How do I Know?

 

Bonmahon
To Bonmahon Beach,  Co. Waterford

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.

 

 

 

What is it about Men and Flowers?

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.

What do you reckon?

 

1-sunflowers-vincent-van-gogh
Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh      Source: http://www.fineartamerica.com

 

 

 

 

 

Courage

 

PicsArt_04-09-12.34.20
‘Courage’, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford

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.

 

 

 

 

Motherliness

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.

 

copy
The Red Copy Book

 

The composition that jumped out at me was this one:

April

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.’

Sun6
Motherly Love

 

 

The Watcher and the Watched

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:

 

Kilfarrassy
Kilfarrasy Beach, Co. Waterford

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:

 

Boat
Blue and White of Co. Waterford

 

 

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:

 

Cows
Grand Stand View

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? 

You never know, Dad!

 

 

Playing into Night

As the days lengthen, Tramore Beach draws lots of families with young children for some before-bed play time.  Often you just see fathers and sons or maybe it’s just me that sees fathers and sons because when son, Harry, was young, he and his father used to go down to the beach and play hurling until it was beyond dark.

Hurling is a BIG sport in Co. Waterford and the beach is a great place for ‘pucking around.’

The other night I spotted this little chap with his father and I wondered if I will be cheering him on to All-Ireland glory with the rest of Waterford in a few years. Even if he doesn’t make the big time, I’ve no doubt that these nights will give him an enduring love of hurling, sea air and a sense of endless dusk that is part of childhood:

 

Hurler
Happiness is …

 

Robin Time

I seemed to spend a lot of time in the woods during my blogging break and every single time I went out there, I found that there was a robin waiting for me ~ perched on a branch overlooking the little wooden bridge and full of welcome.

Robin
Feathered Friend

Robins never fail to stop me in my tracks. I can’t just walk passed them and go about my business.

They take me to all sorts of places and this is just a tiny part of  a long list:

#1.Emily Dickinson’s lines:

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”
― Emily Dickinson

#2. Robin Williams and, especially Dead Poets Society which speaks volumes about what education should really be about and the role that an inspirational and creative teacher can have.

#3. Robin Hood and long hours playing ‘Maid Marian’ to my big Bro’s Robin Hood when we were kids. There are many lessons to be learned from Robin Hood about equality and what it means.

#4. Reading poetry with my father in the last months of his life through the Spring of 2010 and especially this stanza from Thomas Hood’s, I Remember, I Remember:

I remember, I remember,
The roses, red and white,
The vi’lets, and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,—
The tree is living yet!

Dad and I shared a love of robins and some of my happiest memories are watching him from the kitchen window while he was doing the garden but being distracted by a ‘pet’ robin who used to come and eat out of his hand or perch on his shoulder.

***

I’ve been doing a bit of reading about robins and it seems like they are quite solitary in their own way, especially when it comes to other birds, but just look at how sociable they are when it comes to humans. Maybe I see a touch of the robin in myself (inherited from Dad) ~ leaning into nature and feeling incredibly at peace with a tiny bird and not so much the ‘madding’ crowd.

I’d love to hear where robins bring you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mother …

January 29th, 2017

Dear Mother,

January 29th will never mean anything else to me except your birthday. It’s far more significant than May 31st ~ the day you died in 2009.

It felt ‘your birthdayish’ from the minute I opened the front door early this morning to bring Stan for a walk. The birds were chirping in the Monkey Puzzle and the snowdrops in the garden seemed to have multiplied a hundred-fold since yesterday.

It was Men’s Final Day at the Australian Open so I planked myself down in front of the fire and the television from 8.30am until around 12.30 and savoured every single rally in a brilliant match between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Federer won in five sets and  would you believe Rod Laver presented him with the cup.

I was thinking that you’d have been listening to it on the Radio if you were here  and  got to thinking then how it was you who got me into tennis in the first place and how it was your father who got you into it. I wonder who introduced him to it?

The game was played in the best possible spirit and Kipling’s If kept coming to mind. Roger even said in his speech that he would have been quite happy to share the tournament with Rafa. You don’t hear that very often and needless to say it had me balling, probably like half the people watching. So much for Dad’s ‘killer instinct,’ for today anyway.

I can’t imagine what on earth it would have been like to grow up in a house where sport wasn’t on the agenda or dogs,  gardening,  your trifle, poetry, the sea,  rules about ‘no sweets before lunch,’  diaries, crosswords, slogans,  horses, everyday phonecalls when we never ran out of stuff to say … never, ever, ever …

Harry and I went out to the beach in the afternoon with the dogs and we drew a huge heart in the sand and wrote in it with an old stick – the kind you always managed to find when the situation demanded. We agreed that writing in the sand is much nicer than going to a grave. I’d never given the’no grave’  bit any thought when you were adamant about cremation. It’s not an issue, you’ll be glad to hear, because we always seem to go to places you loved ~ or should I say ‘beaches you loved’ on special days like your birthday. Must be that every day is special cos we’re at the beach every day!

I came across a poem the other day that I thought you’d like and then I wondered if you knew it as it was written by a woman who lived from 1918-2001, not too different from your 1921-2009.  Anyway here it is:

Peace
At the ship’s bow. It was my eye that drew
the perfect circle of blue meeting blue.
No land was visible. There was no sail,
no cloud to show the mighty world in scale,
no sky and ocean, by my gaze defined,
were drawn within the compass of my mind
under a temperate sun. The engine’s sound
sank to a heartbeat. Stillness all around.
Only the perfect circle and the mast.
That moment knew no future and no past.

(Amy Witting)

It’s strange not getting you a present or even picking your little bouquet of snowdrops. Remember that year we were in Tenerife for your birthday and I got you the post card with the flamenco dancer with the real skirt and wrote it in terrible Spanish from our phrase book?

Well, there’s a touch of that today. I have a photo of a robin that seems to have been waiting for today. I hope you like him. Imagine him singing Happy Birthday; much more melodious than me ~ that’s for sure.

robin

Lots of love,

Jean xxx

 

Crossings and Connections

if

    there

               is

                    no

                          bridge

                                        please

                                                       use

                                                               my

                                                                      stile

stile