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 Red Copy Book


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.’

Motherly Love



Festival of Bridges #2 ~ Heart-Heart

Today’s contribution to The Festival of Bridges brought me to a complete standstill and brought tears streaming down my face. It comes from Joan, who has the blog Earthabridge. Joan is the woman who wrote the post that I identified as the highlight of my blogging career a few months back.

Here is the email Joan sent in relation to The Festival of Bridges:

Ingram Bridge
Ingram Bridge

This is Ingram Bridge on #3 Highway, the Crowsnest, where it crosses the Kettle River between Rock Creek and Midway, British Columbia, about a kilometre north of the international boundary.

After my mother died in 1993, I fell apart. I abandoned my job and my home and moved here, to a little blue trailer just on the other side of the bridge, behind the snag.

I made business cards titled ‘At Ingram Bridge,’ set up my computer, and began to write.

The trailer was on a corner of the ranch where my mother had grown up, near the ranch house where her brother still lived. I went there to heal, in an obvious but unconscious attempt to be near her still. I learned several years later that it is also the spot where my brother had taken her ashes, to send her home.

Many, many thanks, Joan, for sharing this very special bridge with us. I suspect it will touch many, many hearts.


Hanging Heart at Kelly’s of Waterford ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 273

There is something absolutely heartbreaking about long-standing family businesses closing down due to the economic recession and unfortunately it has become an every day occurrence over the last four or five years.

Today, I paid a sad visit to Kelly’s Store on the Quay in Waterford which is due to close very shortly, having been in operation since 1847.

Kelly's, The Quay, Waterford. Photograph: Patrick Browne
Kelly’s,The Quay, Waterford.
Photograph: Patrick Browne (Irish Times)

Kelly’s was a leading ladies’ fashion house in Waterford City and also had a most attractive ‘gift’ department which stocked a wonderful array of Irish produce, including crystal, rugs, perfumes, jewelry, candles ….

I was introduced to Kelly’s by my late mother who had been a customer there from when she first came to Waterford in the 1940s. I associate it very much with what she and I called our ‘girl’s outings’ which invariably brought us to Kelly’s in search of ‘style.’ There was always a great range from which to choose and I don’t think there was ever a time that we didn’t leave with at least one of the highly distinguishable yellow Kelly’s bags with slim rope handles.

After Mother died in 2009, I continued to shop in Kelly’s, especially for handbags, scarves and charms for a bracelet which I use to mark important milestones.

Somehow, I just couldn’t let Kelly’s close without calling in to offer my sympathies and thanks for all the happy memories and great service. I met with Ian Doolan, the owner for the last thirty years, and my sadness paled into insignificance compared to his sense of loss of the business which has been his life and which he associates very much with his late father, Denis.

While we talked, the charm that pressed itself forward out of the display cabinet was one called ‘hanging heart.’

It seems that nothing can save Kelly’s from closure now but my fervent hope is that shoppers will make a determined effort to support local family businesses which have served us so well in towns and cities throughout Ireland for so many generations.