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.
There are all sorts of bridges that make me sigh and I want to thank David Millington-Croft from the magnificent There is No Cavalry for mentioning the Bridge of Sighs in a comment at the start of this Festival of Bridges.
I’ve spent most of the day thinking about bridges that make me sigh and also pondering on the word sigh. I’m taking it in a positive sense here ~ to mean bridges in a range of contexts that have touched my soul. Here are my top five out of possible thousands!
#1 Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco ~ a bridge that won my heart in 1983 and is still carved there, especially when I see the sun rising.
#2 Claude Monet’s painting of The Bridge at Argenteuil. I associate this very much with my late father and I was fortunate enough to see it in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC in November 2010, just eight weeks after father’s death.
3# Senator George Mitchell who played such a key role in negotiating the Peace Process in Northern Ireland. Having lived through the years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland which claimed the lives of over 3,000 people, I am eternally grateful that those terrible, terrible years are behind us.
#4 Jack B. Yeats’ painting ‘The Liffey Swim.’ This painting has huge significance for me as it hangs in The National Gallery of Ireland, a place which I visited very, very regularly throughout the 15+ years I lived in Dublin. When I was leaving Dublin I bought a copy of the painting which lives in my study here in Tramore. The bridge in the painting is Butt Bridge which I crossed regularly, especially during my junior tennis days when I was catching the train to and from Drogheda which was home then.
# ‘The Bridge Builder’ by Will Allen Drumgoole. This poem reminds me of the many, many older people who have built bridges for me over the years. I would like to think that I thanked them sufficiently for their kindness but I know full well that I didn’t.
THE BRIDGE BUILDER
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
Will Allen Drumgoole
The Festival of Bridges continues until October 31 and I would love to hear about bridges that make YOU sigh. Please email me with your words, images, music at email@example.com.
Woods and woodland gardens near the sea played a huge part in the long lives of both my parents and I suppose it’s only natural that they feel like a natural habitat to me.
When I was out in my beloved Mount Congreve last Sunday morning, a host of happy memories came flooding back through the sheer abundance of colour, texture, growth, fadings, promises …..
Fleeting images of Mother with that serene look she always had when wandering in woods and among flowers that brought her back to the farm of her youth in Co. Meath. How often she would quote these lines from George Byron:
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
Dad’s deep appreciation of colour and how he introduced me to art from a very early age with visits to the National Gallery of Ireland. Over the subsequent years, we always found reason to meet in the National Gallery, even when it made no logistical sense. His happy tears when I gave him a book about Impressionism on his 90th birthday ~ just ten days after Mother had died on May 31st 2009.
And that pink-lilac skirt that I wore so endlessly when I was twelve or thirteen. It made me feel so grown-up with all its tresses. It was the skirt that I sported when we went to visit my brother in boarding school in the Summer term. I had such hopes of making a lasting impression on all his friends as I flounced out of the back of the Vauxhall Viva …..
And Mount Congreve waits ….. I am so looking forward to seeing the clematis flowing majestically from the tallest trees imaginable; and soaking up even more of the carpet of bluebells that grow even more beautiful with each passing Spring …..
Yesterday, I was struck by discovering that November 3o was a highly significant date in the lives of two of the world’s most quoted people: Mark Twain, who was born on November 30 in 1835 and Oscar Wilde, who died on November 30 in 1900.
You might well wonder what all this has to do with the National Gallery of Ireland and the Turner Exhibition which takes place there every January.
Well, for me, the link between all three is my late father. He absolutely loved quick wit and always had a few books of ‘quotable quotes’ close at hand. The tougher the situation, the more he leaned into these books to garner a chuckle or nugget of inspiration.
I remember well sitting by his hospital bed in Coronary Care waiting for him to wake up. I was flicking through one of his ‘old companions’ and found myself totally captivated by the quotes that he had marked. He woke to find me with a big smile on my face and wanted to know what was so funny. I began reading some of the quotes to him and soon we were both laughing with sufficient gusto to entice a nurse over to us. Her words: ‘ You two know how to enjoy yourselves ~ would you like a cup of tea?’ Always one with a sweet tooth, Father seized his moment and said: ‘ Oh, tea would be lovely especially with a few chocolate biscuits!’ The tea and biscuits arrived in jig time!
So, yesterday on learning it was Mark Twain’s birthday, I went to one of Father’s trusty books of quotable quotes and had a look to see what quotes he had earmarked. This was the one that jumped out at me:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
( Mark Twain)
This quote immediately brought the paintings of J.M.W. Turner into my mind and how Father had introduced me to the January Exhibition of Turner’s work at the National Gallery of Ireland. What an antidote to post-Christmas blues! I’m already planning January’s trip ~ and yes, I will Explore, Dream and Discover! Discover the National Gallery of Ireland and its Collections