Monday, June 30, 2014

Sharpening Life on the Whetstone of Mortality.

This is the view today as I write. The blue fog in the distance is rare.

A dear blog friend has been given the news we all dread and she is brave and honest as to how she is accepting this. I've known a few, far too few, like her. Most run for cover or under the covers. I honestly don't know how I would be in such circumstances. Frightened for sure. In massive denial? I don't know. Bargaining perhaps. Rageful. Grim. Dramatic. I just don't know.

All I know is I am grateful I have her in my life because she has given me this gift of putting my own life under the microscope and evaluating how I am treating it.

Not well this year, I'm afraid. Until now. My procrastination (deliberate chaos creation) has been particularly rampant. So today, thanks to my friend, I am changing one small thing. This is what one does, I've learned: Change one small thing for the better.

So I resolved to spend at least 4 hours a day in the Tigeen - when it's not rented out. Up there above the trees and the blue bay, above the birds and the boats and with the cleanest air, there is no internet, no phone. Well I could bring up my mobile, but I didn't, I'm disconnected.

I\m currently working on the several delightful writing commissions I've been fortunate to get. Taking this break to take a photograph and write a blog post.

My espresso latte is in a flask. My blue pencils are sharpened. I can read aloud, loudly aloud as if on stage (and this feels like a huge stage) to myself – and to the dog.

And I'm re-introduced to my bliss.

Thank you, my dear friend.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wait for me!

I took the time to pick these on the shore just now. Beach-stone blossoms I call them.

Life is whizzing. I'm trying to slow it down. I would swear on the stack that I had posted to this blog a day ago. Not so, it was Tuesday.

A friend said on Thursday night: I can't tell you what happened the week, it knocked me flat on my face as it blew over.

The Da had warned me. Said this would happen, the galloping effect. He was right on a lot of things. Wrong too. Who's perfect. But on this: A+, Da. Nailed.

Speed of light. Today I raced. In a road race not far from here. Day started out with a lovely chill. Halfway through the race the sun shoved the clouds out of the way and blazed. We all wound up, men and women, boys and girls, looking like we were all wearing peculiar skirts with our running jackets tied around our waists, trailing onto our legs, now red faced and sweating while the starting line had us jumping around to keep ourselves warm.

Daughter and I did it together, she is taller and longer of stride. I remember thinking to myself, she's 23 years younger than me and I take 3 steps to her 2. I feel like a bantam hen beside her, slightly OCD because I internally count things. A lot.

Do you? Count things I mean. I was talking to a friend about this peculiarity over dinner a few weeks back. She brought it up. She's a reverend. Odd that: the humanist and the reverend nattering over a stir-fry. We do get along. Amazing isn't it? And then it turns out we both count unconsciously. And had never talked about it before. With anyone. Goosebumps. I'm not alone. Half the time it just bubbles along under the surface.

My dad and I would bike together. Huge distances. Like 30 miles in total so we could catch a swim in Fountainstown. There are advantages to being the oldest. Your parents are younger and more agile and less distracted by younger rug-rats. We'd play numbers/words games as we rode on Sunday afternoons. Less cars then, absolutely no helmets or bike shoes or gears. Imagine. How many gates did we pass on that last mile? Dad would shout. Eighteen! I'd shout back. Corr-ect! He'd affirm.

It all started then.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Reflection on a Friendship.

......My BFF is on the right.....

I was writing a birthday card to my oldest friend today. How old of a friendship, you might ask?

65 years of friendship.

I reviewed our history in the card. I always use blank cards. Unless they're my own. My own have a poem at the back, but the insides are white and inviting.

Our baby years. Our national school years. Our high school/teenage years. Our performing years. Our ugly first jobs. Our incredible party years. Our travelling years. Our weddings. Our babies. Their weddings and partnerships. Our grandparent years. It's neat this grandparent stuff. Her granddaughter sends me a painting from Australia. My granddaughter stays with her in Dublin for a few days this past month.

I can overlook these joys of long term devotion and loyalty if I'm not careful.

I outlined them all in my card to her.

We love reminding each other of our mothers. They each died when we were far too young to let them go. We adored each other's mothers. First thing she did when she had her first daughter was to go visit my mum. I was emigrated by then. My mother wrote me of it. How it brought me closer to her on a bad day (she was not doing too well with her cancer at the time).

Her mother would spoil me. Bring me breakfast in bed when I stayed there as my own home was far too busy for such indulgences being packed with siblings. My friend was an only child. I nearly had to be pried out of her house with a crowbar when I stayed.

We'd exchange clothes all the time, we even traded boyfriends. We bolstered each other through thick and thin. I don't think we ever had an angry word to say to each other. And we were never jealous of each other. Our talents and personalities are quite, quite different.

I doubt there are any secrets we withhold, I know I don't with her.

And we always write the language of the heart to each other in our daily emails.

And when we sit down with each other in Dublin or Cork, the years melt away and we just pick up the threads of conversation as if we'd met for breakfast that morning.

Everyone should be so lucky.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not Black and White

The restorative qualities of my sunsets.

Swimming in the sea of old wounds and enragements is not doing me any good. I was planning on getting very much into my own personal sea of RC harm on subsequent posts but it seems like that particular muse has fled and I have no irresistible urge to lay it all down on paper. I wrote a couple of notes and found that the subsequent apoplexy was simply not my colour at all.

Lay the ghosts. Become a kinder gentler me. No, impossible, scratch that last.

Daughter and I had a chat yesterday on old wounds, on how we are all wounded to some degree. How we carry those wounds being all important. Should we keep peeling those scabs off? Thing is, we decided, patterns in families repeat and repeat. Ad nauseum.

Certainly in mine. Much as I'd like it all to stop now, please. Let's be friends. Let's enlighten ourselves as to what is really happening. What truly lies beneath, as some wise old pundit had it. But enlightenment doesn't happen to all at once, does it. I sometimes think I'm some kind of Pollyanna, trying to make it all better. Kiss the boo-boos.

Thing is, again, that there are some who desperately need those boo-boos.

They need to keep tending them and tending them like a really bad abscess. So they don't have
to look at the root causes. Ever.

I'm finished with this particular topic for now.

Bloodied but unbowed, that's me.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Black and White and Denial All Over - Part 5

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here
See Part 3 here
See Part 4 here

I'm now going to get personal on how the abusive nature of all this patriarchal priestarchy has affected me and my entire life.

BTW - Priestarchy is a term used in a book I'm just finishing up - House of Hate by Percy Janes. I truly can't believe how so much of this book resonated with me. But those reflections are for another time or post.

My father's eldest sister, here I'll call her Elizabeth, was a brilliant woman, a pianist of some local renown when her aspirations were smothered by her mother who had an all consuming belief, fostered by the RC church, that a life on the stage was akin to prostitution. E was thrust into service at the local manse which was headed by a widower, the protestant minister of their town. Encouraged by the reverend, Elizabeth resumed her piano playing and tutorials and the gods smiled and the minister and Elizabeth fell in love despite their age-gap of nearly 30 years.

In the Ireland of 1924 this whole affair had to be kept under wraps. Even for the week after they were secretly married in a little village protestant church many miles from their town, E continued going home every night just as before while the minister arranged a transfer to the North of Ireland. She never said goodbye to her family, she just left for work as usual on their day of departure and took the train from her town to Bangor in Co. Down with her beloved.

When the truth of what had happened hit the family, my grandmother immediately held a wake for her daughter and declared her dead to the family and forbade anyone to mention her name in the house again. An order that only ended on her death in 1958. 34 years of bitterness and estrangement. Her husband, my grandfather, never recovered from the loss of his favourite child, my aunt, and died "broken-hearted" seven years later in 1931.

But more was to come. As they sat in their customary 5th pew of the huge RC church of their town the following Sunday after E had fled with her husband, they were assaulted from the pulpit by the roars of the local parish priest who denounced the family for having "harboured a harlot", and my father, the head altar boy, was removed from his position forthwith. My grandfather, to his credit, marched the whole family out of the church before the mass was over and they did not attend services in that particular church ever again but walked 5 miles every Sunday to a small village church.

You can only imagine the ripple effect this had on my family of birth which continues on to this day.

See Part 6

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Black and White and Denial all Over - Part 4

See Part 1 here
See Part 2 here
See Part 3 here

One of my greatest disappointments in life and in the human race is that so few men stand up for women. I've heard from two or three on this blog, private emails, mainly fathers of daughters or granddaughters, but you know what? I never hear from fathers of sons. And that says so much. Women need more men speaking out. Saying "I would never behave that way!" and moving on is just not enough. I have many "good" men in my life but they are silent. Where is the massive male outcry against these misogynistic paedophiles and sadists masquerading as the One True Church?

Maybe it's the old case of Irish people bowing to the masters and never standing up for what is right. The RC church has such an empowering grip on the male psyche enforcing the privilege of being male in this male-driven church. I ask myself: Why on earth would they want to change? Why on earth would they want to fight within this male bastion of droit du seigneur and subsequently be called "pussy-whipped" or worse by their male cohorts?

Another unfortunate case of "I'm alright, Jack - fight for your own justice and equality, woman. But don't ask me to give up anything."

Meanwhile, A recent article shows that men's biggest fear is being laughed at by women while women's biggest fear is being killed by men. Isn't there loads to think about in that one sentence?

The Brehon Laws,long before the arrival of the mythical Saint Patrick to Ireland declared women as fully equal and could inherit and lead. Needless to mention, this was all abolished under the mighty males of Rome. Power and endless propagation being the driver. Forget those stupid Brehon Laws where men and women were equal and Ireland had the most advanced justice system for its time. Where there were no prisons, no crime. And restorative justice prevailed. Yes, there were flaws, but early Christianity brainwashing must have felt severely threatened by such female freedoms. Men's rights to regulate our bodies and what we do with them still prevails.

And yeah, I caught that article in the Irish Times about Ireland being closer to Muslim teachings that anywhere else in the world.

I only have to think of the shame of Savita to realize that nothing has changed in the country of my birth.

To be continued.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Black and White and Denial All Over - Part 3

See Part 1 here
See Part 2 here

And why was my country of birth ripe for such abuses? The GreatPotato FamineHolocaust in Ireland in the 1840s where up to 4 million people were deliberately starved or forced to emigrate - often on so-called coffin ships which drowned them anyway - changing the very landscape of Ireland utterly and forever in many, many ways.

All of the Irish born people I know and have known, including my own large indirect and direct relatives can't tell you how their families survived this "famine". There is a huge sense of shame some historians have it, and also PTSD. The survivors of this "famine" were ripe for further traumatization by the RC church and strict moral guidelines were laid down. Much of this was based on Jansenism a rigid form of Catholicism with firm rules on sexual behaviour. I remember one of my more open-minded teachers interpreting (scoffingly) the procedure for marital sexual intercourse: no removal of clothing, thou shalt not see the naked body of thy spouse and encouraging the denigration of the products of unsacramented coitus as the "spawn of the devil" to be shunned and despised.

There were 250,000 women and children over a 40 year period processed through the Magdalene Laundries, Industrial Schools, Mother & Baby Homes and “orphanages” and "reformatories" - a total of 72 RC church run institutions across the country.

And as of now, all of this shameful history is not taught in the schools. These girls/women/children/babies are deleted and forgotten. Revisionism at its most extreme. Why? Because the RC church still controls the curricula in schools. And embraces the notion that the Irish should remain ignorant of the horrific crimes committed by those who offer them salvation in the hereafter. The twisted mindsets around these shameful betrayals remain and are continually encouraged. Many of my friends and relatives still participate and donate to this abusive cult. Much like victims of the Stockholm syndrome.

Compare this to the school curricula in Germany where students there learn about Hitler and the shame and degradation of the extermination camps and the propaganda of Hitler. So that it doesn't happen again.

In Ireland the swelling of Catholic coffers continues and very little restitution has been paid to the many, many victims of its crimes against humanity - and absolutely no one is addressing the multi-generational effect of the original crimes: the secret sales of children with no official records maintained, the life-long slavery and near starvation of "unwed" mothers and the traumatization of babies and mothers torn apart, along with the deceitful and self-justifying lies told to both the sold babies and the devastated mothers. It was all about the selling price of the children and the capitation grants given to these institutions by the government, subsequently funnelled to the Vatican, one of the wealthiest entities in the world.

To be continued.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Black and White and Denial All Over - Part 2.

Women at their wedding to the greatest polygamist of all time.

Read Part 1 here.

And there are some that come out and talk about the mothers of these "wayward" 14 year old pregnant girls. Why didn't the mother protect them from the incesting father/brother/uncle. You must be joking, would be my response.

The grip of the RC church was so huge that no Irish mother, in the fear of being consigned to hell, for all eternity:

(1) Took birth control
(2) Refused her husband
(3) Worked outside the home, as if she could anyway with endless children to care for.
(4) Even considered divorce - it was illegal.
(5) Separation was the women's fault. She made her bed, why couldn't she lie in it, the slut?
(6) If she did separate from him, her life, poor before, was now abysmal beyond belief with no financial support from state or church and the complete shunning of her neighbours and family. I will write more of the power of shunning later. And she'd heard of women who had to resort to prostitution to make ends meet.

So leaving her husband was out of the question and reprimanding him for molesting her daughters, would result in violence towards herself and the child who told her. Police turned a blind eye, as did the church who would advise her neighbours and family to shun her. Husbands controlled the purse strings and what was donated to the church every Sunday was his and the church's business. He was the cash cow and deserved protection. At all costs.

The RC church was and is a huge business. In Ireland, it controlled the schools and the hospitals, orphanages, reformatories (yeah, right) and homes for the worst sinners of all time: "unwed" mothers, often as young as 12.

Have you read about the conditions in these homes of the "unwed"? As punishment for their sins, they had to give birth:

(1) without medication or pain relief.
(2) when ripped in the process of birthing, as so many of them were, they were forbidden stitching so the subsequent infections added to their pain and often resulted in sterility and lifelong incontinence.
(3) they were forced to wet nurse the babies of mothers who died birthing.
(4) their babies were sold as further punishment to Americans for the highest price donation.
(5) they had to pay to be released from the hell-holes of these institutions or endured years of slavery. Their families viewed them as "damaged goods" so they were unmarriagable and a life long financial burden so were left to rot in these places.

I could go on.

Follow the money has been my mantra for a very long time. The RC church made untold billions from the "simple" Irish people. It paid to keep them breeding like rabbits in and out of wedlock, it all paid off handsomely no matter which way you sliced the product. A per capita amount was paid by the Irish government to the penal institutions for feeding and clothing the "illegitimate" products of rape.

And those "evil bitches" those sisters, married to the Great Son of the Invisible Cosmic Housekeeper? Yes, married. They would wear a veil and don a wedding ring 'n everything for the polygamous wedding ceremony. And, I nearly forgot, had all their hair shaved off, it was a symptom of vanity, they couldn't have anything around that reminded them of their femininity, their very womanhood.

And their husband (Great Son of ICH) spoke to them only through their priest or if they really got rebellious, ICH's henchman, the bishop.

And how were they instructed?

See Part 3.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Black and White and Denial all Over

Part 1 of _____

Another of my lobes has exploded, so enough of my blog-fluff for now:

Tuam. Dead children being tossed in unmarked disused septic tanks in Galway up to 1961. The stark horror of it all. But nothing is black and white is it? The debate can rage on if it was or wasn't a septic tank. Distraction from the huge black elephant lounging about in the living room shoving everything else out of sight. I read vituperative blasts of prose condemning the "bitches", the "evil bitches" who ran these horrific homes for "wayward girls" who had the temerity to get themselves pregnant, all by themselves. The bases were covered in these places - if they were younger than the age of consent, still children themselves: well then the devil himself had a hand in it, making them tempting seductresses of innocent adult males, be they their fathers, uncles, brothers or the local priests. Those fathers of these casual sperm implantations were never made accountable. Or answerable to the law of the land. Oh, sorry, the land where the word "rape" was never countenanced. And paedophilia I didn't know about apart from a difficult to spell word in crossword puzzles.

She must have been "asking for it" was the phrase I heard around my house.

There was a girl in my class in national school. We were 12. Just past our confirmation where we pledged our purity, our bodies, ourselves to the Invisible Cosmic Housekeeper. By the age of 12 I'd been touched inappropriately by men a few times which I've written about on this blog - no little girls are safe in a patriarchal culture such as Ireland was in my time. This little girl's mother was a casual church acquaintance of my mother. They were poor. I remember that. Kathleen was her name. Kathleen got very fat very quickly and then one day never showed up at school again.

I kept pestering my mother as to what happened to Kathleen. Finally my mother broke down and told me Kathleen's mother was expecting another child (her fourteenth) and was older (mid forties) and Kathleen had to stay home and help her.

Later, much later, I was in high school and had seen Kathleen around, wheeling an obviously mentally challenged toddler in a stroller, my mother told me Kathleen was one of the "lucky ones" and didn't have to go to a "home for bad girls."

And that's when I heard another phrase, common in use in Ireland then: Kathleen had "allowed" someone to "interfere" with her.

Later again, my mother told me it was Kathleen's father who had "interfered" with several of his daughters, thus the massive "retardation" in the younger "siblings" and an aging mother covering it up, to protect her daughters from the hellish "homes" run by the sisters.

He was a good man, a pillar of the church, said my mother, with only the one "weakness".

A good man? I asked her in disbelief, a good man?

Ah, said my mother, sure he didn't drink at all.

See Part 2 Here

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Blog Jam

My first PG (Paying Guest) at The Tigeen has just left. Yeah, things went well. Very well. Yesterday and today are foggy, mauzy really, and I caught myself. You know when you have guests and the weather doesn't behave itself. "I'm so sorry about the weather. If you'd been here earlier...." as if you (and I) had omnipotent powers and the weather was all our fault. Apologizing for our personal magic wand misbehaving.

It's been a busy few days and I'm backing away from today to regather myself. I've scheduled a long overdue nap in the afternoon before heading out this evening with friends.

And tomorrow, well tomorrow is the first meeting of a running/walking/hiking/shuffling race participating club I inadvertently founded nearly a year ago. I'm way excited about this. The challenges faced by the back of a pack in these events are too numerous to list here. Not least of which are the shutting down of the course before the time is up: water stations evaporated, roads reverting to the hazards of traffic (and traffic lights) and even the drinks and food packed up at the finish line when guarantees are made at the outset the course will be open for the entire duration of the race. Older/more challenged participants pay the same money and deserve equal treatment. And often are the real heroes of such events. So there must be power in numbers to change the status quo, ya think?

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

For Sale

Years past, I'd drive around North America with various companions, my former husband, then we added the girls, then my dad, then various friends. I loved being a roadie. Still do.

And I'd see them on the sides of the road we drove through on these long road trips.


For sale: Quilts.
For Sale: Birdhouses
For Sale: Socks.

And mitts. And scarves. And pottery. And watercolours.

The Da was the only one with patience enough to accompany me in my poking around these road stands or inside sellers' houses. Others were too destination fixated. Or disinterested. Or would sit in the car and sulk and waggle their watches.

At one of these places my scrabble turntable was acquired. Still used and twirling silently. A beautiful polished piece of wood. At another I picked up some lovely aboriginal prints. I still have those too.

I would envy the roadside purveyors of such artifacts, their creations. And chat to them. You see, I too wanted to put out a sign on my lawn. Offer my wee creations for sale. An impossible dream?

Well, today I did.

Monday, June 02, 2014

The Spike

This railroad spike I picked up is my souvenir of the great adventure.

I was at a mini-conference yesterday. About 16 of us. Discussions, a couple of meals, I don't know about you but I just love breaking bread with a crowd around a table. The host's house was big enough to seat all of us together at a huge table. I love when people you don't know very well shine the light on themselves and share their passions.

There was a mid-afternoon break and an older friend and I decided to go for a walk together. Others did the same, little mini-groups breaking up into conversational units and toddling off. The day was glorious and we had about 45 minutes to kill before the next discussion.

Friend and I explored an old railway bed trail and hit one of those moments - does this trail go round in a circle and then, like a fool, immediately answer the question for yourself - of course it does!

The trail went on and on and on. No turnoff, no circling. One continuous long straight line. My chief concern was Ansa, the wonder-dog, who is aging and arthritic. My next concern was we did not bring our cellphones or money or water or even phone numbers of people who were at the event or the host herself. On and on we trudged.

Finally we hit a side-road off the trail, a steep winding hill. By that point we were knackered. Yes, we're each of us training for the Tely 10 but did NOT expect to be plunged into Iron Women status in week 1 of training with 8 more weeks to go.

At long last we hit the main road, puffing after the long climb. I calculated we were about 5 miles from the house. Ansa had slowed dramatically. Admiring something off in the distance, Friend tripped and fell. Planked herself on the shoulder of the road would be more like it. We've no sidewalks in Newfoundland - did I tell you that already? Tough people don't need 'em. NOT!

So I pick her up, dust her off, give her my sweaty bandana as a bandage for her bleeding hand and we stumble on. Finally we see a man checking underneath his jeep on the shoulder ahead of us. We explain the situation and he immediately herds us into his vehicle, all consideration for elder-dog, he even offers to lift her in.

Turns out he's an engineer in from Calgary for a short term contract and between all of us we find the house where a search party had just been formed and were all lined up on the driveway, ready to scatter in several directions. Some started to cry when they saw us, they were so upset and figured we'd had a dreadful catastrophe befall us. They had called our mobiles and noticed our purses, left on the floor of the hall, ringing back at them in merriment. Panic then ensued. We were missing nearly 3 hours and husband of Friend calculated we had covered 10 miles of rough, rugged terrain.

All of us agreed it was one mighty story for the grandchildren.

I was the after dinner speaker and I spoke on the metaphorical nature of our walk - no side-roads, no twists and turns. The ocean on one side of us, brush and forest on the other. To leave the trail would have been rushing into unknown madness.

We had to persist. Right to the end. Much like when we nurture a dream, a vision, a goal.

And the spike?

It symbolises the strength and survival residing in all of us.