When the World Feels All Upside Down …

Today is a day when it feels like the world is caught in a terrible storm of unrest, fear and nightmarish violence.

Maybe it’s not any worse than usual but somehow the dreadful shooting on the beach in Tunisia yesterday seems to underline the fragility of life at the end of a week  which has seen Irish hearts blown open with grief after the tragic deaths of the young students in Berkeley, California.

When I was walking the few hundred yards up to our local shop early this morning, it was so reassuring to meet friendly faces. Everyone had a smile and a warm ‘Good morning.‘ No one was talking about the dark side of life but it felt like each person was reaching just that little bit more to touch the very essence of humanity.

Eyes meeting eyes, hello in harmony, taking the time to stop and have a little chat … these are the tiny things that matter, that matter hugely in restoring faith in humanity.

Yes, there are pathways to peace …..

Stepping Out into Peace

Annestown Beach, Co. Waterford
Annestown Beach, Co. Waterford

Peace is something that I never, ever take for granted ~ either personal peace or public peace.

I was reared by my mother  on the saying, passed to her by her father:

Better a dinner of herbs and peace therewith than roast ox and contention.

and I don’t think I ever prepare a meal of any significance without thinking of this.

At a broader level, I give thanks every single day for the fact that the horrific Troubles in Northern Ireland were brought to an end after endless negotiation. As a child and young teenager, I was absolutely terrified that they would spill drastically into the Republic of Ireland and had all sorts of Plans A, B …Z to try and escape the turmoil.

Talking not fighting is the key!

What sparked these thoughts was stumbling on this poem earlier today:

Peace

At the ship’s bow. It was my eye that drew

the perfect circle of blue meeting blue.

No land was visible. There was no sail,

not cloud to show the mighty world in scale,

so sky and ocean, by my gaze defined,

were drawn within the compass of my mind

under a temperate sun. The engine’s sound

sank to a heartbeat. Stillness all around.

Only the perfect circle and the mast,

The moment that knew no future and no past.

(Amy Whiting 1919-2001)

 

Blogging for Peace

The Metal Man, Tramore, Co. Waterford
The Metal Man, Tramore, Co. Waterford

Listening to the radio and watching the television news today has been almost unbearable because of the extent of the violence and sadness which seems to be unfolding all round the world.

It’s at times like this that I find peace in blogging and have a wild hope that maybe, just maybe, my writing might connect with someone somewhere and bring a moment of peace to them or, better still, light a little flame of creativity.

Tonight I can think of no poem more soothing than this oft quoted one from W.B. Yeats.

THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE

By William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Sleep tight, dear friends across the world and stay safe. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Peace

Alan Henning Source: www.thetimes.co.uk
Alan Henning
Source: http://www.thetimes.co.uk

The news of the horrific murder of  Alan Henning, the British aid worker who had travelled to Syria to to distribute food and clothing to stricken civilians, begs so many deep and dark questions about the meaning of life and the nature of humanity.

This has to be a moment to pause and think of the fruitlessness of war, the power of peace; the power of talking …..

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me

and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

(Wendell Berry)

 

Let There Be Peace

Annestown Beach, Co. Waterford, Ireland
Annestown Beach, Co. Waterford, Ireland

I had serious doubts  about watching anything to do with commemorating the outbreak of World War One  but the twilight ceremony from the Saint Symphorien Military Cemetery in Belgium on August 4th, though very poignant, gave me a sense of hope that maybe, just maybe lessons might be learned from history about the futility of war.

To see  representatives from both sides of  World War One stand side by side to mourn the loss of the millions who were killed and injured was heartwarming and, yes, it was great to see our very own Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, represent us with such dignity.

War has always terrified me and seemed so futile. Growing up here in Ireland during The Troubles was a dreadful experience ~ especially as we lived very near the border for many of the worst years.

However intractable a situation may seem, and the Irish situation, seemed utterly hopeless at times, it is incumbent on all to recognise that ‘talking’ not ‘killing’ is the way forward in this world that we all share.

As I walked along the shore this morning here in Co. Waterford with only the waves breaking and the gulls calling to break the silence, I so, so wished that all those who are currently going through the living hell that is war could know this peace.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. ( Mother Teresa)

 

 

The Christmas Truce ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 353

Ireland has just edged passed midnight and into Christmas Day as I write this. At this time each year, I think of the Christmas Truce which occurred on Christmas Day among the soldiers in the trenches in World War in1914, one hundred and one years ago now.

I sense I can hear them singing Silent Night and creating a momentary peace in one of the most vicious wars in history.

It’s a night, too, that brings me to the poetry of Francis Ledwidge, from Slane in Co. Meath, who will killed in action in Ypres in 1917.

Home

A burst of sudden wings at dawn,

Faint voices in a dreamy noon,

Evenings of mist and murmurings,

And nights with rainbows of the moon.

 

And through these things in a wood-way dim,

And waters dim, and slow sheep seen

On uphill paths that wind away

Through summers sounds and harvest green.

 

This is a song a robin sang

This morning on a broken tree,

It was about the little fields

That call across the world to me.

(from The Ledwidge Treasury: Selected Poems (2007) Dublin: New Island)

This poem makes me think of all those who, like Francis Ledwidge, crave to be back home in Ireland, be they in the defence forces abroad or people who have had to emigrate due to the recession.

It also brings me to the current efforts by US diplomat Dr Richard Haass and talks vice-chair Dr Meghan O’Sullivan to try resolve some of the outstanding issues in the Northern Ireland Peace Process.

Peace in so fundamental to life, be it peace of mind, peace of heart, or peace between warring factions.

May this Christmas be peaceful for you at all levels.

Tranquil Tuesday ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 282

There are times when tranquillity descends or is evoked by place or atmosphere. Well, I’m happy to say that this morning brought most unexpected calm as I tore out of the house after being practically tied to the computer yesterday looking out, from time to time, at rain, drizzle and dankness.

My main aim was to go for a swim and give my eyes a good stretch but the seas were too high so I made my way to the Anne Valley Trail in Dunhill which has really started to grow on me.

There was an autumnal haze and silence, apart from the very gentle lapping of the waters that were wonderfully relflective  and silvery. Essential peace presented itself in the form of a lone swan ~ so reminiscent of The Children of Lir and W.B. Yeats’ The Wild Swans at Coole. 

Swan at the Anne Valley Trail, Dunhill, Co. Waterford

At midday, the silence was broken by the ringing of  the church bell from nearby Dunhill. I felt drawn to the church which was empty but glowingly warm:

Dunhill Church, Co. Waterford
Dunhill Church, Co. Waterford

The bell tower stands behind the church and exudes both a long sense of  history and perfect poise:

The Bell Tower, Dunhill Church, Co. Waterford
The Bell Tower, Dunhill Church, Co. Waterford

Driving back towards Tramore, via the coast, of course, the clouds began to  part revealing a lazy blueness. The ocean had calmed too and what a precious swim on this October Tuesday when the sun had heated the sand, rocks and smiling sea:

Garrarus Beach, Co. Waterford
Garrarus Beach, Co. Waterford

I hope you are finding peace and  tranquillity wherever you happen to be today!

Balm for the Soul ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 163

Even though I’m not a religious person, old churches are places that I’ve always loved.  I like them best when they are empty and the epitome of peaceful solitude.

So many churches come to mind as I write this but the one that stands out is St. James’s  in lovely Stradbally, Co. Waterford.