Sea Pinks or Timelines?

Economics has never been my favourite subject and I can’t say that I have brought much of what I studied of it in College into my everyday life. However, the simple, yet profound, concept of Opportunity Cost has never left me.

Coastal Path, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
Coastal Path, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford

Yesterday, as I walked along the Coastal Path in Dunmore East here in Co. Waterford, I found myself thinking about it yet again:

Opportunity Costs: The loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

In particular, I got to thinking about the extent to which social media has become such an integral part of life and of the endless hours one can spend on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and so many more.

I wondered about the percentage of people who will look back on their lives knowing that their end is near and delight in memories of time spent reading their timelines.

No doubt some people may be Facebooking or Tweeting with their last grain of energy but I suspect that Social Media won’t even enter the minds of the vast majority.

Yes, I would much prefer to be out walking along the cliffs in Dunmore East, soaking up the sun, taking time to touch the Sea Pinks, watch the seagulls gliding, gaze across at Hook Head Lighthouse, be enraptured by the layers and layers of colour, scent, texture … than living a life or a half life through social media.

I’d certainly much prefer to depart this earth to a memory of swaying Sea Pinks than of  timelines scrolling on and on and …..

Sea Pinks
Sea Pinks



The Bridge Builder ~Global Connections through Profound Poetry

Bridge and Viaduct near Stradbally, Co. Waterford, Ireland

In September 2011, I started a poetry thread on the Linkedin Group ~ TED: Ideas Worth Spreading in which I asked people to share poems or lines of poetry which had profound meaning for them.  The thread has been weaving a wonderful tapestry over the months and has now reached almost 7,500 postings.  For me, it has been a social bridge in many, many ways. As well as being introduced to lots of new poets and poems, I have ‘met’ with interesting and inspirational poetry lovers from all round the world.

One of these, Jenfred Sams, an art history student from America, recently presented us with a wonderful blog post in which she put together the words of Will Allen Dromgoole’s poem The Bridge Builder with artwork and quotations about bridges. I would love to share this jewel with you now and hope that you enjoy it as much as I have.

Celebration of Profound Poetry

It is now nine months since I started a poetry thread on the  Linkedin Group,  TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, with the words: Poetry can be profoundly important in our lives and certain lines can reach to one’s very depths. What poems or lines of poetry have special meaning for you?   The thread has captured imaginations of people with an interest in poetry from all round the world and as I write this post, I expect the 5,000th contribution to be posted.

In many ways the last nine months have been like a pregnancy for me in terms of the sheer wonderment that each day brings and I’m glad to say that there has been no morning sickness – rather morning excitement as I log on to see what gems have been posted overnight. Because of its global reach, this is a thread that never sleeps.

I have spent the last few days reading through the entire thread with a view to identifying my very favourite poems. This has been an extraordinary experience because many of the contributors now feel like old friends and it is hard to absorb the fact that I have only known them for a few short months. However, such is the camaraderie and shared love of poetry within the group, it seems that we have a link as strong as Seamus Heaney’s imagery.  Poetry is, without doubt, a universal language and one that has been spoken through the depths of history.

I have felt intensely proud to be Irish over the last nine months as Ireland has such a wealth of poetry to bring to the world and my chosen line at the outset was from W.B. Yeats, ‘ Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’

I have drawn up a long list and a short list of my favourite lines and poems from the last nine months and I would like to bring you my top five here.

The first are these three lines from 13th Century Persian poet, Rumi:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing

and rightdoing there is a field.

I’ll meet you there

 The second is a poem which was found among the meagre possessions of an elderly woman who died in a geriatric ward of a small hospital in Scotland:

Crabby Old Woman

What do you see, nurses?

What do you see?

What are you thinking,

When you’re looking at me?

A crabby old woman,

Not very wise,

Uncertain of habit,

With faraway eyes.

Who dribbles her food,

And makes no reply,

When you say in a loud voice,

“I do wish you’d try!”

Who seems not to notice,

The things that you do,

And forever is losing,

A stocking or shoe

Who, resisting or not

Lets you do as you will,

With bathing and feeding,

The long day to fill?

Is that what you’re thinking?

Is that what you see?

Then open your eyes, nurse,

You’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am,

As I sit here so still,

As I do at your bidding,

As I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of ten,

With a father and mother,

Brothers and sisters,

Who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen,

With wings on her feet,

Dreaming that soon now,

A lover she’ll meet.

A bride soon at twenty,

My heart gives a leap,

Remembering the vows,

That I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now,

I have young of my own,

Who need me to guide,

And a secure happy home.

A woman of thirty,

My young now grown fast,

Bound to each other,

With ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons,

Have grown and are gone,

But my man’s beside me,

To see I don’t mourn.

At fifty once more,

Babies play round my knee,

Again we know children,

My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me,

My husband is dead,

I look at the future,

I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing,

Young of their own,

And I think of the years,

And the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old woman,

And nature is cruel,

‘Tis jest to make old age,

Look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles,

Grace and vigor depart,

There is now a stone,

Where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass,

A young girl still dwells,

And now and again,

My battered heart swells.

I remember the joys,

I remember the pain,

And I’m loving and living,

Life over again.

I think of the years,

All too few, gone too fast,

And accept the stark fact,

That nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people,

Open and see,

Not a crabby old woman;

Look closer – see ME!!

The third is a poem about love  from Carl Sandburg:

Love is a Deep and a Dark and a Lonely

love is a deep and a dark and a lonely

and you take it deep take it dark

and take it with a lonely winding

and when the winding gets too lonely

then may come the windflowers

and the breath of wind over many flowers

winding its way out of many lonely flowers

waiting in rainleaf whispers

waiting in dry stalks of noon

wanting in a music of windbreaths

so you can take love as it comes keening

as it comes with a voice and a face

and you make a talk of it

talking to yourself a talk worth keeping

and you put it away for a keen keeping

and you find it to be a hoarding

and you give it away and yet it stays hoarded

like a book read over and over again

like one book being a long row of books

like leaves of windflowers bending low

and bending to be never broken

The fourth are these lines from Albert Camus:

In the depth of winter,

I finally learned that

Within myself there lay

An invincible summer.

And my final choice  is a poem by  Charles Bukowski:


often it is the only


between you and


no drink,

no woman’s love,

no wealth


match it.

nothing can save




it keeps the walls



the hordes from

closing in.

it blasts the


writing is the



the kindliest

god of all the


writing stalks


it knows no


and writing


at itself,

at pain.

it is the last


the last



what it


My hope is that the poetry thread will continue to weave words, lines and poems that truly touch the soul and that opportunities will arise to share the wonderful tapestry that is being created.

The Essence of Ireland


My very first job as a social researcher, back in 1979, involved finding about about people’s  ‘sense of Ireland.’  A bit like a first kiss, it seems like one’s first job stays very much in the memory and how Ireland is perceived, both by insiders and outsiders, is something that has stayed with me.

My latest foray into this fascinating subject was to pose a question/request  to the  4,827 members of the Irish American Business Network on Linkedin: Could you please express the essence of Ireland in one WORD That was a month ago now and there have been 170 contributions to the discussion.  A few people wondered if I was ‘for real’ expecting Irish people, with the ‘gift of the gab’ to respond in a solitary word and, at one stage a contributor quipped that it was  ‘like a game of scrabble.’  It’s been one of those fun, yet serious, experiences. Apart from the words, at all, I’ve ‘met’  lots of  interesting people, just like I did when I stood in the Liberties and in Grafton Street in Dublin, with my tape recorder in my sweaty palm in 1979!

Looking through the list of  contributions, I can’t but think of the opening line from poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon: ‘Tis a strange mystery, the power of words!  It seems that a considerable amount of thought went into identifying that single word which would describe ‘the essence of Ireland,‘ and each is obviously imbued with particular meaning for the contributor. I can honestly say that every single word made me stop and think and all resonated with me at some level.

It is almost impossible to sort the words into neat categories. One obvious dimension was words which had positive as opposed to negative connotations and it should be stressed that the positive totally outweighed the negative.  Heaven, idyllic, mystical and brilliant were probably the words which were most obviously ‘postive’  while screwed, broke, heartache and stolen were at the opposite end of the sprectrum.  One contributor summed up this sense of the positive -negative dimemsion by identifying the following words as ones which dominate our newspapers on a daily basis: fallen, confused, debt-ridden, disappointed, disillusioned, survivors, hopeful, character, tomorrow. 

Home was the word that was presented most often and  interesting variations on this were sod, tea/tay and homey.  Much reference was also made to the natural beauty of Ireland with words including: green, picturesque, breathtaking and the much-liked verdant.

The fun side of Ireland was highlighted too, with words like craic, merry, guinness, creamy, slainte and stout pouring forth.

The were some very forceful words relating to the determined spirit as perceived in Ireland: dogged, tenacity, resilient, perseverance, enduring, stalwart …..

The cultural heritage of the country was also highlighted through words like: musical, eloquent, poetic, inspirational, rich, genuine and authentic.

Another dominant theme related to the inviting and friendly nature of Ireland with words like open, welcoming,  failte, warm, affable, spontaneous, genuine, interactive, and hospitality being mentioned over and over.

Yet another thread related to what might be described as Ireland’s vigour. The word which dominated here was vibrant with life, bouyant, verve, hope and optimism being mentioned as well.

The word ‘magical’  was used to describe the essence of Ireland on a number of occasions and I think it is useful to include the rationale which one contributor gave:

This may sound like a strange word, but one word to describe Ireland is ‘Magical.’ It is a place that exists in the heart and the mind; it calls to us as we sleep; it inspires us to become a part of the timeless enchantment that envelopes what we know of that land. Maybe this is pure fantasy, but any place that can cleanse the spirit and cause the heart to beat faster with devotion, must be termed “magical.”

While it is not clear if it was being used to counter what may have been seen as a degree of over-romanticisation in the use of the word ‘magical,’ other contributors put forward the word real as their essence word and yet another, offered tangible.

Other notable words were those which seemed to touch on religiosity or transcendence, in a broad sense: soulful and grace.

Two addtional Irish words to those already mentioned were put forward and one contributor said that he felt that ‘ the best word to describe Ireland and the Irish is , appropriately enough, a word in the Irish language.’  For him that word was duchas – ‘which to me means heritage, personality, nature,  attitude, family, ancestry, memories, gene pool.‘ 

The second Irish word was fiontar – ‘meaning enterprise, endeavour or venture.’

In view of the depth of the question and the arguably, infinite number of layers, dimensions, perceptions, experiences and interpretations, it was by no means surprising that some of the essence words reflected this complexity. Notable among these were: elusive, paradoxical, ethereal and reflection.

My hope is that this search for a word to describe ‘the essence of Ireland’ will generate further thought, discussion and debate about this intriguing country of ours.  ‘Romantic Ireland’ may be dead and gone, as Yeats wrote many decades ago.  However,  I have to say that my research about Ireland, both in 1979 and now at the end of 2011, reveals a level of passion which is supremely uplifting and would seem to have the creative energy to ensure that the fire in our collective hearts and minds will continue to sparkle and light up the future of Ireland and her people.











Poetry ~ A Profound Social Bridge

Poetry played a fundamental part in my treasured relationship with my late mother. However, it is only in recent months, as a result of posing a simple question on Linkedin, that I have come to realise the power of poetry in connecting people from all around the world. I write about this in Section Ten of Social Bridges.