The Gift of Learning: Photography Lessons

 

 

Photography Lessons sm

Someone once gave me advice and it went:’Pay for experiences’. Rather can accumulating more ‘stuff’ it has helped me to prioritise learning and adventures, and helped me to channel my resources into investing in learning which feeds my mind and experiences which nourish my soul.

In a similar vein, this Christmas I am offering private photography lessons in the Dublin Region, for beginners or more advanced users. Each session is tailored to the individual needs but cover ground like understanding aperture and shutter speeds, learning to read the available light and adjust camera settings accordingly, and experiments in composition, framing and photographic style.

Gift vouchers available. Please get in touch via email for more information.

 

 

Posted in Creativity, photography | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Smile Factory

 

Finn Nov 29-8I have been calling little Finn, ‘A Smile Factory’. I think every city should have one.

Walking through Dublin with her these last few weeks has been amazing and revelatory to me. People stop. So many people stop. I can hardly walk 50m without someone stopping and responding to her in the most beautiful of ways.

In fairness, she is quite possibly one of the cutest puppies every to be born (note the bias here) but what amazes me is just how many people stop. Old people, young people, men and women in business suits who are clearly in a hurry, people on phones, people getting soaked in the rain, people you would not expect to stop. The sight of this little bundle of cuteness is stopping them all in their tracks.

People smile, then they give her a pet, then they engage in conversation. First they talk to Finn, then they talk to me. Then, mostly, they tell me a story. One woman told me about her husband with Parkinson’s disease who recently got a dog and the difference it is making in their lives. Another man told me how much he loves his own dog and how it has helped him get through a very difficult time in his life. Another women actually started to cry because it brought up so much emotion for her. People have come out of shops and cafes to meet her, people have walked across the street and out of their way. Everyone that stops leaves with a smile on their face. They tell me it has made their day. Some take her photograph. They thank me, and I swear, if they could wag their own tails, they would.

I am amazed but I am also asking myself, ‘Why am I so amazed? When people smile at Finn, I suppose I am seeing this beautiful and open side to them which is usually locked away. I am noticing how much strangers want to engage and are willing to engage. They will talk in a silly puppy voice; their tender side fully on show. With every stranger that passes me I now have this immediate way into a their hearts; a way into seeing a universal depth of care and emotion. They see Finn, and in turn, I have a chance to see them. I’ve already made new friends.

I will call it the Finn factor. She is a keeper alright and the ultimate smile factory. She is very good at giving snuggles too. And did I say that she is possibly the cutest little thing to have ever walked on this earth? Well, at least in my eyes she is…

Finn Nov 29-1

 

Posted in Living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beginner’s Mind: Cello Lessons

Nov 14-16

So often we don’t begin things because we are expecting perfection from the get go. We set standards high and expect to reach there in an instant (speaking very much from personal experience). We look for the quick fix, the fast route. But sometimes things take time, and rightly so.

This year I took up the cello, learning play it from scratch. I had never done music before and other than a few chords on a guitar I had never learned how to play an instrument or read music. But the opportunity arose for me to join a beginners community orchestra set up by my dear friend Ciara Cavanagh. ‘You are a cello player Clare’, she repeatedly said to me, giving me a loan of an instrument and arranging for me to have some lessons with her, in exchange for some yoga classes. How could I say no.

There have been so many interesting moments with the cello so far, and I know there are plenty more to come. One of the biggest has been learning how to fail, and fail again, and being absolutely comfortable with that. The very nature of learning an instrument means that you are going to make mistakes, and make them often. If I began expecting perfection, I would never have started. But even if I began to berate myself for my mistakes, I would never have moved on. The mistakes, you have to quickly realize, are just an integral part of the learning process and if you aren’t making enough of them, you’re not practicing enough!

Playing with an orchestra adds a unique spin to this- when you make a mistake you just have to keep going. The rest of the orchestra will be ahead of you and you learn very quickly to let go of the failure in order to keep up. If you let the mistake get the better of you, it will get in the way of future success and also have a negative impact on the other players. And so, you instantaneously have to get going again, and fast. Over and over and over again.

As in art, so in life.

So often, particularly as adults, we don’t allow ourselves to be beginners. We expect excellence from the start, and we don’t give ourselves the time to experiment, to learn or to be practitioners who show up, day in, day out to craft our particular thing.

I knew setting out to play the cello that I would fail. Each time I sit down to play, I fail. Things go wrong all the time, but gradually, though all the errors, things are slowly starting to go right. I am still making lots of errors but after months of practice, I am finding I am making different ones now, perhaps more advanced ones, and somehow the basics are falling in place.

This is learning. Through practice and through the embrace of failure, over and over, until one day you start to actually sound like you can listen to yourself. And you realize you are falling in love with the instrument which a while ago you thought would never cooperate with you. It now seems to respond, sometimes even with grace, and sometimes even with melody.

I am far from ready for any solo renditions, but one day, maybe. So long as I keep beginning and so long as I keep failing. Over and over and over again.

 

 

Posted in Creativity, Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From the Inside Out- A Yoga Journey

‘Oh, are you the yoga teacher?’, said with a quizzical look and tone of surprise.

‘I’m here for yoga, where is the teacher?’, said with a glance that moved beyond me.

These are genuine comments I have received just before I’ve been about to teach a yoga class. When new students arrive, I understand that I may cause a few curious looks up and down and I suspect a few internal judgments may be cast my way. I have come to expect them but I have also had to let them go.

I know I don’t look like a typical yoga teacher. I’m not tall or skinny or have perfect skin. I’m short and curvy and carry a bit more weight than I’d like to. But I have had to learn that this does not make me a bad yoga teacher, in fact, I think it may even have helped me. You see, every time, and I mean every time, I step up to teach a class I feel vulnerable and at risk of judgment. I feel on edge, and because of this edge I think I can relate to students who don’t feel comfortable in their own skin, or who don’t think they are strong enough or flexible enough to even begin. I know this because I’ve been one of them.

If you told me even a few years ago that I would using my body as a teaching tool, and that people would be looking to my limbs (and curves) for instruction, I would have laughed in disbelief and shuddered at the thought. But yoga, I have experienced, does something to you- it helps you to connect with, and even love, your body from the inside out. So I may have a belly, but I have learned to love the feeling of moving into a headstand unaided, holding it for minutes and minutes. I may not look like a typical yogi (or at least what the yoga industry continue to promote on their glossy magazine covers), but I love being able to move into deeper consciousness and awareness of my body, sensing into my organs and even feeling the difference between my right lung and my left, feeling the changing pulse of my heart and the shape of my pelvis. And I may not have perfectly sculpted muscles, but I love that I can hop up into crow pose and balance all my weight on my hands. Most of all, I love that it has been a journey of discipline and a hell of a lot of hours of practice to get me there. It did not start that way. It started with feeling unworthy but it was the practice, more practice and the wonderful support from my own teachers that helped me along my own path.

I remember the week before I decided to train as a teacher. I had a coaching session with my good friend Mari Kennedy and we sat down and faced the fear. I really could not see myself getting to the point where I’d be able to get up in front of a class of people and have them look at my body, curves and all, for instruction. But while the fear spoke loudly, Mari helped me to hear beyond it. Behind the foreboding I discovered deep vulnerability. Something clicked. I realized that the vulnerability was the gold. It was the key to connecting with others. This is what would make me a teacher, not being two stone lighter or six inches taller, but the ability to connect with another person’s journey, wherever they are along it.

Fraoch Retreat Oct 2012-9362

A while ago a new student arrived into my class, looking very nervous. She told me that a previous teacher had said to her not to come to class any more because she was overweight and would not be able to do all the poses.  My heart sank as I heard this, and annoyance flared- I wanted to have a word with that teacher and highlight some of the damage that had been done. Yoga is for everyone- tall, thin, male, female, young or old. It is not about being flexible or strong (these are just some of the by-products), but it is about the journey inwards, to the home of the infinite within. Yoga offers a promise- not necessarily that you will fall in love with your body from the inside out, but that it will offer you the chance to. It is a doorway to experience the inward self, the authentic self, the real and the actual self. It is breath and depth and beauty and grace. This is the journey. It starts with vulnerability and from there it moves to possibility. Along the way it is peppered with imperfection, doubt, challenge and change.

So over the years, as the hours on the mat have clocked in, I have learned to connect and constantly reconnect with my body from the center to the periphery. It is a continual journey. There are still days that I do not like what I see in front of the mirror but yoga has taught me to look beyond the skin and instead to experience the truth of my body.

So this is the real invitation and it is open to all; curves, fears and vulnerability included.  Mine are no exception, thankfully.

Recently I listened to two wonderful podcasts from On Being, a US radio show taking about yoga.

The first with Matthew Sanford, a yoga teacher who has been paraplegic since the age of 13. He speaks wonderfully about the essence of yoga, irrespective of the body which it works through. You can listen here.

The second was with Besel Van Der Kolk, a psychiatrist on trauma treatment and the role of body awareness, including yoga, in recovery. Here

 

 

Posted in Living, yoga | Leave a comment

The Homing Instinct.

Faff Aug 2013-3845

I’ve been homing. In a big sense of the word. For as long as I remember I’ve had my eye on elsewhere, always plotting my next physical move- to a new home, a new country, a new adventure. I’ve made home in mud huts and fancy universities. I’ve felt at ‘home’ while wild camping or overnighting in the back of pick up trucks. Home has been global, at times transient and generally somewhere else. And even though I have been in Ireland for the last few years, it has all felt transitory. My travels have been wonderful and I’ll be forever grateful for my nomadic streak but something has shifted, big time. Home, in the deep sense of the word, is being recalibrated.

The recalibration came somewhat unexpectedly. In September I had planned to pack up shop again and move to the UK. An amazing opportunity had presented itself, I had felt a strong ‘yes’ in me and the lure of elsewhere loomed large. But as I was preparing to leave, an unusual thing happened, my body flared up in pain. I ignored it and pressed on. But then it got stronger and I decided I needed to listen.  Two days before I was to move out of my home, my gut sense was on uber alert and a sudden realization hit me. ‘What am I leaving for?’ I listened into the pain, and into my body, and asked it, ‘What are you trying to tell me? My answer came not from my brain, my expectations, my sense of loyalty to others, or some wanderlust gene in me but from the uncomfortable sensations in my body. A visit to the doctor re-iterated the issue, and quickly I knew what it was telling me-  to stay. Then the critic voice crept in- ‘Sure, haven’t you told all in sundry that you are going? Sure, won’t you let down others? Sure, isn’t it all just in your head and aren’t you just letting fear take over?’ But still my body was saying ‘no’. I knew I had to ring my landlord and put a halt to the move. ‘Stay’ was the loudest answer. Within a couple of days the pain had gone away.

Looking back now, just a few months later, I feel blessed. In listening to the inner knowing, I feel I have moved into a much wider sense of home, a deeper home within my own skin and a stronger connection to ‘here’. Here happens to be Ireland, and by making a commitment now to place, a whole range of possibilities are opening up. My perspective is lengthening. I find myself talking about 3, 5 and 10 year business goals, and my commitments to the people around me are strengthening too. In committing to making a home, I am doing things I have longed for but never quite gave myself permission to do because home always felt so temporary. I have been painting my walls the colour I want them to be, and framing and hanging pictures. I’ve been making time again for my own drawing and cello practice, cooking and baking. They may seem like simple acts, but for me they are highly symbolic. Most significantly I have made a commitment to a four-legged being by the name of Finn. My housemate got a dog, on the condition that I will help to look after it. Ever since I remember I have wanted a dog, and now she is here, sitting by my side as I type. Finn is revolutionary.

Finn Oct 2014-7

So, in creating boundaries and deeper commitments, I am finding a whole other level of space. By removing the ever tempting question, ‘Where should I be?’, it has opened up the powerful questions, ‘How should I be, here?’. It does not mean that my travel spirit is no longer present (I was in Paris last weekend and I have trips I would love to take), but it does seen to have transitioned from wanderlust to curiousity. ‘What can I build from here?’, I am asking myself, ‘and how can I create  a solid base from which I can then explore?’.

Perhaps it is a symptom of my age that home is calling more strongly but in hearing ‘stay’, what I have also been hearing are the questions, ‘How are you really showing up to yourself, your body, your friends, your family and your deepest desires?’. And in creating a strong base, I realize too that it is a place people will come to- already there have been poetry nights, dinner parties and visitors from around the world.

Drawings-1

In all, the experience over these last few months has been a strong reminder to listen in. It took pain for me to listen this time, next time, hopefully, it will not so dramatic. But this is the stuff of learning and growth. This is the ground for maturation. The body knows. When we choose to listen, paths clear and ways are forged, not necessarily the ones we expect but the ones that can create genuine freedom, expansion and wellbeing. At home in our bodies, we can create a true home for ourselves. Mine has physically manifested with a turquoise wall, framed pictures and a little Finn. The thought alone make me explode with delight. ‘Welcome home’, I hear my internal self say, ‘my doors and heart are open’.

Finn Oct 2014-1

 

Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ten books that have stayed with me…

 

6304046010_3a010fb0eb_o

Around the interwebs over the last week I saw a list of books with the title:

 Ten books that have stayed with me long after I have read them.

 It got me thinking, in the most bookish and wonderful of ways.

Here are mine, in no particular order. I’ve bundled fiction, non-fiction and poetry together. A book is a book after all.

Some of these were read in my childhood, some I read during my early twenties and greatly influenced my work, and others are more recent reads.

  1. The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
  2. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimananda Ngozi Adichi
  3. Benedictus by John O’Donoghue
  4. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  5. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  6. Common Fire: Lives of Commitment in a Complex World, by Sharon Daloz Parks
  7. Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
  8. Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership by Joe Jaworski
  9. Riverboat Adventures by Lucy Kincaid (this was my favourite book as a kid – I would look at the illustrations for hours!)
  10. Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol II. (or any of her works)

(ah, is the list really over… I am going to cheat a bit, here are a few books I read recently which I also know are going to stay with me:

11. When Women Were Birds, by Terry Tempest Williams

12. In the Body of the World, by Eve Ensler

13. Americanah, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichi

And the poetry of David Whyte should be there, and also Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman and The Story of Art by E.H Gombrich. (So, yes, I am really cheating now).

And and and…

..

And yours? (This is a great way to get book recommendations I am realizing. I have got rid of my TV and plan on some extended reading time over the winter- so recommendations welcome).

Posted in writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Home, via Greece.

 

Axladitsa -57The tides come and go. The moon waxes, then wanes. An inhale follows and exhale, or even the other way round. The wave is the way of things. Each coming and going reveals a new pattern, a new current, a new marking on the shore. For it is a certainty that the tide will turn, yet where it takes us we can never quite tell.

I thought my own current for a while was taking me offshore to the UK for a stint, but life’s twists and turns have brought me back, to a home in Dublin, where I feel a new wave of life about to swell. The time for the UK turned out not to be for now, and so, Ireland, once again I am happy to say I have a home in you. And aren’t you a splendid and curious thing.

I have emerged from my weeks in Greece, where I camped out with the stars, under the shade on an ancient olive tree, the owls and crickets offering their nightly cacophony for company, alongside a myriad of ants and insect descending to my tent. We had a few skirmishes, me and the multi-legged creatures, but I am thankful to say that we all came out unharmed. Overall I loved wild camping- being out under the twinkling sky with the space and expanse of the view of the Aegean to greet me in each morning and the occasional feline visitation by way of Hammoudi and Tarzana, two of the resident cats.

Axladitsa -300

I was in Greece to visit Axladista, the home of my friend Maria Scordialos, where we together with some other friends (Vanessa Reid and Benedict Rousseau) hosted a collective inquiry into new forms of learning, or what learning is needed for now, given the times of chaos and complexity we are living through. Joining us was a wonderful, diverse group of practitioners who each hold an interest in learning and social change. There was a contemporary dancer, a Capuchin monk, a filmmaker, educationalists, artists, social entrepreneurs, environmentalists and activists. We experimented with each other’s practices- from meditation to body movement, exploring how we can learn from each discipline and apply it to this crazy world, with all its edges and challenges, while still staying focused and working on some of the big issues and opportunities of our time.

In all the inquiry was an interesting experiment that I am still digesting, and an experience which I have a sense will evolve over time, particularly through the new connections which were made and the themes which arose during our conversations and questions. One area of in particular which was very strong was the area of rites of passage, initiation and eldership, and how as societies we have lost so much of the initiation into cycles of life, manhood and womanhood and the skills to navigate the transitions. Coming with me too is the question of how we can hold the chaos within us in order to hold more of the presence in the world around us, and how the skills of yoga, meditative practice and good communication skills have an important contribution to make to the process.  The word practice and discipline came up strongly for all of us, whether that be spiritual, bodily or artistic as a way of grounding so as we can continually align ourselves to our true core and serve from a deeper, steadier place.

Axladitsa -50Axladitsa -129Axladitsa -275

The other night I was reading back over my journals from the last few years and tracking the themes and lines of enquiry I have been following for the past while. I could see some of the seeds of my work and interests now that were sown way back when, without knowing at the time where they will lead. In a similar way I have a sense with the learning gathering that some important seeds were sown. What will germinate I have yet to tell but whatever the outcome the experience of asking powerful questions with a group and watching the process unfold was a learning experience in and of itself.

Our learning gathering then moved into a week of body practice, where I hosted a yoga immersion, ‘Awakening the Wild and Wonderful Within’. It was again powerful stuff, especially to be surrounded by the wisdom of the wild. Over the course of the five days we grounded into our beings and from this rooted place were given reign to explore our own physical, emotional and mental edges. We were a small but intimate group which I simply loved teaching and particularly learning with the group and from the landscape. Nature knows while we participate. It was my first time hosting an immersion of this length and really relished having the time and space to dive deep into the practice with others. So, ideas already brewing for some more…

Axladitsa -220

In between all this and for some days which followed, with the memory of the yoga in our bodies, there was swimming and more swimming, 40 degree heat, olives, conversations, challenges, connections, more yoga, eating (lots of yummie things, including fresh figs from the tree) and some moonlit dances. Plus I got to hang out my one of my favourite beings in the world- Freddie the dog.

Axladitsa -301

Axladitsa never fails to offer her lessons. Mine are still unfolding and I feel fortunate to be able to have these opportunities in my life and thankful for the network of friends and colleagues who help enable it. Thanks in particular to Maria Scordialos for opening her home to us.

From Greece, there was also a two-night stop over in Italy where the flaneur in me had a chance to wander freely, soak in some views (and gelato) and dive into a novel- which I had not done for a very long time. (Thanks to Federica, my wonderful wonderful AirBnB host- if you are ever going to Bergamo, look up this).

Italy, Bergamo 2014-1

 

Italy, Bergamo 2014-22Italy, Bergamo 2014-35And now, here I am back in Dublin, where the light is still bright but with a chill in the air and the rain making a comeback. But it is a curious thing indeed, this place and this city, and I am curious too about the adventures and experiences which are to unfold here.  I have lots of new ideas and lots of hatching plans for a new phase of life and living. So, for now, it seems, I am home. Amen.

Greece 2014-61Greece 2014-67Greece 2014-23Greece 2014-18Axladitsa -188

Posted in Living, Social Entrepreneurship, travel, yoga | 2 Comments

Remembering Jimmy…

jimmy-2

 It has been 10 years. And yes, it is true, time flies, and yes, it is true, time can help and time can heal. But it doesn’t mean I don’t remember. I remember every day.

Ten years ago today my father Jimmy died suddenly while pushing a little boat out onto a lake, surrounded by people who loved him. My mother was at his side, handing out strawberries to a group of kids, fruit which only hours earlier was picked by them in their garden. It was a typical scene: lake, kids, boats, food, friendship.

Jimmy collapsed suddenly. My mum asked if he was ok, and he uttered, ‘Yes’. Friends, one a nurse, rushed to help. They tried to revive him but he was gone from us. Just like that. No fuss. This again was typical- the last thing he would have wanted was a fuss.

Ten years is a long time. And not. I remember so well. I remember at the time of his death how hundreds came, telling us how much he meant to them. I remember how, in particular, the children came- the kids of friends, and friends of friends, standing by his coffin, some holding his hand, some tucking little notes under his corpse, saying that he was like a grandfather to them, and they will not forget. I remember how we stood out on our lawn, a bright July evening, sharing stories, singing and playing music as his body lay in wake. I remember the guard of honour which the kids made with oars when his body was being taken from our home- they understood that this was someone to honour. I remember too the moment I saw his body, laid out, serene, still and cold. This was not my father. I ran out of the house, ran and ran, down to the lakeshore beyond the house, and sat there, just looking at the life around me. It was mid-summer. The lake was alive with life. A heron soared. Dragonflies hovered. Rushes and reeds swayed with the lightness of summer. The water was still and glistening, a silver shimmer appearing every now and then as the breeze released of its gentleness. It was far from cold. There was nothing but life here and in that very alive sense of life, I felt my father.

There was grace in that moment and I think that it was this feeling of aliveness, of abundance, and of the wild, unadorned pageantry of nature, in even its most subdued variations, which brought me to acceptance. Somehow I never struggled with a ravaged grief or an angry grief. Mine has been softer; instead a hushed tone of sadness wrapping the knowing that he will never know his grandchildren, or that he has not been there at my mother’s side. I have missed him, missed him so much, but I have celebrated too that he was released from his body painlessly, quickly, with only his life, and not his decline, to be remembered. For a man who gave so much this, in some respects, was life’s gift to him. He died at one of his favourite places on earth: Acres Lake in Letrim. A seat, erected by friends, now sits there, under some trees and simple reads ‘Jimmy’s Seat. 2004’. No fuss.

 So, he is gone, but I ask myself, does he live too?

 There is not a day goes by when I do not think about him. I search my brain for more memories, and only good ones come. That is all that is there- at least for me. My father was the closest thing to a gentle giant I have ever met. I have always felt lucky, beyond lucky, to have had him as a father- we had a special thing, me and him, a bond I cherish still. Is that a life, in the memory of him, lived now in how I act out the knowing of him?

 Or maybe the life now is in the lives that he saved, or helped or brought into the world? Jimmy was a fireman. He joined Dublin Fire Brigade in 1961, when he was 21, and did 34 years of active service. He saved countless lives and helped many others. He delivered a few babies along the way too.  Fire, he knew, could take lives in an instant: young ones, old ones, poor ones, rich ones. Life, for all, was that fragile. All it takes is a spark and the right conditions for the flames to flare. He knew this intimately.

 jimmy-8

Every person has their dark side, their shadow, and I have no doubt that Jimmy had his too. But somehow, he turned quickly outwards, allowing the light in, so that it could come out again, transformed and more resplendent. His was the light born from the dark; the one that knows the grief, the one that has seen pain and witnessed deep tragedy; the one that appreciates the speed of it all.

In his spare time, Jimmy was, for want of a better word, a hobbyist. He had many hobbies, which over the years included boatbuilding, parachute jumping, canoeing, painting, bee-keeping, stained glass making, photography, sand-castle making, deep sea diving, motorbike racing, swimming, grape growing, wine-making, sailing, picture restoration, koi-keeping, bird watching and gilding. Water fights also featured heavily. And pulling funny faces. And bad jokes. Yes, lots and lots of bad jokes. Jimmy taught me how to cut stained glass and make Tiffany lamps, how to smoke bees from a hive, how to develop a photographic print in a bathroom, how to tie up boat ropes and thread different kinds of knots. He taught me how he mixed his paints, how to spot a zebra finch and a wagtail, how to start an outboard engine, how to gild gold leaf onto an old frame, and, importantly, how to instigate a water fight. He taught me many many things, not least, the most valuable lessons of all: how to be spontaneous; how to have fun and how to love. To him, yes, there was nothing but life.

jimmy-3

There were some missing parts to him too- the ends of four of his fingers, which he had had chopped off in two separate accidents. He had also, on one occasion, badly burnt his hands in a fire (when he had given his gloves to another firefighter). His hands were forever being cut and scrapped and were layered with various years of scaring, markings of age and giving things a go. Yet, despite his difficulty with his fingers he still he got on with making things with them, always adapting and finding a way to do what he needed to. His pens, for instance, had a wad of selotape wrapped around them so that he could grip them better. In typical fashion, he also found a way to make a joke out of it all, telling kids that he bit nails too much as a child, and, see look what happens!

I remember the moment I heard the news that my father had died. I was sitting in a park in Dublin, with the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel, who were playing at a concert nearby, carried on the wind. As the news came, immediately so did three things, or a knowing or clarity.

I am really lucky to do the work that I do.

I really want to have a family.

Love is the most important thing.

 Maybe this was his parting gift to me; an edict to live by and strive for. I have carried these with me ever since.

So, he is gone now but he lives too. He lives in the lamps he made and his paintings on the wall. He lives in DNA of my brothers and I, now and my niece and nephew- his grandchildren, pumping through us with the tales of a life well lived. Somewhere, in the memory of the world, he is there, having played his part, well and with little fuss.

Ten years on, we will gather by the lake where his ashes are scattered. We will gather – me, my mum, my brothers, my niece and nephew, to celebrate again, and mark a moment, a passing, and a life very well lived. I intend too to dive into that lake, between the rushes and the reeds, into the dark undergrowth, and swim in her deep depths for while. I will swim there for a while in the knowing that there will be an upwards breach, into the light, into the fullness of summer and the freshness of air.  For that is where life wants to take itself – back onto the lakeshore, to continue, if only to admire it all, for there is so much to admire. And, if I can come even a fraction close to ripple effects of his memory, then, yes, that too may be a life well lived.

Thank you Jimmy. I miss you. I love you. You were the best.

jimmy-5

Posted in Living | 7 Comments

Enough is Enough.

Today, the world changes and turns, as it does everyday. It is the natural revolution of things. But today something very uneasy revolves in me.

The news in Ireland has been taken up with talk of Garth Brooks cancelling his concerts here- making front page headlines. The Taoiseach (prime minister) was even going to intervene. Excuse me, but really? Really? Is this what governing a country is boiling down to? Is this the value we place on our headlines and what deserves our attention?

Meanwhile in Gaza today, the lives of innocent civilians are under threat from rocket attacks and militant extremism. The treat continues and escalates.

Meanwhile in Srebrenica another 175 bodies will be laid to rest, on this the 19th anniversary of the genocide. And still the pain continues.

Meanwhile in Syria and Afghanistan and The Congo and Darfur…

Meanwhile in the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, the threat continues and escalates.

Today, I feel angry and frustrated. These words are not enough. These thoughts are not enough. My good intentions are not enough. I am on the side of solution, but right now, that is not enough.

I am crying as I write these words. Because I feel so fucking frustrated and powerless right now. But tears are not enough and giving up is not enough. Pessimism is not enough. Ignorance is not enough. Turning aside is not enough. Blame is not enough. Taking sides is not enough.

And yet we need to find a way to say ‘Enough’. Not just one of us, but all of us. ‘Enough is enough’.

There has to be a way.

Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I write…

turkey journal

I recently came across a series of pieces from writers about why they write. It got me thinking out my own reasoning. I have been keeping a journal since the age of 11 and haven’t really stopped since. My journal comes with me everywhere. Sometimes  I write just small private pieces, something much larger public ones. But the reasons remain the same. This is why…

I write to come to a knowing. I write to connect to a source. I write as a practice. I write as a craft. I write to uncover and awaken. I write to connect to myself, to others, to the mystery.

I write to come closer to beauty. I write to reveal my truth and allow it to evolve. I write to capture moments. I write as a record. I write because I can. I write to unblock. I write to provoke. I write to find my voice and sing my song. I write because I believe in words and the power of our voices, our songs, our stories.

I write to make something last. I write to celebrate. I write because I don’t want to knit.

I write because it is a doorway, a path, a way, a movement. I write because my brain wants to dance. I write so words take on a new form, through me. I write for me. I write for others. I write to connect myself to others. I write because it brings a part of me to life. I write to find meaning and make meaning. I write because it brings me closer. I write because there are so many stories and I am still writing mine. I write because we depend on stories.

I write to find love and belonging. I write to build bridges. I write to marvel, pay homage, express awe.

I write to find the right questions. I write to find my way to new answers. I write because I love to fill pages. I write because words come. I write because I’ve been overwhelmed with lonliness and overrun with grief. I write to knock and be found. I write because it is magical and frustrating all at once. I write because the voice of the world is rising and it needs catchers. I write because it brings me back to myself.

I write to find the songlines and the storylines. I write to ride a magic carpet, bringing me closer to home.

I write when on one is looking. I write when no one else can. I write because it is a privilege. I write because sometimes all you can do is pick up a pen and make your way down a blank page.

I write because I do and I must and I will. I write for the love of it.

And you? Why do you write? Or dance? Or sing? Or paint? Or do what your heart tells you to do?...

Posted in Creativity, writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments