Written in stone

Stones were a recurring motif for me this summer in Ireland. On the Burren, the megalithic tombs and fairy circles in Sligo, the neolithic Ceide fields found in the Mayo bogs and on Seamus Heaney’s flaggy shore shrewn with seaweed and pebbles washed smooth from the sea.

I popped a couple in my purse and thought no more about it.  Until my bag was searched because of them at Shannon airport.  Neither contraband nor weapon…just a talisman…something to hold for inspiration and grounding. We got through.

 


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Three weeks later, I was back home for the wedding of a dear friend and stones surfaced again.  She chose to wed in the little church on the summit of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain and a mecca for pilgrims since 3000 BC. Built in 1904, the caretaker estimates Meg and Chuck as only the 7th couple to wed in the chapel.  He was half of the second, back in the 80s’.  The bride’s niece carried a guitar on her back. Others had champagne bottles, glasses, flasks of tea and scones in their nap sacks for the reception 2507 feet above sea level.  Hauling myself up was challenge enough for me.

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Our children’s school and social lives were too complicated to play out with a sitter so my husband offered to stay behind in London. The bride set me up with an old pal, someone I had last seen almost 20 years ago. So re-connecting with her proved to be the proverbial icing on the (wedding)cake. She lives close to the Reek (local name for the mountain). Down a narrow road with a strip of grass running through it’s middle and sporadic bulges to aid “congestion” (i.e. two cars on the road at the same time) . She doesn’t lock the front door or her car parked out front. In her home every window is a picture frame. I looked out on meadows,  lakes and mountain ranges. And of course on the conical mountain that is “Padraig’s stack”.

The happy pair met at a climbing club in Massachusetts where they live.  Many of their intrepid friends had travelled over with them from the US. I was later to find that a number of them had also found their mate on a hike. They would be spending most of their vacation with Chuck and Meg on what they termed a “buddymoon”.

On the morning of the wedding we followed instructions and assembled at the base of the mountain by one of the approaches (“the local’s one”) for 8.30am. I was shown a selection of sticks and chose a strong ash that had made the climb before. I don’t think I could have got to the top without my ash. We started off walking through bog and heather occasionally finding ourselves on a well trodden path. More often making our own indent.  The climb became steep pretty quick and I engaged with the mount as I tried to find firm footing in the loose quartzite stone.  I didn’t look down and the mist that descended meant there was little to focus on ahead. I progressed a step at a time. When the clouds did lift, we’d catch a glimpse of the bay below. It’s said there are 365 islands in Clew Bay.  The longer you looked the more you saw until just as a picture had appeared, it faded away again, cloaked by the mist.That’s how the church first appeared to me. Like a mirage. Meg’s cousin had climbed up the mountain the day before and dressed the church. The guitar arrived unscathed and the spontaneously assembled choir  (I was in their number) had a quick practice. There was a cheer when the bride and groom appeared.  Then disappeared to re-emerge in their full bridal regalia.  The bride would walk down the short aisle in heels after all. She was flanked by her brothers.  The ceremony was brief but sweet. The priest was mindful not to keep us standing still in a cold church for too long. We had the descent ahead of us after all, some finding that more tricky to navigate because of the loose rocks.

Champagne glasses were unpacked and corks popped. There was a toast, a speech and then a cup of hot tea with scones, baked by the mother of the bride and individually parcelled like a favour. Fuel for  our journey down.

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 The bride’s sister-in-law, with a stiff hip and bad knees, didn’t make the climb but met us with a clipboard to witness Newton’s law of motion. Sixty-five went up and 65 came back down again.

The day was young with much merrymaking ahead. And I had climbed me a mountain.  And a stoney one at that.

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Cracking up

Longer ago than I care to admit, a heavy object fell from a top shelf and whacked my open computer screen on it’s descent.

It took a couple of days for me to notice the mark – the size of a pinprick. It could have been worse and with time it did become worse. Creeping up like decay. Or ageing. My daily encounters with my computer ensured an easy reception as I soon got used to the embellishment. Even when the tiny hole became a line.  And later when the line became many lines.  For some time I have been using the paper equivalent of an ink smudged page. I work around it becoming adept at writing blind. I will type and hope that my text will display the way I intended it to.


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One day during the summer,  I was sat at a picnic table facing the sea and chatting to some friends. My mobile was in front of me as it often is and I was fiddling with it as I often do. I must have  pressure on my phone which was face down. I heard a tiny crack and sure enough I had sent a fissure through the face. And yet again I thought I can work around this.

Our neighbour doesn’t have off-street parking. She does have a new boyfriend and he has started staying over. Our car is the casualty of this new romance as her suitor parks his car on the stretch of road outside our house. There aren’t that many places to park on our street, and only a handful that don’t have a tree towering overhead. This time of the year those trees are home to birds who feed on ripe berries and promptly poo them out. Our car looks like it’s been under siege. Splattered across my windscreen are knobbly purple splodges impervious to the wipers. They mostly gather in the corners so yet again I work around the aerial bombardment, short-changing myself to a clear view.

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That’s three of my lenses on the world blighted and I’ve been doing nothing about it. Well no more.

This week I have become very aware of my personal perspective and to the steps I can take to improve it. I’m reminded of a dear friend. A glass half full person whose joie de vive is infectious.  After an encounter with her, life looks brighter, clearer, crisper.  It isn’t just down to her warmth and wisdom. During our chats she’d reach out and take my glasses off my face, fog the lenses and wipe them clean before popping them back.There wouldn’t be so much as a pause in our conversation. What skill, what a friend. What clarity that simple act would bring.

So this week I am attending to my physical outlook.  I’ve cleaned my windows (and glasses),  washed and hoovered my car and I’ve made an appointment with a “Genius” in Apple.  Things are looking better already.

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Summer 2015

Pick any other 7 week slice of the year and compare it with the one spanning school holidays. Same time stretch but yet….

How our kids have grown, complexions changed, weather jumped. Accounting for our chunk…parks, museums, fruit-picking, crafting

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And then… a trip across the Irish sea with suitcases on our knees (Holyhead bound Virgin train with carriages fit for day trippers) – 15 hours door to door. I felt a duty to give my kids the boat crossing. A shared   experience of a journey that so many Irish have made before them. The Fleadh and our TV-screen bombing (did you spot us),beaches (aka Wild Atlantic Way), family, friends, a ghost, stones.

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 I spent 4 days on an intensive journaling course at a meditation and mindfulness centre in Dublin …and the tough bit…in silence.  Checked-in with Mind, Body and Spirit and found body especially wanting. Nourishing food for a start. I learnt how to make porridge bread. I plan on giving myself the gift of sleep. I’ll aim for 7 hours and gradually stretch that to 8. I dream most nights and have been lazy about harnessing them. And I’d like to introduce a meditation practice in to my day. The holiday is over and the work can commence.