could trace my way through the maze of terraces and streets to the familiar places, our former homes and those of friends and family, memories everywhere.
I have never been really fond of Dublin, it has never - now more than ever - felt like a safe place, not with its erratic public transport, frustrating traffic jams, pickpockets, beggars, rain, busloads of confused tourists looking for the Hollywood Oirish and leprechauns. But still. A clear blue sky, crisp air, an almost warm sun (in the places sheltered from the wind), kids, dogs, turning to look south towards Bray Head, smelling the pine from the forest, perfect.

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, upper lake