The term ‘eye candy’ is one that I came to late in life but I’ve always been a glutton for colour.
Mother had a big thing about ‘eye appeal’ when it came to food and always had a pot of herbs on the go to ‘garnish’ plates that she felt needed a bit of a lift. I loved being the one to dash out the back and bring in a sprig of parsley, some chives, feathery fennel or maybe a mixture of everything and watch her transform plain to picturesque.
These memories of Mother are like interlopers on what I intended to write. Funny how that happens. I guess it’s because she appreciated the little things and life is made up of tiny, tiny moments which we need to appreciate as they are so precious.
So, I will just savour this moment and I hope you stop and appreciate a tiny memory from your day, week, life or loved one who has died but certainly not without leaving lots of shared moments to treasure.
There’s all sorts of ways of getting from Tramore to Waterford – it’s just about 8 miles.
I love all the roads for different reasons and each has its own landmarks. Some are very personal to me and others are much more widely recognised.
The farm buildings on the ‘Back Road’ that you see in the photo below really stand out with the white-washed walls and high up green grain doors.
I make a point of taking the Back Road on sunny days just to see the shadows of the trees playing on the old well kept wall.
It’s always lovely knowing that Tramore and the sea are waiting not far over the little hill in the distance and that you might well catch a glimpse of a horse looking out over a stable door in the evocative farm yard.
I was flicking through some photographs that I took while I was on my blogging break and came across a few from a little expedition up the cliffs near Annestown on the Copper Coast which is about 8 miles from Tramore.
In ways, it’s like another world and to a large extent it’s a place that belongs to other times.
The cliffs remind me of May 1985 when Mother and I stayed in a caravan overlooking Annestown Beach and with views almost as far as Tramore. We were based there for an interim period between moving from Clonmel back to Tramore where Mother and Dad had lived for the first 15 years of their married life and where they lived out their lives up to 2009 and 2010 respectively.
I was supposed to be ‘helping’ with the move but somehow managed to avoid a lot of ‘mullacking’ (hard word) and spent endless hours exploring the cliffs with Mother and just savouring them in glorious Summer weather.
I feel that Mother would be more than pleased to know that I am here remembering those sun-kissed days tonight before I head to bed knowing that her 8th anniversary will have slipped by just before sunrise tomorrow.
We certainly slept well in that caravan ~ as we were getting so much sea air, dining al fresco, going for swims, walking the cliffs and sitting outside with our cups of tea chatting long after the sun had set.
On those nights, just as on the night she died, I would have said ‘Goodnight Irene’ as we drifted into sleep. That was part of our secret code a la Jim Reeves.
I was introduced to the world and art of Claude Monet by my father when I was very young and when get even a hint of a water lily, I am transported to treasured hours spent with Dad turning pages of big hardback Monet art books ~ our heads, hands and hearts moving in unison.
I saw my first water lilies of the year this weekend ~ as colourful, fresh and delicious as anyone could wish for:
Monet has been playing on my mind since and I’ve been perusing some of his quotes. Here are the ones that appeal to me most. I hope you like them:
“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.”
“The further I get, the more I regret how little I know…”
“It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”
” It took me time to understand my water lilies. I had planted them for the pleasure of it; I grew them without ever thinking of painting them. “
And, naturally as a bridge lover, one of my very favourite water lily paintings by Claude Monet is this one:
This is one of my rollercoaster weeks as it includes son, Harry’s birthday (22), and my mother’s anniversary (1921-2009).
It has also been a week which has seen the horrific bombing in Manchester and a number of terrible tragedies here in Ireland.
I suppose it’s not surprising that I have found myself reflecting on all sorts of issues around life, love, loss and grief. The following are among the many thoughts that have been flitting around in my heart and mind:
#1. The fragility of life is mesmerising. While we need to be very aware of this fragility in order to make the most of every moment, it is something that dances around like sunlight playing with trees in a soft breeze.
#2. To love and be loved brings with it the risk/likelihood of having to deal with loss.
#3. Losses are not objectively categorisable in terms of their level of awfulness. To go down that road is to over-simplify what is a highly complex matter ~ and we need to be conscious that a whole host of factors come into play in terms of how losses are processed by different individuals and that one person may process losses in his/her life very differently.
#4. While there may be competitiveness in the cut and thrust of life ~ competitiveness has no place when it comes to grief and grieving.
#5. We need to recognise that there is no single best way to grieve or to deal with people who are grieving.
#6. We also need to be acutely aware that what may appear like the same loss in say a family context may well be dealt with very differently by the various members of the family. Remember that each family member is unique and has unique relationships with other members of the family.
#7. The extent to which we love someone does not necessarily equate with the grief we feel when they die. We may have a sense that a person has passed on a legacy of strength and that is something that can sustain us through what can appear on the outside to be an overwhelming loss.
#8. It is impossible to know how anyone will react to the death of a loved one, no matter how expected or unexpected that death is.
#9. Memories of loved ones who have died live on in a host of different ways and cling to all the senses, especially touch, smell, sight, sound and taste.
#10. Memories can be extremely vivid and key moments may remain etched in one’s being for years and years and years. Those key moments may well involve exchanges with people around the time of the death of a loved one as our senses may be very heightened as we seek to cope with what may seem like the overwhelming.
#11. Life is for living; life owes us nothing; we have no ‘entitlement’ to live to a great age.
#12. Love should be nurtured, treasured, celebrated and scattered to the winds as well as held close to the heart.
#13. The sharedness of life and love, lived to the full and with as few regrets as possible, are anchors that can sustain us through unthinkable losses and terrible tossings of grief.
The little girl let go of her father’s hand at the bottom of the wooden steps to the beach, handed him her doll, and sat down to take off her socks and sandals.
We passed each other half way down and they both smiled at me and said a happy ‘hello.’ They looked so much at home and she was dancing along beside him in her bare feet, not caring about sand between her small toes. The sand was soft, silky and hot. I’d just been playing with it, letting it slip through my fingers, like I used to when I was a kid.
The modern word for their togetherness is ‘quality time,’ but this wasn’t timed time with quick glances at the hands of a watch or the digits on a smart phone. It was relaxed time; time to paddle, run hand in hand in the lacy wavelets, pet the big fluffy dog who was out for his constitutional with his master.
This was father and daughter time; building sandcastles and memories to last a lifetime and beyond.
How do I know?
I just do because of the way they looked at me with their eyes shining like mirrors.
Am I alone in having had foibles about giving a bunch of flowers to a man?
It’s only in relatively recent years that I came to realise that there is no reason in the world why a man would not appreciate a bunch of flowers as much and I would and I wondered why I had always thought that flowers would somehow be an inappropriate gift.
Do we see a bunch of flowers as being very feminine?
I’d never have had any qualms about giving a man a tree to plant but send a bunch of pink roses ~ dither-time.
What changed me in all of this was my father. For most of my life I had wrung my hands trying to get him suitable presents for different occasions and when I found a drawer full of unused ‘stuff’ ranging from fancy after-shave to perfect fountain pens, I realised that I had to change a losing game.
So, I took courage and bought him a huge bunch of sunflowers in honour of our mutual love of Van Gogh and he adored them. I must admit to hiding behind them as I gave them to him but thereafter I had no qualms about getting him flowers of all descriptions and he loved them all for their colour and often poetry, art or gardens that he associated them with. ( I can feel him looking over my shoulder as I write here with so many prepositions at the end of sentences! Don’t worry, Dad, I know I’m doing it and I haven’t gone totally astray.)
Since I saw Dad’s reaction, I’ve given flowers as gifts to a few men and they’ve been very well received ~ even pink roses. I must admit that I’d prefer to receive a gift of a shrub or seeds or bulbs ~ something that will last forever but there are times when a bunch of flowers is just what’s needed…
… and I suspect that men are no different to me/women on this.
As you probably realise by now, I am drawn to names of all kinds of things, and boats are high on that list.
Since seeing ‘Courage’ docked in Dunmore East the other day, I have found myself searching around for what I perceive as some of the great quotes about courage and here’s a small selection of my favourites:
#1. ‘It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.‘ (e.e. cummings)
#2. ‘The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.’ (Robert Green Ingersoll)
#3. ‘Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.’ (Lucius Anneaus Seneca)
#4. ‘ I think we all have empathy but we may not have the courage to display it.’ (Maya Angelou)
#5. ‘Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace.’ (Nelson Mandela)
#6. ‘All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with white carpet is one of them.’ (Erma Bombeck)
Have you a favourite saying or thought about courage? I’d love to hear about it.
It’s strange how things happen. I was only saying to son, Harry, yesterday how fortunate I was to have the mother that I had in that she was so loving, humane, witty, comforting and understanding about everything.
We were driving round a roundabout when I came out with this utterance which arose as a reaction to hearing a lot of heart breaking stories on radio recently about people whose mothers had disowned them or with whom they simply couldn’t get along for all sorts of complex reasons ranging from clashes over arranged marriages, drug abuse, alcoholism, adoption issues, personality differences …
There was a time when I was foolish enough to think that everyone had a great relationship with their mother but over the years I’ve come to know lots and lots of mothers and daughters who have no connection whatsoever and maybe haven’t spoken to each other for decades.
Then, today, I was rummaging around on my desk and unearthed Mother’s red copybook which contains some English compositions that she wrote in 1934 when she was just 13.
The composition that jumped out at me was this one:
April is the last month of Spring. In it the good qualities of both winter and summer are blended, so helping to make it an ideal month. Hunting is prolonged, and hounds meet during the first week or two. Tennis courts are marked, racquets restrung and clubs open once more.
The trees break into foliage. Primroses, daffodils, violets and anemones bloom in wood and garden. The birds build their nests and pour forth glorious melody.
Little lambs frolic in the fields, while their mothers lie apart, watching them tenderly, and seeing that they come to no harm.
The woods are carpeted with celandines and primroses, while violets peep shyly from among the stronger flowers.
Farmers sow their corn and gardeners sow flower and vegetable seeds, which grow and blossom in due time.
Baby rabbits may be seen in the fields or near their burrows, ready to go indoors at the slightest hint of danger.
Here and there, one may see a squirrel jumping agilely from branch to branch. He has been lured out of his winter home by the glorious sunshine.
Easter generally falls in this month and Easter eggs are displayed in many shop windows in towns and villages.
Easter is seldom in March, and never in May; it is in April, which is a suitable time for festivals, for all of the world is in festive garb.
What struck me about this composition was the extent to which it was so much ‘Mother,’ with her absolute love of nature and wild places as well as her observations about nature’s ways ~ for example, the violets peeping shyly from among the stronger flowers.
It also made me think of how much things have stayed the same since 1935 at some levels – like the ‘festive garb’ of the natural world and the lessons we could all take from nature if we took the time to observe.
Clearly much has changed in Ireland and the world since 1935 but, for me, what feels important tonight, are the continuities and that feeling that somewhere Mother, who died in 2009, is ‘lying apart,’ watching her little lambs tenderly, seeing that they come to no harm.’
There’s something very precious about having a beach to oneself and that’s exactly how it was for me and Puppy Stan this morning out at Kilfarrasy. The tide was ebbing and there wasn’t even a footprint on the cleansed sand:
The sea was a darling blue and Summer seemed to be wafting in the salty air. When we turned to come back a fishing boat had rounded the headland with what I always think of as the upside-down heart and we stood watching it for ages as they threw in their lobster pots with the gulls shrieking overhead:
It was Puppy Stan who saw our watchers first. He skidded to a halt and peered up the cliffs. It seems like we’d had an audience ~ an ever-growing ~ one for some time:
I couldn’t but think of how my father used to say when I’d be trying to ‘doll’ myself up in my teenage years: Sure, who do you think will be looking at you, anyway?