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Friday, December 31, 2010

Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise Daoibh (Have an Abundant New Year)!



{Ansa sends you her best wishes: she mastered block printing in 2010 and is hoping to master cursive by the end of 2011)

I just love the following note from The Universe (I receive one daily via email) that was in my inbox this morning so I eagerly share the thoughts for you all out there: my dear blogmates and those who read me but don't comment. You are all treasured, more than you know.

WWW, soon the new year starts, so now's a great time to:

1. Wipe the slate clean.
2. Focus upon what you really want.
3. Chart your course.

Right?

Well... only if you want to risk having to repeat these steps for the same wishes next year! Maybe this is splitting hairs, but here's an adventurous alternative:

1. Give thanks that life is... just as it is (and that it's been... just as it's been). Because of it, you're now "READY."

2. Define what you want in terms of the end result. Don't worry about the hows, or even the course. KNOW that what you want is ALREADY yours in spirit, by universal LAW, just focus on the certainty of this ownership, understand it, claim it, and "it will be in reality, as it is in spirit."

3. LET THE UNIVERSE show you the way via your impulses and instincts that appear as you take inspired action. Don't worry that your first steps seem silly or futile. And if you don't know what to do, do anything! Go! Get busy! Do not insist on intermediary successes, only upon the end result.

2011 is going to be your year (it already is),
Love, The Universe


Peace on our tiny planet and goodwill to all its peoples.

Let this be the year we are the change we all wish to see.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gregarious Loner


I caught this self-description by a commenter on Friko's blog the other day and I thought: that's me.

This wonderful world of blogging gathers us kindred spirits from around the globe and pulls us all together in virtual conversations and we click with each other, no matter the age, no matter the gender. And blog meets, (though I have an affinity for the term Blog Meats, ha-ha, get it?) where one meets another blogger in the flesh so to speak, prove just as interesting as the virtual connection and are even more enhanced by the fresh non-blogged information exchanged.

Maybe the virtual circle of friends I connect with fairly regularly are all gregarious loners whether in partnered relationships or not.

I love my solitude, cherish it, defend it, embrace it.

And I'm one of the most gregarious people you'll ever meet!

And on that note, I am so looking forward to my Blog Meat with Conor. Soon. Yes, he of the recent trip around the world fame. And when I do, ye all can be assured I will shut up and be quiet.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Purpose & Meaning


Picture taken a few minutes ago from my front deck of some of the many walkers on the beach today in this glorious weather.

It is nearing the end of the year as I write this. I am struck by how many friends out there are looking or searching for a purpose as the new year approaches.

Now, I am of the belief that the purpose will find us, often unexpectedly and it will always be a surprise.

Years ago, I was told by an old shaman to always look for the surprise, the gift, in every day. It will always be there. And how true her advice was.

Yesterday, there were a few. One was the movie "The King's Speech", a brilliant film, I highly recommend it. I had the thought when it was all over and I was left wanting more, that a defect in one's life, like a speech impediment, can be transformed into such a powerful metaphor: overcoming whatever obstacle - whether real of imagined - there is to one's maximizing one's life.

Over dinner, I was challenged, in the nicest possible way, by my two dear friends as to why I haven't moved on to another publisher with my inedita - my unpublished work. And I had to admit it was fear. Fear of another editor slashing and trashing. Fear of myself, really. I need to open that window wide and trust. Not so much that everything will be rosy with a new publisher, but that I am living my life to the fullest extent possible, come what may.

In other words, we will never know until we put it out there, will we?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Those Bloody Foreigners, Illegals and Aliens


Conversation with Ex-Torontonian yesterday.

Me: Where do you live now?

She: St. John's.

Me: Why did you move here?

She: The foreigners took over Toronto.

Me: Seriously?

She: Completely, you wouldn't recognise Cabbagetown (a very ritzy area in TO).

Me: You lived in Cabbagetown?

She: Well, no. But I heard the foreigners took it over with their guns.

Me: What do you mean by foreigners?

She: Illegals

Me: What's an illegal?

She: People who have no right to be in our country.

Me: Who says?

She: Me and other real Canadians.

Me: What's a real Canadian?

She: People who are born here like me and you.

Me: I wasn't born here.

She: No?

Me: I was born in Ireland, so I'm not a real Canadian by your standards.

She: Oh I didn't mean people like you.

Me: People like me?

She: Well you know, people who speak properly and look like the rest of us.

Me: So when you say foreigners you mean people who are visible minorities?

She: That's a fancy way of saying illegals and aliens, isn't it?

Me: Well no, actually. I was thinking of landed emigrants, refugees, Canada's First Nations People and non-whites who were born here.

She: Oh, you mean all those Indian types and natives?

Me: Well technically 'Indian' is a misnomer. They were in this country first and the white Europeans stole it from them.

She: Good job too. They were savages. Like the illegals.

Me: Excuse me. I must leave you now.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hash/2


How on earth do people do it?

The maximum crowd I ever had to cook for was 36, a daunting task about 15 years ago for my annual Ladies' Brunch/Women's Christmas.

Today, at the Hash, food was prepared for ninety people. 90! And mainly by one person.

And yes, it was all hash. Hash turkey, hash ham, hash beef, hash beans, hash potatoes. All piping hot set upon the outside BBQ, portable electric roasting tins, oven, stove top and hot plates. At one point I could almost see the sides of the house bulge with all the guests wandering about.

The old folk have passed on now but their adult children use the house for parties and get-togethers and summer and winter stays and hunting (the menfolk all went out to hunt a moose early this morning, and yes, they were successful).

All ages were in attendance and there must have been forty different kinds of dessert all homemade. The walls were covered in the paintings of the deceased matriarch whom I knew for a few years before she died. A well-known artist.

The history of the family has been written by a professor out of Boston. Massachusetts and Newfoundland are so well connected through the centuries by the intermingled fishing grounds that Massachusetts is still called “The Boston States” here. The family is still very active in fishing and now it is a daughter, recently certified as a master mariner, who is set to take it over.

I met many interesting people including the family chaplain, a couple of lawyers, a media consultant, a police chief, a politician and a judge. Before I left, I was presented with a copy of the aforementioned book which I can hardly wait to get into it as it reads like a novel. I can't imagine fishing in these tiny dories out in the rough ocean. Countless fishermen died in them, including the direct ancestor of the host family who left a wife and seven young children who were all successful in spite of their incredible poverty.

Along the way over the holidays, a friend gave me this gorgeous handmade driftwood/drift glass piece to hang in my window.



It says:

“How Sweet The Salty Air”.

But as “Alone at Sea” reminds me, the sea can be deadly too.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Music and Friends


I was invited to a Christmas Eve "Ham & Lamb" last night at the home of dear friends. "Your appetite and chat" was what I was told when I asked what I could bring.

Two of the triplets (the two girls) - now 36 - were home and there was a large assortment of others including some 'come from aways' visiting for the holidays.

This Ham & Lamb dinner is a custom they've had forever. Dinner starts at around 11 p.m. and finished, in our case, at 4 in the morning.

Their house is incredibly decorated, a miniature village cast upon the stone hearth of the fireplace, a bunch of alders caught in a corner with pictures of their triplet grandchildren hanging from it. A huge Christmas tree selected and cut by the husband and his daughters a few days before and decorated with all their school hand-crafts. Gifts stacked so high they could just about swallow the tree.

One of the guests, a judge out of Toronto with a passion for Michael Collins that we sunk our teeth into for an hour or so, was celebrating his birthday Christmas Day so a little cake was presented to him on the cusp of midnight and we all sang "Happy Birthday" as one of the girls played her guitar.

I wanted to pinch myself a few times, the conversation and the talk of the old times was so perfectly marvellous. Most people there had traced their roots way, way back for centuries and could knit together all the delicate webs of family connections of their founding Irish forefathers and foremothers and the years of their arrival in Newfoundland from Ireland and on down through the years to present day.

The pile of us squeezed around that large dining room table and the laughter and the talk never ever stopped. I felt so privileged to be included amongst all these family members and old friends. When I mentioned this at one point, I felt tears spring to my eyes when the host said:

"We'll have none of that now. Ah, sure you're one of us!"

Yes I am.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hash


What an interesting season this is turning out to be for me.

I read one of my stories to a wonderfully captive audience at a steak BBQ (you read that correctly!) in a town not too far from here yesterday. What an honour it is to be asked to share one's words with others. I never plan to "get over" that feeling. It is humbling and wondrous all at the same time.

My original holiday season plans have been scattered to the high winds so for now I have settled down with my beloved canine in my lovely little home on the bay.

I am continually astonished at the number of invitations that have come to my house via email, phonelines and snail mail.

One I will not miss is an invitation to a "Hash Party" on Boxing Day.

On the invitation itself, several definitions of the word were helpfully researched and offered:

"A large number of people gathered in small places to consume various types of hash and to reminisce, socialize and enjoy family and friends."

"A reworking of old and familiar material, food, music, relationships."


I can hardly wait.

PS And the "resin" definition was covered also, thanks!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grianstad an Gheimhridh (Winter Solstice)


Winter Solstice in Newgrange.

If there is any place else I'd rather be in the world tomorrow it is at Newgrange in Ireland. The light of the sun and the moon will appear in the chamber together for the first time in the 5,200 years since it was built. Yes, Newgrange is older than the pyramids of Egypt and if you haven't visited there, you must. It is one of those places that stays with you forever.

For the first time in 450 years the sun will flood through the chambers at Newgrange as the moon passes out of a rare total lunar eclipse.

Astronomer Prof Tom Ray of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies told the Irish Times that the last time the Winter Solstice and a full lunar eclipse coincided the Tudors were in power in England.

What is even most magical is that the light from the sun and moon will appear in the chamber at Newgrange together.

Prof Ray said “That will happen at exactly eight minutes to nine. The two happen to coincide to within a minute.”

Newgrange was built 5,200 years ago making them older that the Pyramids in Egypt. Prof Ray said this is the first time moon and sun light would have entered Newgrange’s chambers together since the monument was built.

The Irish Times questioned him as to whether this could have some special significance or messages. He said “I don’t do astrology”.

Hundreds will travel to Meath tomorrow to see the solstice event at Newgrange but only a handful, chosen by lottery, will be in the chamber at sunrise. The light enters the chamber due to very fine alignment, through a shoebox-sized gap about the entrance.

Total lunar eclipses are not very rare but only occur every couple of year. Astronomy Ireland Association said the next will not be visible in Ireland until 2015.

Astronomy Ireland have explained the lunar eclipse as follows: “Just before sunrise on the Winter Solstice 2010, a Full Moon will turn red as it rests just above the western horizon. This event is known as a total lunar eclipse, as the Moon will move into Earth’s shadow. From 6:32am, you will be able to see the Moon gradually get darker as Earth’s shadow is cast upon it, and at 7:40am the Moon will have entered totality


And a happy, magical Solstice to all you pagans out there!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Annual Trek to Granny's


At Christmas time each year, the layer of unhappiness lying over our childhood home in Ireland was more tangible with each year that passed.

After they got married, my mother went to live with my father and his widowed mother. My father was the only son in a family of six - all the girls were older than him and all these women he grew up with literally adored him. He never had to lift a finger. After about six months, when my mother was pregnant with me, she and her mother-in-law had a huge fight and my mother left, towing the beloved and forever worshipped son behind her.

From then on, she refused to have anything to do with her mother-in-law but parcels would arrive occasionally for me in the post, containing dolls or games.

On Christmas Day, the unspoken hovered around the turkey and the tree. Because my mother refused to have her mother-in-law in her home, her own mother was banned as well, thus absenting both grannies from our table.

On St. Stephen's Day (Boxing Day), pre-car ownership, my father would pack up a few of the older children and take us by way of train but when that service was cancelled on a bus all the way down to his mother's house which was in a small town in east Cork. I remember it as always raining, with steaming windows and smelly wool coats on everyone.

My grandmother would be overjoyed to see us. I was always a little afraid of her, she was thin as a rail and wore her hair in a tight silver bun and called my father by his diminutive "Jimmy" which I found very amusing. Her table groaned with goodies, endless tins of biscuits, another turkey, fruit cakes, sweets in boxes, and extravagant presents for the children. We were on our best behaviour because we knew what was coming.

Her beloved Jimmy and herself would get caught up on all the news. Even then, I noticed a tightness to her lips when my mother's name was mentioned. I would study the odd British type pictures on her walls and she had the only chaise lounge I had ever seen in a house prior to then. It lay in glory by the front window, upholstered in red damask with a shawl draped carefully across the back of it. And I remember wondering if Granny ever fainted on it when we left and did she have smelling salts to revive herself.

She asked me about my "books". Books in those days were an old-fashioned term for the class (grade) you were in.

"What book are you in?"

"Two, Granny".

"Ah," she'd say,nodding, "You'll be writing them soon enough. Now who does she look like Jimmy? Not like our side at all."

I never could take a conversation with her anywhere. I never could respond beyond her first question as with her next one she'd always involve my father who would always turn the question back on her.

"Mother," he'd say, "Sure I think she's got a great look of you, myself."

Which I knew to be a great white lie, as everyone said I looked like my other granny.

When we left, stuffed to the point where we all should have been mounted on her parlour wall, she'd catch the wrist of each child in a strong grip and lay on the coin. Huge amounts for those days. I would get a whole half-crown and the boys would get a shilling each. In farewell, she would never kiss us or hug us and she'd shake my father's hand and watch us all as we traipsed slowly down the hill from her house.

Daddy was always irritable on the endless, steamy bus-ride back to the city. We'd be complaining we'd missed the Wren Boys, we always missed the Wren Boys every year because of the trek to Granny's.

But fondling the magical possibilities of the coins in our pockets made up for a lot.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Soft Day


A soft day, thank God!
A wind from the south
With a honey'd mouth;
A scent of drenching leaves,
Briar and beech and lime,
White elderflower and thyme,
And the soaking grass smells sweet,
Crushed by my two bare feet,
While the rain drips,
Drips, drips, drips from the eaves.

A soft day, thank God!
The hills wear a shroud
Of silver cloud;
The web the spider weaves
Is a glittering net;
The woodland path is wet,
And the soaking earth smells sweet
Under my two bare feet,
And the rain drips,
Drips, drips, drips from the leaves.

Winifred Mary Letts (1882 - 1972)
Anglo-Irish (but mainly Irish) poet.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Update



We're finding it hard not to gloat out here at the edge of the Atlantic. The weather is gorgeous, most days sunny, little cardigans or sweaters on us just for show. No hats yet.

The rest of Canada, just about, drowns in the white stuff or hellish, pounding, galey rain. A friend from New Brunswick phoned yesterday asking me to confirm that we haven't had any snow yet. He described floods and swollen rivers and we chatted about Ontario and the deep freeze and like, well, winter.

Work continues apace on the lovely writer's cabin, An Teachín, though we are held back a little by the absence of the French doors which were ordered three months ago.

So I present recent pictures which also shows off the weather here.

The covered porch is now on, as you can see. I was up there yesterday to test drive the incredible wraparound deck and found it difficult to tear myself away. I said to Gordon-The-Gift I might want to move right in. The cabin has been wired and tested for the solar panel which will be installed on the roof. The solar panel is adequate for the requirements which are minimal - few plugs and lights.

We are currently investigating composting toilets. If anyone out there can offer advice/suggestions/hints on this it would be appreciated.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bah, humbug


I'm not very good at dealing with rudeness and inconsideration. Particularly from the male species. I think about 75% of them live on a different planet and are emotionally stunted to an incredible degree.

But dichotomy: I also find I am more tolerant of rudeness in men than in women but not in the way you're thinking. More like: “What can you expect, they are so unevolved?” A stance I am not proud of.

On the times I've called them on their behaviour, they are puzzled, and become more rude and tell me I am making a mountain out of a molehill or I'm being a typical woman. Impasse for each of us. Deemed a waste of energy by me.

There have been more than a few instances of such ignorance lately and I remind myself I do know a few men who are respectful and listen and have more sensitivity than your average turnip. But for the most part, my inner cynic is constantly affirmed in her belief that men are smug in the privilege of their own unrecognized patriarchy.

And really do rule the world.

And what a f***ing awful mess it is.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eternal Mothers


4 generations - my grandmother, my mother (not too long before she died), myself and my daughter.


My elder daughter has been posting some gorgeous stuff on Facebook about mothers and daughters complete with photos (some of which I had taken, years ago)of mothers and daughters and grandmothers too.

It got me to thinking of mothers, spiritual mothers, sister mothers, friend mothers. The ones who've mothered me, the ones I try to mother.

For most of us, we never get over the loss of our mothers, the one who either birthed us or adopted us. We especially grieve when our own mothers die young, like mine did, and thus miss out on their own grandchildren. A sadness that never leaves us, try as we might.

Last night I caught my mother's tenderness in a black and white portrait of my daughter and her baby daughter I had taken many years ago. I had never noticed this before. Tears sprung to my eyes. Tears of joy. She lives on.

Apart from my two birth daughters, I have another daughter - a precious niece - who lost her mother while still a child. She now has her own daughter. This young niece is a delightful combination of her own mother, my deceased quick-witted sister-in-law, and my own fiery little mother. I am happy to see her own daughter is the head off her, as we say back home.

And most times I look in the mirror I see my maternal grandmother's face.

There's a powerful connection to the past in the faces of the young.

Eternal life is no lie.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thanks Interpol!


This is so predictable and so tiresome. Just as the liberation of women was used in defence of the invasion of Afghanistan, now we have Interpol chasing down Julian Assange, he of Wikileaks, with accusations of what? Cheating? Double-timing? Leaky condoms?

Thank you again, Interpol. I know you will now prioritize the global manhunt for 1.3 million guys I have heard similar complaints about personally in the US alone -- there is an entire fraternity at the University of Texas you need to arrest immediately. I also have firsthand information that John Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, went to a stag party -- with strippers! -- that his girlfriend wanted him to skip, and that Mark Levinson in Corvallis, Oregon, did not notice that his girlfriend got a really cute new haircut -- even though it was THREE INCHES SHORTER.


Terrorists. Go get 'em, Interpol!

Read more here.

The world is now a safer place for women.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Heartache


Relentless. This day. Her birthday.

It rolls around every year. And every year it is the same. My younger daughter is still out there. Estranged from her entire family. Living in Europe. Happy, I hope.

I never get used to it.

Happy birthday, darling.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Should


Was there ever such a painful, unhelpful word? I have detested it since it was first used on me and there were times when I would use it constantly on myself.

You should do this.

You shouldn't do that.

I have a saying on my bathroom mirror that I look at it every morning:
Please, Gaia, don't let me should on myself today.
It is a word of failure. Of heartbreak.

'I should have done this to keep him, make her happy, played with the children more, spent more time with my mother' and on.

Sometimes I count the number of times people say it to me or about themselves during the day.

"You should walk more."

"I should go on a diet."

What a waste of breath those shoulds are.

For, you know, we all do things when we are good and ready and not because we were shoulded into it.

Example:

My doctor tells me I am diabetic, I should control my blood sugars for my own good before I have to take injections. I should take better care of my health. I should make a plan. I should make sure I live a valuable and productive life and for this I should start with my own health.

I tune out on all the shoulds. Shrug on my shawl of denial, heave the helpful pamplets and books under something and carry on as before.

But guess what gets my attention?

I've always taken a foolish vanity in my full head of hair, enough for two heads as one of my aunts would say. And guess what, I've been losing it in handfuls this past year. I must have lost, oh, 3/4 of my hair.

And finally, finally, last week I check on the web about hair loss. And yup, diabetes affects both the hormones and the auto-immune system and yup, this results in dramatic hair loss.

This gets my attention more than any shoulding in the world would and jump starts me out of denial and into, yup, action.

A bald WWW is just not in the cards.

But please, never, ever should me.

And I'll do the same for you.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Advantage of Being Older


I love the fact that the angst of being young and dithery and should I or shouldn't I stuff has evaporated. The clarity of certainty is a true gift.

Example:

The annual village dinner/dance is on tonight and I had two tickets, for a dear old friend of mine and myself. My friend is quite sick so had to opt out.

Now in my younger years I would have forced myself to go it alone. Attached myself perhaps to other couples. Suffered the approach of alcohol-fortified dance partners and their left feet and surreptiously checked nearby watches to time my escape. Which was never soon enough.

Not anymore. I called the dance committee first thing this morning and expressed my regrets with a suggestion they give my tickets to someone on the waiting list. Over pleas of "You have to come, you will be missed!" I said gently and firmly, "No, I'm sorry. I will not be attending alone".

Which begs the question: Why on earth don't these events set up tables for singles like me? And then tell us loners about it?

There is nothing lonelier in my mind than the holiday season banquets full of couples and the solitary man or woman sitting at a table while everyone around them dances.

I'll pass, thanks.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

December Blues


I know. I'm a crashing bore. But as a lot of the world drowns in snow and cold weather and ice and other challenges, I can sit on my front deck and look out over this. A few minutes ago.

Blue you can taste. Blue you can smell. Blue you can hear.

Oh, and Nina Simone with her magical "Love me or Leave me" on the Ipod.....can that woman work those jazzy blues with her voice and her piano.....

Bluesy bliss.