Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One More Gone

Yeah, I know I'm at that age.

Standing slightly tilted and looking behind myself. Not too much. Not too often. Not staring or anything. But with tears.

For he is gone.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

And his dust was particularly rich.

He was incredibly kind to me.

And gifted. Gifted in humanity and compassion.

He championed me and mine. He stood up and his voice was heard when my voice wasn't.

And I, for one, am a better person because of him.

I wrote about him here. My story disguised him well. But his essence is there, his thirst for knowledge and incredibly long, involved conversations.

He listened.

He respected.

And yes, I loved him. Passionately.

And our time was lovely and memorable.

And far too brief because of my alcoholism which was in full throttle then.

I will never forget him.

Darling man.

Monday, July 28, 2014


That's the only word I can think of for the way I'm feeling at the moment.

Present. Excruciatingly so. And I use the word "excruciating" in a good way.

A deeper way of feeling. Sharper.

I've had these episodes before. And I welcome them.

Even though I can cry a lot.

Like the beauty of the world overwhelms me. And of people. And their joy and casual kindnesses.

It was a brutal Tely 10 yesterday. At the best of times I don't "do" heat. Never have and possibly never will. And it was one of the hottest races I've ever been in. And I wanted to quit so many times as the sweat poured off me and everything started to hurt. One good soul, among many, high-fived me at an off-kilter angle along the route and my poor arm felt like it was going to fall off with the unexpected lingering pain.

And then I started to laugh. To myself. As this new pain was distracting me from the sweat and the sore feet (note to self: break in new shoes a month before any race).

And Mile 8 was the roughest. I wanted to lie down and cry on the road and let the paramedics take me off to a sanitarium (do they have such places anymore?) for at least a month. And pamper and spa me and treat my feet, hell my entire body, to peppermint oil and my mind to attar of roses in bowls on my side table.

So that kept me going for a while: thoughts of 1000 thread cotton sheets, white, and attendants massaging the throbbing and aching all-over that I had become.

Mile 9, I was kinda sorta limping when Daughter appeared to help me in on the final 1/4 mile, which was very blurry as my mind had gone on vacation and my recognition software had crashed.

There had been many friends along the route with ice, with words, with water, with lemon. I still cry when I think about them all.

How astonishing it is to me to have picked up my life and moved so very far away to the edge of the Atlantic not so many years ago and feel so part of the fabric here now, to have accumulated so many friends, so much sustenance and support and love.

And to realize, with such renewed clarity, that my only struggles ever are with myself.

To be in the now and in the present for it is all I have.

To be the best me, not in beating anyone else, but in the journey, with its trials and pain. To look outward and accept those shouts of support, the water, the "you can do its", the distracting high-fives, the companionship.

And the destination?

Well, that morphs and changes, for is there any such thing really?

All I can say is that for me yesterday and carrying on in to today:

The destination is to remain open to love.

Self-inflicted and all the variants in between.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Looking Forward

My father had this philosophy going. Always looking forward. Not to the point of destroying the day he was in but lightening his heart when the weather got bad, or someone died, or he felt lonesome.

I'm glad he shared it with me.

This year, in August, my family and I are exploring the Beara Peninsula, the land of my mother's people, the O'Sullivan Clan.

And we're staying here:

This is the music that will accompany us, The O'Sullivan March with the Chieftains:

Looking forward?

What do you think?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stay Where Your Hands Are

I said this to a friend this morning. She was panicked. About everything. I know how that is. You pull the thread from a small hole and a vast new terrifying landscape appears through the bigger hole you're creating.

I needed to say it for myself too. I caught myself fretting about the Tely 10 race coming up on this Sunday, about my appearance on a post by the venue hosts of my recent performance. Self criticism is one of my old reliable default standbys. I'm an expert on beat-myself-up behaviour. Instead of feeling thrilled about the reception my performance gave I focussed on my poor posture, my stomach roll, you name it: I'll inflict self-shame on it.

Her call pushed me upright. In more ways than one.

And I look at my hands for they will:

Cut up my healthy lunch for today,
Get me suited and booted and socked and...
Lead me out the door for a training walk,
Write this post,
Reach out to someone else today,
Pick up a bit of knitting to bore the inner monster,
Lift up and read a beautiful West Cork history book given to me by my sister
Type up a few daily emails to distant friends and loved ones.

I am sickened by so much - Gaza, Ukraine, the dying bees, you name it, the list is endless. And it was and is and will be ever thus. There is nothing, apart from outrage and outcry that I can do about it all. All of it noise: Internal. External.

There be dragons out there where my hands are not.

I can't feed them too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lessons from Mabel

Mabel the Maple - picture taken just now.

Sometimes I worry. Don't we all?

And I fret.

Mainly about money.

Lack of.


Of the metaphorical poorhouse.

And then I remember Mabel the maple. Who lives with me. A few of you might remember Mabel who technically "died" completely bowled over by a storm, her branches all lopped off for firewood. And then as her trunk was denuded of branches she rose again, she righted herself. And sprouted like a mad thing.

Much like me lately after my fretstorm.

In rapid succession (seriously, in a week!):

One of my stories is being published in an anthology coming out in the fall.

My tigeen is renting out quite nicely.

I was booked for more elder abuse sessions around the island.

Last night I gave a seanachie performance for one of the bigger Canadian magazines. Fingers crossed: a feature.

I sold a great whack of my cards to an inn.

And I was asked to conduct a (paying) writers' workshop in the fall featuring memoir writing.

Lots of little branches.

Just like Mabel.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


More beach blossoms

I was never one to be totally star-struck. Or project feelings, mine or their imagined, on to those that are famous. I remember a wise old shaman saying to me a long time ago:

Allow those famous people their humanity, their foibles, their twists, they are just like you and me under the skin: insecure, unsure and emotionally immature.

And they are. A few have crossed my path recently. The so-called beautifuls with their strong bank accounts, their youth, their life styles, their talent, their fame, their incessant media coverage.

I thought when I met one: does she truly know how beautiful she is? How talented? That her skin is flawless, that her smile lights up a room?

And of course she doesn't. None of us do. Because that would make us a notch above, would make us vain and unapproachable.

And she was imminently approachable. And lovely. And as we chatted, I shared with her a story from long ago when I was hopelessly in love with someone who treated me poorly and I was laughing about it, telling her I had had a card from this man after we had broken up and he had signed "Love, John" in his neat scholarly hand and I (to the horror of any poor sucker in my sphere of orbit)incessantly analyzed and over-analyzed it: what did he mean, does he now realize he loves me and can't live without me, is he afraid to speak up and pour out his heart, has he changed, surely he must miss me?

And we laughed and laughed and laughed. And then she said: I have texted and texted this latest flame of mine who's away for a couple of weeks and he hasn't responded and I had myself convinced his cell-phone is broken.

And we laughed again.

Twins underneath in our common humanity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Write? Right, She Said!

Yes, I'm up at the Tigeen where the writing flows non-stop in waves of literate and compelling paragraphs.


See above.

See below.

Handcream I need handcream, I have to go back down to the house.
Those early notes I made in that notebook need to be up here, I have to go back down to the house again.
Chilly – a bit? - I need to light a fire.
Oh, not enough wood.
Oh, not enough kindling.
I need to go down to the barn and bring some up.
Where's the dog?
I should bring up her dog dish and fill it.
Did I bring up enough food for lunch?
Coffee. Not enough coffee.
Oh, let me write a few notes for the blog.
I think I should test-drive the loft bed, just for a few minutes.

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Life Model - Part 2

Ansa calculating the years in her life and the life in her years.

You couldn't make this stuff up. Here was I writing yesterday about my dog Ansa and the beginning of her life with me and......

I was out and about with Ansa later on yesterday when a truck pulled up beside me with a couple in it.

"OMG!!" the couple shrieked in unison. They pulled over to the side of the road and clambered out of the truck.

Yes, it was the couple from way back - 9 years ago now - who had been ordered to surrender all their dogs due to neglect and a form of benign indifference to the needs of their 12 animals.

"She should be dead by now!" was the next enlightening comment as they surrounded Ansa who clung to my ankle bones and winced when S, the male of the couple, put out his hand to touch her.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well," said K, the female of the couple, "We got her when we met, she was 6 weeks hold back in March of 1999."

Back in the day, S hadn't a clue as to how old Ansa was when he dropped her off on that dark and stormy night of May 2004. My vet had estimated she was two or three years old at the time. S is not, by even the wildest stretch of the imagination, a guy with the elevator running all the way up to the top of the building. K, on the other hand (he is her fourth husband) is fairly alert and together.

So that makes my lovely girl 15 which is not very likely for a mainly border collie mix, the average life span being 12. The rare ones have lived to be 15.

We left the KS couple rather quickly, Ansa and I. In unseemly haste you might say.

"She's a bloody miracle!" they shouted after me. Well, yes.

But when I look at her now, my heart flutters a bit.

How many more days, will I have her?

I don't even think in years anymore.

And maybe that's another life lesson from my girl.

A day at a time.

That's all any of us have.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Life Model

My dog Ansa is getting old. Silver threads among the black-gold of her lovely complexion. I give her half an aspirin a day for her arthritis. Her back paws shake uncontrollably at times.

I am fortunate in that we found each other. She's a rescue. Before she came to me she had been the victim of benign neglect. Her previous owner was more to be pitied than blamed. He had far too many dogs to take care of. Then he was ordered to get rid of them all as they were deemed abuse victims. She arrived in my life on a dark and stormy night, her owner thought to let her escape her euthanasia and dump her on me. I was between dogs, my previous one had been with me sixteen years and it had been a year.

Along with the eleven others then under the axe, Ansa was fed a meagre diet of bread and gravy and never walked. They were chained outside or hidden indoors. Her fur had fallen out in clumps. But her disposition? In spite of all that, her personality was one of joy and delight. And she was definitely an omega rather than an alpha.

Ansa stayed on my couch for 24 hours without moving. I let her be. The next night she came upstairs and after about an hour jumped up on the end of my bed with her back towards me. I let her be. Every chance she got, once outdoors and off leash, she would run away. Many was the time I would go out in my car and chase her down. It often took hours. Freedom was a brand new concept for her. I got that. Slipping her leash or outside tethering was a testament to her agility and intelligence. I never blamed or shamed her when I found her. Once she was 10K away. When I saw her in the distance her head was hung low, exhausted. I greeted her with joy, opened the back door of the car and she leaped in and promptly passed out.

It took her two years to bond with me. I remember the moment well. We were walking along the road by the ocean, she on her leash in front of me towing me along, when she promptly sat down and turned and looked me in the eye. I just knew. I slipped her leash off and every single command I've given her since, she has obeyed. I only leash her when on a very busy road or in a park where it's the law.

She fills my days with her joie de vivre.

Her trust in me is implicit: She will be fed, she will be walked, she will run on the shore, she can paddle in the ocean, she can sleep on my bed disregarding her own two beds, she will let me know if there's a visitor, she will take care of me if I'm threatened in any way and she knows she will be taken care of in turn. Always.

I have a lot to learn from her. I always did. There are second chances in life. And the universe does provide.

We should all be so present in our days.

And so worry free.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Variable Absolutes.

They drive me crazy. They're oxymoronic. They leave me speechless. They affect my inner peace. They ignite my old defect of judgementalism.


Someone says over lunch the other day that they are on a gluten-free diet.

"Oh," I say, "that sandwich you're eating isn't gluten free."

"Except when I'm out or on vacation or don't want to offend someone," is the response.

"I never watch teevee," says a friend, as I sit in her living room with the flatscreen yelling at me to buy tampons/paper towels/a car.

"Then why is it on?" I ask, perplexed.

"I like the sound of it. I keep it on all day."

"I don't eat sugar, thank you." I say politely as a plate of muffins is proffered.

"This isn't really sugar."

"You baked sugar-free?"

"Oh no, I don't count sugar that's baked as real sugar."

"I see you out on the roads there, you take this training seriously?" says a friend observing my Tely 10 training.

"Well yes, it is a 10 miler (16 K) so I have to if I want to complete it."

"I should do it too, I can do 10 miles easy-peasy."

"Oh, you're training too?"

"I don't have to, I do all this housework and cooking and laundry and gardening every day."

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Chaos Prevention List

I had to let go of the term "procrastination". It spelled "fail" to me. I had to realize procrastination is just me and my addict mind creating chaos, stoking the fumes of adrenalin, putting me in touch with those years. You know. The ones where drinkin' 'n' smokin' 'n' *other stuff* ran my life.

So I came up with an alternative title. And it helps.

I know this post will mean absolutely zero to most of you out there. You guys with the handle on things, who do your dishes on time and vacuum and dust whether you need to or not.

I live on the edge a little. It used to be a lot so there is marked improvement. Seriously.
I was out with some prim and propers today. Some of whom were Irish doing the tour. I have to watch my mouth. I said shyte once and their jaws dropped. I know I can never be friends with such people.

I think cardiacs would have occurred if I'd gone into my pagan state. When I mentioned my mother's tribe, The O'Sullivan Bearas, and the massacre on Dursey Island, they told me they didn't like to dwell on that stuff, it was all history now. And they didn't care for it.

I was tempted to bring up Tuam and the baby bodies in the septic tank but my mother brought me up right so I sipped on tea while they ate their scones and I behaved myself. It was hard.

Mulling to myself around the pretty china and matching talk, I realized they would never, ever need a Chaos Prevention List. Ever.

And could put me in my place, proper-like, if I dared to say "Shyte" once again.