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.

Dogging About

Watching and Waiting

I’ve been trying to get my paws on this computer for days and I’m grabbing my chance now by the scruff of the neck.

I wanted to have a nose around to see what everyone is looking at when they’re glued to computers and phones. Talking about ‘glued,’ I’ve been seeing all sorts of strange ways that people are exercising their dogs around here. How about jog-the-dog? That’s the guy who’s all dressed up in his running gear and jogging around the streets with a dog on a lead. I’ve no clue what happens if the dog needs to do a bit of business. There’s also a few fellas who cycle with their dog on the lead beside  in front of them.

I’d HATE that kind of carry on cos I like to be able to do my own thing and not be latched onto someone.

Anyway, I thought you’d like to see some of the most famous breeds of dog in Ireland. Take a look here. They’re all very clean looking compared to me but anyway …..

Now, here’s a few dog quotes that took my fancy and I hope Jean will like them when she finds I’ve been messin’ around here again.

I think she’ll love this first one anyway as she’s always giving out about some American guy that’s blowing his own trumpet. Maybe, you know who that is?

I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons. ( Will Rogers)

And I know she’ll be thrilled with this ‘cos she was talking to herself about Plato the other day. See I do listen to her every word!

A dog has the soul of a philosopher. (Plato)

This is one that I think I should put in to prove a point that’s a bit contentious (wow ~ thanks Mr Spellchecker)  around here these last few months :

A wet dog is lovingest. ( James Thurber)

And this is one that will melt her heart, I know it will:

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, when doing nothing was not boring – it was peace. ( Milan Kundera.

Jeepers, humans say nice things about dogs, don’t they?  I certainly think Emily has a point but I don’t know that I’d like to live in a dog-only world. I’m terrified of some dogs, especially big ones that seem all playful and then get narky and barky and growly and vicious and try and lift me up by the neck. I need Jean to sort those lads out for me!

Dogs are better than human beings, because they know but do not tell. (Emily Dickinson)

Have to dash. She’s calling me and seems to think I’m downstairs under the kitchen table. Hope I’m not in trouble: she’s gone from: Stan to Stanny to  S T A N I E L …..

Have a great week if I don’t get back.



High Hopes



Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson


A New Dawn

Puppy Stan woke me this morning in what seemed like the dead of night and he and I headed out into the darkness to meet the softest misty rain and a gentle breeze. As he tugged me to the corner of our road, I caught sight of the barest first glimmerings of today.

The blinds of dawn were being eased up by the gentlest of hands as if giving us time to run home, grab car and camera and answer the call of the waves.

The drama that unfolded was magical ~ never to be seen in quite the same form again, never ever as each jewelled today comes but once.

Tramore Beach, Co. Waterford
Tramore Beach, Co. Waterford

Out along the Cliff Road, a gull soared in celebration:

Soaring Gull
Soaring Gull

Newtown Cove, from where Harry and I will cast the Wishing Stones on New Year’s Eve was bathed in golden light:

Newown Cove, Tramore, Co. Waterford
Newown Cove, Tramore, Co. Waterford

 Not knowing when the dawn will

come  I open every door.

(Emily Dickinson)

Billy Collins, It’s Game On!

Billy Collins at The Parade Tower, Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny,  August 2014
Billy Collins at The Parade Tower, Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny,
August 2014

Saturday night was special for me as I went to a poetry reading by arguably America’s best known and most well-loved contemporary poet at the Kilkenny Arts Festival. I have been reading his work for the last three years now since he was catapulted into my consciousness via the poetry thread that I set up on Linkedin back in September 2011.

I was a tad apprehensive about even attending the event because I felt that past readings in Kilkenny by Irish greats like Seamus Heaney, Michael Longely, Paul Muldoon and Paul Durcan were setting the bar very high and I felt I was setting myself and Billy Collins up for a messy anti-climax. But the dithers were dissolved by hearing Seamus Heaney’s quiet urgings to just go and enjoy what was to be enjoyed and learn what was to be learned.

Well, Billy Collins didn’t even look like I imagined he would from the photos I’d seen. He kinda stood out as he was wearing red trousers that were very definitely 0f the arty kind.

I’d been expecting a Woody Allen type accent but it was much less American and can only be described as velvety.

Billy Collins’ poetry is ‘simple’ on the face of it and is about the most mundane of things.  It reminded me of  occasions when I’ve seen world class sportspeople, like Seve Ballesteros, Bjorn Borg, Sonia O’Sullivan – it all seemed so easy, effortless and natural but you know that there has to have been a lifetime’s dedication, training and determination involved as well.

Billy Collins can have you guffawing, blubbering, doing mental somersaults all in the space of a few lines. How he turns the world inside out, upside down, takes it on full force or just caresses it gently to peer inside is beyond me.

The reading and subsequent Q&A were tantalisingly short but it’s only now that I’m beginning to process words that Billy Collins scattered around the Parade Tower of Kilkenny Castle.  I guess they will surface in all sorts of different contexts over the coming months, years.

For now, I can’t stop thinking of how he talked about how writing a poem is something he does as a single experience. As he said, when he gets an idea, It’s game on, and there isn’t a question of writing a stanza and then heading off to a movie. No, the draft is written in a notebook, and subsequent revisions are about improving, improving, improving ….. be it rhythm, assonance or whatever. When he finally puts the poem on computer, its shape is crucially important because, for him, a poem is like a piece of sculpture.

Oh, and I loved how he talked about poem titles ~ some, he sees as just icing but others are fundamental to the whole poem.

Lots and lots to ponder ~ and you’re right Billy Collins, women want more than similes!

And you’re also right to wonder which American poets are ‘big’ over here in Ireland. For me, it’s Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Galway Kinnell and YOU.

I’m interested to hear what others think on the matter! 

Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle