Another Year

It is Dad’s 11th anniversary today and that meant heading out to celebrate his life in that lovely Garden of Eden that is Mount Congreve here in Co. Waterford.

It was as if he was with me as I walked around the magnificent formal garden and woodland areas.

Mount Congreve was special to him and is beyond precious to me.

There was just so much that had me thinking of him and I kept veering from the beauty of the recently fallen:

Dew-dropped

to looking skyward:

But most of all, it was the vivid colours that enthralled me and made me think of his love of nature’s blazing beauty:

There is just so much to life, irrespective of its fragility and the butterflies had me utterly captivated:

Dad adored waterlilies so they called out to be included:

And, he loved me, just as I loved him. I was never his greatest model when he was behind the camera but this one is especially to make him smile:

Art and Heartfuless

This photograph which I took a few days ago brings me to Claude Monet and from him to Dad.

See, it was during Summertime when I was 7 or 8 that Dad first introduced me to The National Art Gallery in Dublin. We used to swap houses with his sister, who lived in Dublin, and that was when we tended to visit places that Mother and Father loved.

It was Dad who was into art galleries and I adored going to them with him. Whenever he came to Dublin in the years that I lived there we would head for The National Gallery, view the art and then dine at leisure and chat contentedly.

He loved that he had passed on his enjoyment of art to me and could more than understand how I savoured going on guided Gallery tours on Sunday afternoons and taking a year long evening course in art history.

Every New Year’s Day for years and years, I gave him an Impressionist calendar which had its special place in his bolt hole.

How can one ever thank a parent enough for sowing the seeds of love for such precious things as creative arts and sport?

I guess one way is to try and pass on the love to future generations in a non-pushy way and hope that it will take root.

To Mother with Love

Today is Mother’s 12th anniversary and it feels incredible that so many years could have slipped by since her death.

Anyone who dips in and out of this blog will know that she and Dad, who died 16 months after her, are very much part of my everyday life in terms of their inspiration and love.

It always seems important to mark the anniversary by consorting with nature so I headed out to the swan family very early this morning and drove out along the coast here in Co. Waterford that Mother loved so much and where we shared so many happy moments. It was perfect, even though I am still wibbly wobbly after Covid vaccine 2.

Outdoor Schooling

I was listening to the birdsong the other day on a visit to the swan family out at the Anne River when I heard a different kind of chorus but one which was very familiar.

Then they came into sight – a school group out for a walk with their teachers. The sound of school kids always makes me think of Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘Because I could not stop for death.’ It was one I learned in school but which was also a favorite of my mother’s. We often quoted one particular stanza when we would hear school children at play – a sound which was silenced for so long due to Covid restrictions.

We passed the School where Children strove
At Recess in the Ring -
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain
We passed the setting sun

The last day of May is Mother’s 11th anniversary and I am more and more aware of how anniversaries, for me, bring up a very strong sense of time of year, type of light, blossoms, nature’s scents and are far more associated with the weeks/week before rather than anything that happened in the aftermath.

I like to celebrate the memories of shared times and look back on them with great fondness. I know Mother would have been delighted to see kids out and about in the natural world that she absolutely adored.

A Ditch in Time

The was lovely light when I was out for my constitutional this morning and everything looked beautiful.

I was brought up by my mother to appreciate the tiny things and to see possibilities of beauty everywhere. Ditches and hedgerows were precious places to her and she never missed the magic that was likely to linger there – if only for a millisecond or a few days.

She used to joke with me that I was afraid I’d see a dead rat rather than a primrose when we were ‘exploring’ ditches.

Well, today I felt like she was with me as the glorious light played with the ditch and let me glimpse the kind of perfect patchwork that she used to savour:

Bluebell Time

Shared Music

Back in February 2010, my then 90 year-old father was very poorly and his physical world had contracted to his bed. He was at home just down the road from me. He slept a lot but I was able to leg it down to see him when he was awake and wanting company. This could easily be three of four times a day and he loved to talk, laugh, drink tea, eat chocolate biscuits and share hours of music. It was to be his last February and I had little doubt then that it would be so vowed to make the most of every single moment we had left.

He loved Springtime and my memories of that February moving into March are very much bedecked with buds, early daffodils, crocuses and the camellia that lived down a tiny pathway behind where his bedroom was. It had dark red blooms that always seemed shy but were an absolute delight when you took the trouble to seek them out.

Dad was big into music but one song that he asked me to play over and over was Gentle Annie sung by Irish Duo Foster and Allen. I came to love it and the calm it always brought to both of us. These lines always tended to bring our eyes together, sealing our bond forever and ever.

When you touch me with your fingers
My cares and worries vanish
Like the morning dew before the rising sun
When your eyes tell me you love me
Then my soul is filled with wonder
And my love for you will live when life is done

Gentle Annie, gentle Annie
And my love for you
Will live when life is done

The Unexpected

Christmas cards are not really on my agenda any more whereas they used to be a huge part of Christmas.

However, the other day a big thick old fashioned card arrived for me and I didn’t recognize the handwriting.

It was from a woman I met just once in my life about 4 years ago.

I was back in West Clare on the pavement across the road from where my late father grew up. I had heard all about the house from him but had never been in it because it was gone out of the family.

A woman saw me looking across at the building and asked me if I was okay. I explained that it was my father’s home place and that I just wanted to soak it in. She insisted that the owner, who was a friend of hers would be more than happy to let me see around and went and knocked on the door before I could say a word. It was near enough to 9pm in the summer.

I was greeted like a long lost relation and the woman, who had bought the house from my relations, was incredibly generous in terms of showing me all the rooms that I had heard so much about from Dad and also the back yard where they had kept dogs and horses.

The friend left before a cuppa appeared and the lady and I chatted very late into the night.

I couldn’t believe I was sitting in the same kitchen with the same lovely tiles my father had described.

I left that night feeling like I had been given a very precious gift of connection to my father’s youth.

I wrote a thank you letter when I got home and often thought of that special evening in the intervening years.

Then the Christmas card arrived on Friday and a letter fell out full of cheer and an invitation to visit again.

It has left me with the warmest glow and hope for a trip West when Covid allows.

I found a card that I think the 91 year old lady will appreciate and I hope it brings a smile to her lovely face.

We have a huge amount left to talk about and, for now, maybe we will settle for letter-writing. Hard to beat it!

Dad’s Playlists

Dad adored music and dancing but couldn’t sing a note or, at least, claimed he couldn’t.

When he retired in 1981, he took over a good few household chores. Washing up was his forte and he liked to do it alone to music.

Those were the days of cassette tapes and he spent hours making new tapes by recording songs he particularly liked. So, there are boxes and boxes of his favorites, all meticulously labelled and timed to perfection.

I am fortunate enough to have them and a few of his old cassette players. It’s so uplifting to delve in and find a tape and lash into chores I hate like the ironing with one of his collections playing at high volume.

I guess this is why I haven’t ever embraced Spotify or the like.

I doubt he ever thought any one else would get such pleasure from his hobby and musical passion.

Dear Dad – Ten Years On

Dear Dad,

It’s almost impossible to believe that it is 10 years today that you sailed off into your sunset. And,  I hope you’ll be pleased to know that I spent the day in some of our special places, Dunmore East and out along the Copper Coast. I walked miles – faster than usual, as if you were striding along just a tad ahead of me as if pulling me along.

Memories

I wasn’t sad or lonely because it was like you were with me.

There wasn’t a clear horizon this morning – the sky melted into the silvery sea. It was soft and gentle, just like the way you slipped away that morning when our backs were turned.

I was thinking of precious moments we shared and so many of them were small things, like the walks passed the mad  Kerry Blue who you swore would never bite either of us because one bite from a Kerry Blue in a lifetime was quite enough for anyone to experience and you’d had your share as a young fella.

It’s impossible to think of you without thinking of Mother. It’s like the pair of you bookended summer with your deaths – May 31 and September 10 respectively, just 16 months apart. And what readers both of you were albeit of different genres. Mother into novels and poetry and you more non-fiction, politics and photography.

You’d be moithered trying to keep up with the political situation today. Brexit is at a tipping point, the economy is in pieces with the pandemic and the US election is finely poised and that’s just the headlines.

I bought some lovely heathers and fancy fragrant tulip bulbs in your honour and look forward to planting them and seeing them grow. This was always our time of year to head to the garden centre and choose delights to plant together.

So, goodnight  and thanks for the thousands of happy memories.

Jx

For Mother

It’s Mother’s anniversary today – eleven years on.

She adored poppies and this one was in her garden.

She gave us an undying love for nature which I see as one of the most precious gifts any parent can give a child.

Long before anyone was talking about mindfulness, she had us engrossed in our little plots in the garden, lost in the joy of bird-watching, merged with the moods of the sea, enraptured by fleeting rainbows….

Yes, she ensured that her presence would live on through natural beauty and it is a presence that never fails to make me smile.