Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2012

(after a painting by Nicola Slattery)

 

This boat is worn, has carried many,

but now carries only a girl and her sheep

in true ark-like fashion.

***

The sea storms, all blue-green and white caps,

waves mounting and then crashing

against some unseen shore.

***

The moon, suspended in sky, sleeps soundly.

(It simply cannot worry itself with futile

human endeavours on Irish seas.)

***

Blue dress with red collar, she stares at sheep,

cradling its head in her hands, comforting it.

The sheep, ignoring her, peers out at the world,

with simple mind, but knowing eyes.

***

On a Castletownbeare hill,

in someone’s back garden,

an abandoned fishing boat,

clearly marked Mary Rose,

leans sideways, achingly, towards sea–

as if it knows there will be no reunion.

***

Your ship has long since sailed away from me.

Same continent, different countries,

but I wonder, when moon rises

and the sea shifts without us even knowing,

if you will ever miss me as much as I do you.

Read Full Post »

The house gives nothing back to its visitors,

except a nagging query as to how the rebel tree

even came to be.

****

After rooting, in genesis,

so many years before,

it birthed itself, violently,

through grey slate roof,

so that shale fell sharply to ground.

****

Moving from origin, the tree grew,

reaching its limbs out with wild abandon,

and through its childhood and adolescence,

until its rings finally marked its age,

until it reached the heights

where wind both whipped and caressed,

causing the tree to moan, weep and creak.

****

Then magpies and rooks came to nest,

finding solace in the foliage,

raising offspring of their own.

****

I wonder now–

where have they gone,

those who once lived here?

Vanished from this place,

or let down and then taken up?

****

The window is ajar,

as if someone will soon return,

but the tree knows they have gone;

it is most certain, having rooted itself in

the broken tiles of kitchen floor,

and having grown tall in detritus of plaster.

****

It invites itself, but no others.

Read Full Post »

Leaving my Dublin hotel this morning to get to the airport, a woman and her daughter rushed to get on the hotel shuttle.  The mother sat next to me, the daughter on a seat opposite.  The mother just started talking to me.  She and her daughter were Australian.  “We thought we’d miss the shuttle….such a rush…”  So I asked her if she was going home, too.  She got emotional and couldn’t even speak.   I felt extremely awkward.

“Uh, no,  if you knew the story, you would see that it’s so funny you asked that….we arrived just a while ago and now we’re going to pick up a rental car at the airport.” She finally gathered herself enough to say.

She lifted up a necklace she was wearing so I could see it.  “You see this?  My grandfather left this for me.  He was Irish and he died in 1927.  I got it when I was eighteen, from my father, long after he’d emigrated from Ireland to Australia.  It was a watch chain and fob, but I had it redone as a pendant.”  I told her I thought it was beautiful.

“Are you going to try to do research and find him?”  I asked.  She couldn’t speak.  She almost started to cry.  I patted her arm.  (What else can you do when someone you’ve only just met, on a six-minute shuttle ride from hotel to airport, almost starts to weep?)  She gathered herself.

“Sorry…it’s just that, even though I never met him, I feel I know him spiritually.  Does that sound mad?”

“No,”  I answered.  “Perfectly normal.  I totally know how you feel….I have Irish ancestors here too….Do you know where you’re headed?”

“North….it’s all we have.  I know I’ll find him, though…we have five days and a few towns and churches to search for records.”  She was purposeful and confident.  “I’ll know when I find him….”

As the shuttle pulled up to Terminal 2 in Dublin, she said quickly.  “So, in answer to your first question….yes, I am going home.  I am home.”  Then she said, “Here, give us a hug….you’re lovely to have listened to me.”  And with a quick goodbye, and a smile from her daughter, they were gone…

Sometimes I think that God sends us little envelopes of love and human spiritual connection….and that encounter was one of them.  What a blessing….and how grateful I am.

peace,

k.

 

Read Full Post »

Well, my time here ends in the morning.  The wind is wailing and rushing around this house.  The Sidhe are riding, I think.  (Guess I won’t see them this time, but maybe next…)  The wind here rushes down Mishkish and pushes towards the sea, so fiercely tonight that it rushes down the fireplace and rattles everything.  You can really imagine it would be a night when the banshee could appear; it’s just that atmospheric.

We workshopped our poems this morning and then, after lunch, Sue drove us out to the 800 year old graveyard at Kilcatherine and dropped us off to walk from there back home to Anam Cara.  There is a wonderful stone ruin, a church, with a human head that peeks out from the top of the door.  So old…but still a sense of humour in the stonework.  Some stones were so old that they looked just like posts, worn down as they were by hundreds of years of wind and rain.  Susan, Angie, Pippa and I walked, then, along the road until we reached the infamous Hag of Beara.

In Irish, she is referred to as “An Chailleach Beara.”  She is said to have lived seven life times before being turned to stone.  You see a little green gate, so weathered that the “Please Shut the Gate” sign is down to “…ase …ut….at…”  From there, you wander down a stone ridge and see her, perched on the hillside.  She is ancient and full of lore.  She is still waiting for her husband, Manannan, God of the Sea, to return to her.  Local people still leave her little trinkets, coins and offerings in hope of gaining her blessings.  (This practice is similar to the tradition of leaving gifts at the various faery trees I’ve seen these last two and a half weeks.)

We continued on, past the oldest ogham stone in Europe….thousands of years old, again.  This whole area is dotted with hedge tombs, stone circles, ring forts.  If you’re into archaeology and history, as I am, this place is heaven.  The richness of the lore and legend, rooted in history, is something that gives scope to any writer.

Carrying on, the walk took us a good hour and a half.  It was about 6 or 7 miles in length.  (My legs are creaky tonight!)  On the way back to Eyeries from Kilcatherine, Pippa and I had a close encounter with four donkeys who rushed their gate, thinking we must have had apples to give them.  A little dog came rushing down with them for a visit, too.  They were soon disappointed by our lack of food and went back to their field.  Further on, Susan and Angie had discovered a pen of goats.  So great to see them up close.

Finally, we stopped in Eyeries for a drink at Clauskey’s Pub.  The view from their back window is stunning.  To top it off, a dog wandered into the pub on a whim.  Only in Ireland.  🙂

Home tonight, we shared our last dinner together….Irish salmon.  Then, we each read some of our poems.  It was so moving to hear everyone’s poetry.  I cannot explain how blessed I feel to have met these women this week.  To be with other poets is something I’ve been missing.  I know that we were meant to be friends.  What I’ll take from this week is that I have gained four new soul friends.  I’ve learned that I need to recommit myself to my own poetry.  I need to redefine myself as “poet” first.  What I know is that I’ll always be connected to these poetic women and that we plan to reunite in a year or two.  Sue Booth-Forbes, the wonderful woman who cultivates creativity here at Anam Cara told us tonight that we, as a group, truly affirmed her vision for this place.  I feel something magical happened to me here….in that this place opens up your heart, your soul, your creativity, your interior life, and helps you to refashion yourself in a stronger more unique way.  I feel so blessed….but will be so sad to be parted from these new friends and poetic sisters.

Tomorrow, Kathryn, Pippa and I travel from Beara to Cork, and then Kathryn and I will take the train to Dublin.  Sunday, I fly home to Northern Ontario.  I will miss Ireland, but I will most particularly miss Beara.  As Sue Booth-Forbes said tonight….”God created Beara as heaven, but then he gave it to us.”  It is so true….I wish everyone could experience the people, the stories, the beauty that is Beara.  I will carry it in my soul always.

peace,

k.

Missing my fur babies….will be glad to pick them up on Sunday night.  Gully & Sable….I’m coming home!  🙂

 

 

Read Full Post »

Today was all about stories and tales, which is truly fitting for the West of Ireland.

This morning, Sue Booth-Forbes told us about a duck who was bullied right out of her back garden by the other ducks.  (Who knew the duck world deals with bullying?  I thought it was just something we teachers encountered….but never figured the animal realm.)

There once was a duck who tried to fly, so Sue named her Amelia.  (I’m sure you can figure out the connection, as you’re all very intelligent readers!)  Every time Amelia tried to fit in with the other ducks, they kicked her out.  One day, a visiting writer was walking in the Meditation Meadow next to the house and saw Amelia walking right next to a bunny.  That was the last that anyone ever saw of Amelia.  Sent out of her own duck ‘hood’, she found a friend in another animal and went off into the wilderness of Beara.

We spent the morning listening to one another read favourite poems.  I love hearing poets read other poets’ work because they know about the subtlety of nuance and cadence in voice.  I will miss this place, but I will miss these brilliant women more….Pippa, Kathryn, Susan and Angie have become trusted poet “soul friends” and I feel I was meant to meet them all.  There is something to be said of living in a house full of poets, all women.   The poems, the conversation, the laughter, the new friendships….I am so grateful for having had this experience.

This afternoon, walked into Eyeries and sat in the church for a while.  It was completely empty.  Ironically, it sits directly across from Clauskey’s Pub, one of two in the village.  The church is white and very simple on the outside, but it’s the altar and stained glass windows that spoke to me most.  The windows depict scenes of life on the Beara Peninsula and the West of Ireland.  There are ones that deal with agriculture, depicting a man harvesting his fields.   One showed the beehive huts that the monks used on the Skelligs, with reference to their working on illuminated manuscripts.  There are others with ships on waves, with Jesus at the prow of the boat, guiding it to safety, and whales beneath the waves.  There is, always, a sense of something bigger at play.  In a place where the sea gives and takes, and where fishing is a way of life and has been for centuries, you know God will always be present.  That, too, is reflected on the altar itself.  Most touching is a statue of a two foot high ship, the bottom licked by sea waves, with a figure of Jesus standing on its deck.  Here, God protects those who make their living by the sea…and there’s a sense that anyone in this area would know that, and would honour that relationship between humans and divinity.  (Interestingly, the aspect of divinity is so interwoven with the natural landscape of the place…)

This evening, we all went into Castletownbeare to hear a seanachie.  Yes, you’ll notice that’s an Irish word.  It means ‘storyteller.’  Before he began, though, we listened to an English singer who sang Dylan songs.  Strange bedfellows.  Unexpected, to hear a traditional seanachie speak and first listen to a man with a Dorothy Hamill-like hair cut sing Dylan….but I suppose it’s indicative of how life can sometimes be paradoxical!  😉

The seanachie was fantastic.  He talked about Selkies and sang one of my favourite songs, based on the Patrick Kavanagh poem, “On Raglan Road.”  Of everything I heard tonight, that song went to my core.  I love Kavanagh’s words, but that piece, when sung, is just so stunning, elegant and moving.  What struck me most, though, was when he talked about the exodus of Irish to North America in the 1950s.  He talked about how a local boat called The Beara Princess would go to various villages, like Glengarriff and Castletownbeare, to pick up people to carry down to Cobh (pronounced Cove),which would then have been called Queenstown.  From there, they would travel away.  Almost one hundred years after the Great Famine, another way of emigration, and now, as he said, still another wave of emigration to Canada, America  and Australia due to the crash of the Celtic Tiger.

I got very sad listening to that.  I thought of how my ancestors travelled the Famine Road down this coast, forced to leave after the Famine, not knowing where or what they would do for a living, and leaving the home they loved so dearly.  The same thing happens today….as he said:  “The 1950s aren’t far from how it is today here, with people leaving and not coming back…”

Tomorrow is my last full day here.  We’re going to workshop our poems in the morning and then have a poetry reading in the evening.  I don’t know if I’ll get up to Ardgroom to see the stone circle…it’s a long way from here….but I know I’ll come back here again in a year or two so I’m not worried.  Anam Cara is magical in that you are able to give yourself and your writing a place to flourish….where your work is valued and honoured.  I’m just so glad I was able to come here….

peace,

k.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Solitary bicycle

leans up against bleached wall;

seems weary, bereft even.

***

(How many kilometers covered now?

How far from there to here?)

***

Time stretches out,

like an endless ribbon of pavement;

pathways marked and unmarked

speak of journey’s worth,

without concern for destination.

***

See the fragments

as pieces of the whole;

trust in moments

rather than worry away

hours into days.

***

Up against Clauskey’s pub wall,

the sounds of

glasses clinking,

pints sloshing,

and voices speaking

slip out front door and slide into

narrow, twisted street.

***

Bicycle wishes only this:

to leap,

gather speed,

crest hills, and fly;

thinks, dreamily, it will sail off into damp air,

land solidly and speed off towards Cork,

trailing sea and sky behind it,

but finds it must wait,

bide its time, not rush to go.

Read Full Post »

This morning, we drove to Castletownbeare and visited two art galleries.  We spent time in both, choosing a piece of art to write about.  There are wonderful artists here in Beara and art is honoured.  (I’ve got a first draft of one poem done already, and the second is beginning to take form on the computer.  I always get first drafts done on paper, scribblings really, and then find things look more clear on screen and paper.)

This afternoon, Pippa and I walked forty-five minutes from Anam Cara, through Eyeries, and down a country lane to find the infamous Mary Maddison, who is legend of sorts here in West Cork.  She is a wise woman, a seer, a stone reader, and a story teller.  She has a wonderful front garden unlike any I’ve ever seen before.  There are small ponies, chickens, hens, one turkey (!), and three peacocks.  As well, she has created a tiny church that sits on the front hill made entirely of sea shells.  There is even stained glass in its windows!  She loves The Blessed Mother, as she calls Mary, and makes reference to her in all of her conversations.  Down beside the house, there are little pools and ponds, which she’s made and covered in sea shells.  As well, little faery statues are rooted in the cement, so the entire property is covered with little angels and faeries.  The world which she has created here is almost shamanic.

You walk into her kitchen, filled with wonderful whimsical Irish chairs that have backs that lift up into curly horse tails of iron and wood.  The view out the kitchen window is of peacocks strutting and tiny horses eating birdseed!  She’s the kindest and loveliest person I’ve met here.

Pippa went first.  Then it was my turn.

Mary asked me to take off my shoes and socks and put my bare feet into a huge basin filled with small stones and crystals.  My feet stayed in there the entire time!  Then she asked me to take another bowl, filled with beautiful stones and crystals and shells.  I was to pick out six rows of seven stones and lay them across a tray.  Then, at the end, I was to pick out two key stones that she would explain last.  (As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am already drawn to stones in strange ways, so rubbing them and holding them, to find the ‘right’ ones was a delight.)  Once that was done, she began to read them row by row.  Each row was representative of a month. “This first row,” she said, “is what will happen between the 8th of August (today) and the 8th of September, and so on down the rows.”  She then explained what each stone represented and where it had originated, which was fascinating on its own.  Some came from India, some from North America, some from the sea here.

What I found most interesting was that she wove in Catholic references throughout the entire reading.  “This stone tells me that you’ll have a blessing from the Holy Mother in October.”  When she got to December, she mentioned St. Germain.  (I asked her if she knew him, and she said no.  I said I didn’t know him either, but that I probably should as I am Catholic.  My Irish grandmother gave me a book of saints when I was little, so I’ll be sure to look him up when I get home next week!)  I asked her if she was Catholic.  She said yes, and then told me that priests and nuns come to see her often for stone readings, which I found interesting.  I’m sure they don’t publicize the fact that they visit a wise woman on Beara!

She said my boat will come in during September, which is curious.  (I was pretty sure my boat came in this month because of this wonderful trip!)  Then, she shut her eyes and said that Mum and Dad were speaking to her.  You have to picture a little woman with pure white hair, an Irish face with bright eyes and a lovely laugh.  You have to imagine a white house dress edged with bright blue irises and a pair of lovely floral slippers on her feet.  While her eyes are shut, you lean forward as if you could hear them too if you listen carefully enough, your feet steeped in a bowl of stones and Irish sea shells, and watch as she chuckles and nods to someone you can’t see or hear.  It’s eerie and at the same time a bit sacred in a very ancient way.

Suddenly, she made me crack up.  “Your father says why are you so worried about getting a man?  You have plenty of time yet!”  She laughed so hard.  Then she said, “Sure, there are lots of men around you.  Do you just not like the look of them?  Maybe you’re not sending out the right signals!”  She was hysterical.  “Two are coming in December!  If it was closer to the time, I could tell you more about them, based on their birth stones!  Listen, just call me and I’ll tell you when it’s time.  Your boat’s coming in, girl, your boat’s coming in!”

I had taken my Claddagh ring off before the reading, as well as my Celtic spiral ring, so she wouldn’t know I had any Irish link, but she soon shut her eyes and asked:  “Is there an Irish connection through your mother’s family?”  Soon she was rattling off names and telling me to do reseach on the Co. Clare side of the family.  “Your people’s still there, girl….they were farmers and great musicians.  It’s in the DNA!  Do you sing?”  So I admitted that I love to sing Irish songs and she nodded confidently.  “It’s in the DNA.”

After she’d read through the rows of stones, she bent down to my feet.  Strange experience, indeed!  First, she looked at the stones on top of my feet.  Similar sorts of stones indicated certain things.  “This stone tells me that God hears your prayers.  He listens to you, and so does the Blessed Mother!”  Then, she had me lift my feet and looked at my soles.  Another series of questions and answers followed.

Too soon, the half hour stone reading was over.  It was wonderfully raw.  I’ve never met a woman who obviously loves God, but who is rooted in the Celtic pagan spirituality as well.  She is well renowned in Ireland as a story teller.  “Sure, I’ll tell stories to anyone who will listen.”

People here are complex.  They live in tidy houses, with tidy gardens, off small narrow lanes.  They live with sheep and tiny horses and giant cows that moo.  They live now, but are so rooted in the past.  There is no distinction, it seems, when you are connected, through this landscape to your family’s past.

The wise woman who lives on the edge of Eyeries, down a narrow lane that divides fields of cows and sheep, is timeless.  She lives today, but she walks between worlds and times.

I hope to meet her again someday soon.

peace,

k.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »