“It was a scene which seemed the heart of this land. The lowing sun and the one star waking, white wings on a black water, and the smell of rain, and the long lane fading where a voice comes in the falling night.” ~ Jamie O’Neill, from At Swim, Two Boys

The dark horse, Liscannor, Ireland J0sh FCC
The Dark Horse, Liscannor, Ireland by J0sh (FCC)

” . . . they would tell me nothing, except that they had been commanded to travel over Ireland continually, and upon foot and at night, that they might live close to the stones and the trees and at the hours when the immortals are awake.” ~ W.B. Yeats, from The Adoration of the Magi

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and humid, 81 degrees.

I just read the most remarkable essay in Parabola, “The Search for One Thing,” by Betsy Cornwell.

Please understand: This is more than one of my casual reblogs. Cornwell’s words hit so close to home, almost too close. Everything she says, I have felt. All of her words have been my words at one time or another, but not in such a beautiful, linear fashion. This essay explains Ireland for me—the green that I have long dreamed of—all of it, it’s all here.

Sea thrift and the sea by slkovjr fcc
Sea Thrift and the Sea by slkovjr (FCC)

The Aran Islands have been in my dreams since I first saw them in some forgotten movie eons ago. The cliffs, the green, the sheep, the sky—everything that I have ever wanted in one place.

I don’t have Cornwell’s past with her father, yet I can understand her need to break away, to search on her own. For so many years I wanted to break away, but the curse of the only child is that your life is never your own, at least not until your parents are gone, not unless you want to bear the label of being selfish, and it was a label I couldn’t bear.

I don’t think that anyone has ever completely understood my dream of Ireland. Corey tries; he knows that it’s someplace I have always wanted to go, but it’s more than just wanting to visit. I want to spend time there, days, weeks, months. I want to walk and bike and, well, mostly I want to think about my life.

It’s not escape I seek. It’s clarity. The kind of clarity I will never have here, not here in this house in this city in this state in this country. Don’t ask me why I know that to be true, but I do.

This is the biggest truth I know: I need to go to Ireland, and soon, otherwise, I fear it may be too late.


 

The Search for One Thing
by Betsy Cornwell

“Give it one week of hard frost,” my new husband says, “and all the green will be gone.” He has slowed the car to let two adolescent does cross the road, and we watch them vanish neatly into the ditch on the other side. In the 4:30 November gloom, the perfect white of their rumps is nearly all we can see.

Irish Cliffs minniemouseaunt FCC
Irish Cliffs by minniemouseaunt (FCC)

As they pass through the high brambles of the ditch, Richie admires their fleetness, their nimble feet. I say the deer must risk the danger of the road only because it’s winter and they are hungry, but he says they wouldn’t be wanting yet; that’s when he warns me about the week of frost, and the green.

But here, even in winter, Ireland is so green that to walk through the countryside is almost to think you are underwater. And here a ditch is not a hole, not an absence, but its opposite. An Irish ditch is a raised thicket, a dense living tangle of blackberry and ivy and gorse. Twining through the ditch are innumerable tiny tunnels—through them mice and spiders wind. No snakes here, of course—remember St. Patrick—but the tunnels mimic their absence, their silent, assured sinuousness.

When I first came to this country, I remember thinking that even if I jumped from one of its many cliffs I wouldn’t fall, but float, until the cool wet wind of this place carried me back, softly, onto the grass that is so green it is like water, like every kind of life pulled together into one.

I came here to renew—something, although I didn’t yet know what. And to escape, well, everything.

Two years ago, at the end of my MFA program, I was broken down and burned out, spent twigs for a spent fire. I did everything quickly, heart in my mouth, because I felt sure that if I took any extra time I would collapse into ash. I was teaching three times the prescribed student limit, tutoring, writing, finishing my thesis and my classes, and editing my first novel for next year’s publication—all jobs that filled me with whiplash joy and panic and soul-crushing insecurity. A person I loved had shown me such grinding ambivalence that I’d had to let him go, and I spent far too much time imagining our never-to-be future together. There was a cushion-laden corner of the floor in my cheap apartment that was alternately a nook for grading papers and a nest to curl up in and cry until I fell asleep. I ate whatever I thought would make me feel better, mostly
cheese and Vernor’s ginger ale. My heart was broken and my belly ached.

I had a particular dream that kept me working: I wanted to go to Ireland. I’d come in second for a Fulbright arts grant to write about selkies in Dublin, and the near miss had left me determined to get there on my own. But when the summer came and I looked at my finances, I realized that even with my book advance I would have to choose between Ireland and more earthly concerns like healthcare and rent.

That day, my father called and said he wanted to know my schedule for next year because he was taking the family to Africa. We would go on safari and sleep in tents together.

But I have spent much of my life figuring out how to avoid being in the same place as my father, especially at night. And for the first time, that day, I told him so. One advantage of being so very tired, on the threshold of adulthood, is that your childhood nightmares start getting tired too, and it is harder for them to frighten you.

“I can’t go,” I said in a voice that shook but was still my own voice, coming out of my own body. “I can’t sleep in the same room with you.”

Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry, Ireland by Jackie L Chan FCC
Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry, Ireland by Jackie L Chann (FCC)

The other end of the line was silent. After a few seconds he said, “All right. That doesn’t make me happy, but I understand.”

We hung up soon afterward, and one weight was strangely gone from the fears I carried.

A few days later he called again and offered to buy me a ticket to Ireland instead, since I wasn’t going to Africa. It felt like hush money—if I was brave enough to tell him I remembered, whom else might I tell? I said I would have to think about it. I felt sure I would say no, but that dream was a hard one for me to give up.

I went into town to have coffee with Trish, a woman twice my age who feels like someone I grew up with, a friend whom I often call my spiritual guide. The Catholic school we attended, with its Planned Parenthood protests, homophobia, and rape apologism, tempted me to throw up my hands at even a nebulous, agnostic God—but it was Trish’s faith that kept me searching for my own. She combines her devout and somewhat radical Catholicism with dashes of Buddhism and a sharp flair for the intersectionally feminist, and I’ve always loved her for it. I liked to say that she was “Tapped In To Something,” because it was the only way I could find of explaining her radiant wisdom and kindness, the light that shines through her. (When she’s not giving spiritual counsel to frightened young women, Trish is a professor of sociology and a brilliant poet.)

As soon as she sat down I started crying—big, gasping sobs from a shy woman who can rarely even manage to raise her voice in anger. I don’t know if I’d ever shown that much emotion in public before.

Trish stroked my arm. I wept into my giant bowl of latte.

When I quieted, she laughed and said “Honey, I wouldn’t go through my twenties again for anything.”

Galway by Shadowgate fcc
Galway by Shadowgate (FCC)

Suddenly, I felt much better. I wiped my eyes, and she asked me what was wrong.

Trish is third generation Irish-American; three of her grandparents were born on the island where I now live. And it was she, in the end, who brought me here. I told her what my father had offered, how it felt like a bargain I didn’t want to make, and that I never wanted to owe him anything ever again.

She looked at me steadily. “You never will,” she said. “He could give you money until the end of the world and you’d owe him nothing.” He’d taken more, she said, than he could ever give back; and though some well-trained part of me thought I was being a Bad Daughter, I admitted she was right.

“But . . .” said the Bad Daughter, on the verge of tears again. I found I couldn’t finish my sentence, and I took a deep, shaky breath. “God, I’m so tired. I’m sorry about this.” I waved at my eyes.

Trish shook her head. “Go to Ireland,” she said. “You’ll rest there, you’ll write your book. It’s where the world keeps its magic. And don’t go to Dublin. In fact . . .” She pulled out her tablet and did a quick image search. “You need to go here.”

Galway, Panoramic from Claddagh and River Corrib WC
Galway, Panoramic from Claddagh and River Corrib (Wikimedia Commons)

She showed me a Google page thick with pictures of green cliffs, dark waves, and small stone-bound fields. A girl’s feet dangled over the edge of one cliff, her legs mid-swing and
relaxed.

“The Aran Islands?” I laughed. “It’s mostly sweaters there, right?”

“The Aran Islands,” she said. “See? You’re happier already. Go there,” she thought for a moment, “for at least a month. It will heal your soul.”

My soul leapt out for healing, and I knew that I would go.

Three months later, I am sitting in the warmest corner of Tigh Joe Watty’s, one of only two pubs on the whole island. I am smiling, and every part of me feels light. Tall, redheaded Uinseon McCarron dances a beautiful Australian girl named Sjonelle across the dark wood floor, and the rest of us at the table watch and admire them, their easy grace and easier smiles. Dave, the handsome, acerbic owner of the hostel where we all work, comes back to the table with pints of cider. I haven’t written anything in weeks.

I did not understand, when I first came to Ireland, why I wasn’t writing. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t feel overworked, and suddenly I couldn’t work at all. I’d been manically, neurotically productive for years, trying to scratch my way into prep school, college, graduate school, New York agencies and publishing houses. And now here I was, not a student for the first time since I was three years old and my parents enrolled me in university preschool. I had my master’s, and my book wasn’t coming out for almost a year. I could support myself until then, meagerly, on my advance and hostel work-exchange.

Inishmann Teach Synge by Arcimboldo WC
Inishmann Teach Synge by Arcimboldo (Wikimedia Commons)

All my life I had wanted “to write full time,” but here I had all the time in the world, and I wasn’t writing at all. I would wake up early every morning determined to work, and I would hover over the Cinderella retelling on my computer, making small changes that meant nothing. I always ended those sessions at least a little disgusted with myself.

My afternoons, though, I set myself free, wandering through the cobblestoned Latin quarter of Galway City to the rushing gray mouth of the Corrib. I would walk the promenade from Galway to Salthill and back, looking out at the quiet bay, cold wind slipping over my face and silvering my hair and skin with salt, breathing air clean as miracles.

I’ve spent most of my life inside my head. In childhood my body was the site of fear and confusion at the hands of an adult protector; I became expert at curling up inside myself, where my senses would know and remember nothing. The desires and doubts of adolescence only made me retreat further. My body hardly ever did what I wanted it to; I have never even been good at sports.

As I grew older, this disconnect led me to think that my body had no needs of its own, and certainly not much value. It carried my mind and my heart around, and that was all. When I felt worn out at the end of school, I thought it was only my soul that hurt. I didn’t notice the knots in my back.

I struggled over my writing in Ireland, and as Trish had instructed me, I worked to heal my broken heart. It was my lungs and my legs, though, that first grew stronger, walking along the promenade, making beds and mopping floors at the hostel.

Galway gpoo FCC
Galway by gpoo (FCC)

Salt and clean air, and enough work to make you need them.

Healing was in my body, was stitching into my very cells, before I could even see it working, before I could see new words on the page. When I came here I thought I was failing, but something was already starting to grow.

In college, I studied literature and fairy tales. Some—”The Selkie Bride,” “Cinderella,” “Red Riding Hood,” “Tam Lin”—I’d read in different translations and retellings since I was a child. I have always loved, more than anything, stories. Stories helped me escape those parts of my childhood that I could talk about only years later. I told myself stories, too, even as I progressed into adulthood. I thought I knew what I wanted, whom I would love, how my life would lead. I was a good student, a follower of rules. Whenever I searched for something, I believed I knew what I would find, and when, and how.

I write fairy tales for a living now, and like many feminist writers I try to give my heroines the agency that they sometimes lack in older versions of the tales. The aims of women of my generation and the one before—and many, many brave and hard-fighting women before us—are all for choice and action. By action I mean achievement, agency, doing. I believe in these ideals; they keep the world moving forward, and help to give it some chance of (maybe, someday) being just.

But lately I have been thinking that these older princesses and witches and peasant girls have a kind of wisdom to offer us that has lately been lost: the wisdom of passivity, of stillness.

Those seemingly un-feminist stillnesses are nearly always there, in the most enduring of the old fairy stories. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood curled up in the wolf: what are they thinking, unthinking, as they lie there un-doing? Are they glad, un-chosen as it is, for the rest?

Whether they are or not, the stillness is part of the narrative, and therefore is itself part of the moving forward, the doing of the story. Even when they are still, their stories go on. And I have found, in the time that I have spent in this place, that stillness has a strength and power of its own. I believe now that I needed not to write for that time. There are many fields here that lie fallow.

Road through the Burren EoinGardiner FCC
Road through the Burren by EoinGardiner (FCC)

Soon after I met my husband on Inis Mor (the largest of the Aran Islands—oh, Trish, how right you were) he told me something that has twined itself through my heart ever since. In Irish, he said “faigheann iarraidh, iarraidh eile.” In English: the search for one thing leads to another.

I came to Ireland to write a book. I could not write, but if the soul is a place of quiet and stillness and peace inside oneself, I found mine, and the island and I healed it where it had been starved and broken. I met my partner, and I found my home. And nine months later, in the spring, living in East Galway with Richie, I began to write again.

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“If you want to learn what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph.” ~ Unknown

Here. My spirit is here. My body needs to be here.

Irish Headlands 1993 Nat Geo Photo of the Day

“Kindred headlands called The Three Sisters look to sea near Smerwick on the Dingle Peninsula. For the ambitious, country lanes lead past sheep paddocks to cities already bursting with job seekers.”—From “Ireland On Fast-Forward,” September 1994, National Geographic magazine
Photograph by Sam Abell

Kerry Coast by Steven Nestor My Shot Nat Geo Rock of Cashel by Christy Nicholas My Shot Nat Geo County Tipperary Ireland Ross Castle on the Shores of Killarney National Park, Ireland by Travel Pix Limited Nat Geo Pastoral Ireland by Jim Richardson Nat Geo Killiney Beach, Ireland by James OGorman, My Shot Nat Geo

                    

From a Country Overlooked

There are no creatures you cannot love.
A frog calling at God
From the moon-filled ditch
As you stand on the country road in the June night.
The sound is enough to make the stars weep
With happiness.
In the morning the landscape green
Is lifted off the ground by the scent of grass.
The day is carried across its hours
Without any effort by the shining insects
That are living their secret lives.
The space between the prairie horizons
Makes us ache with its beauty.
Cottonwood leaves click in an ancient tongue
To the farthest cold dark in the universe.
The cottonwood also talks to you
Of breeze and speckled sunlight.
You are at home in these
great empty places
along with red-wing blackbirds and sloughs.
You are comfortable in this spot
so full of grace and being
that it sparkles like jewels
spilled on water.

~ Tom Hennen

All images found on the National Geographic site.

Music by Martina McBride and The Chieftains, “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight”

Another video, this one of the country itself: Ireland: Flying through the country, by Liam Ó Brádaigh

“Find the joy in your life, Edward.” ~ Carter Chambers, The Bucket List

                   

Carter Chambers: Forty-five years goes by pretty fast.
Edward Cole: Like smoke through a keyhole. ~ From The Bucket List (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson)

So one of my newest compatriots over at Sweet Mother sent some blog love my way in the form of an award:

The rules are to use all 26 letters of the alphabet to say something about yourself. She made a list of 26 things that annoy her, which was hilarious, by the way. I talk about things that annoy me all day long, so I thought that for a change of pace, I’d make a list of 26 things that I want to put on my bucket list, places I want to see, people I want to meet, things I want to do. Can’t wait to get to Z.

Here goes:

Old Typewriter by rahego (FCC)

A: I won’t cheat by using the letter as the article that it is. In this case, I would have to say that it stands for Athens. I know that Greece is pretty much in the toilet right now, but I have long-held a desire to visit Greece for two reasons: to see if it really as is blue and white as all of the travel photos depict it and to visit the ancient ruins before they erode away completely. I’ll be you thought it would be Australia . . . that’s a different entry.

B: Is is too obvious to say that this stands for book, as in the one that I’m writing in my head, the one that I want to compose on an old IBM Selectric, the one that will probably never be published? The other b is Belgium. I wonder how much longer this little country will be around? I want to go. Something about the old architecture of Europe really calls to me.

Cardiff, Wales (Wikimedia Commons)

C: Hands down, Cardiff, Wales. Dr. Who. Torchwood. It’s Wales. It’s old. Did I say that it’s Wales? A close second would be cosmetic surgery, as in having the fat in my stomach moved around and redistributed to my tatas and my buttocks. But since I know the value of a dollar, this is not going to happen, so I’m sticking with Cardiff. The other c you’ve heard about time and again: a cottage by the sea with Adirondack chairs and a sprawling garden. One or the other or both, preferably,

D: Diving, as in scuba. I know. There is very little chance that with my lung capacity that this will ever happen, but the idea first occurred to me in the 10th grade when I opened a book and saw the incredible blue waters of some island, can’t even remember which one now. But I used to sit my butt down and watch every single Jacques Cousteau show that came on television before the days of 2,000 channels, and I always wanted to dive, to go far enough under the water to see the sea. Still want to do this.

E: Obviously, Ewoks are out of the question, but it’s such a great sounding word that I just had to throw it into the mix. Actually, there are two places in the world that I would love to see: Edewecht, Germany and Egypt. The first is where my German relatives live, and one day I’m going to make the trip across the water to see them. I don’t know if Egypt will ever happen, but wouldn’t it be cool to see all of the ancient architecture there?

F: As in Fitzgerald, F. Scott. I know that I cannot meet him, but I would love to live as an expat as he did, living on the edge, writing books and stories. Okay, to make it more realistic, let’s say France and Fitzgerald. The French are, admittedly, xenophobes who don’t much like anyone who isn’t French, but the museums, the cuisine, the wine . . . definitely on my want-to-do list.

Skydiving instructor: Okay, let’s deploy
Edward Cole: [singing] I’ve got a feeling I’m falling!
Skydiving instructor: We’re in the red zone, pull the cord!
Edward Cole: [singing] I’ve got a feeling I’m falling in love
Skydiving instructor: PULL THE DAMN CORD!
Edward Cole: [pause] I was in love once… ~ The Bucket List

G: This one has been on my list for years: glider. I want to feel the freedom of floating in a glider, which I imagine is as close to flying as a human can come (other than those bat suit thingies which look both intriguing and scary as hell), And no, hang-gliding would not be enough. I do have one other g: the Great Wall, which I want to see for my dad, who traveled the world but never saw this structure. I know that it was on his bucket list, even though he never really had one of those.

Silent Glider

H: Hammersmith, England, which is where I spent several years as a child. I would like to go back and see everything now as an adult, visit the pubs, go to all of the places that I saw as a child and appreciate them with adult eyes—Oxford Street and all the rest. Another h: hot air balloon. The idea of going up in something like this excites me, enthralls me. I had two chances previously, but did not do so. There was a boy in the very first composition class that I taught at Virginia Tech, and he was an avid ballooner (term?). He would write about it in detail, and ever since, I have wanted to do this.

I: Do I need to say it? Ireland. I’m going there one day, and I may never come back. It’s so built up in my head that I’m truly hoping that the reality doesn’t pale in comparison to my idea, but I don’t think so. So much history, so many writers and poets, so much green.

Ireland (from Trip Originator)

J: Jackson, as in Peter Jackson. I know that this might seem like a really bizarre fixation, but I think that this man is a genius, and I would love to meet him, work for him, fetch his tea, whatever. This man took my favorite series and made it a reality without butchering it, and considering the complexity of Tolkien’s vision, that’s nothing to sneeze at in derision.

K: Kiwi, as in New Zealand (see Peter Jackson above). I want to go to New Zealand as much as I want to go to Australia, and this isn’t a new want, and it didn’t even arise with Jackson. A lifetime ago, my ex and I actually talked seriously about moving across the world and starting over. The other big K is kayaking. I did this once, and I really loved it.

L: Not a person and not a place, but an animal: Labrador Retrievers. I have decided that I will always own at least one. They are the most loving of dogs, intelligent and loyal, and more importantly, they make me laugh, which is not something that I can say about many things. The other l is library, as in a personal library, as in I want.

M: Manola Blahniks or something in that vein, Louboutin, Gucci, whatever. Yes, I would probably fall off them and break something, but just once, to have a really expensive pair of shoes, even second-hand. I don’t know why. This is a bucket list, after all. It doesn’t have to be reasonable. The other really extravagant item that has been on my list for a very long time is a Mercedes SL. I know that I’ll never own one of the sports line of this driving machine, but as with the shoes, I can dream.

Louboutin Classic Pumps

N: New York. I know that it sounds trite, but I want to go back to New York with Corey and show him all of the museums, enjoy the bustle and flow, be a tourist. The other place in this category is New Orleans. I haven’t been in many years, and definitely not since Hurricane Katrina. I want to go back and have hot beignets and rich coffee.

O: Another one that I have long had on the list: the Orient Express. Yes, in part because of Agatha Christie, but also because I think that it would be a remarkable way to tour several countries, do the entire line, all the way to Istanbul. Expensive, possibly prohibitively so, but a woman can still dream, can’t she? Oh, another o: Oregon. Don’t know why, but think I would like it.

P: A poesy ring.This speaks to the very heart of my Medieval nature. These rings are based on ancient designs in which the inscribed phrase is Latin, Greek, ancient Gaelic, or French, among others, and I have wanted one for years and years. And of course, Ph.D., as in still want one.

Orient Expressman Pullman by Dick Penn (FCC)

Q: Queensland, Australia. My blogger friend Maureen has instilled in me an appreciation for Australia, and I really want to see the Great Barrier Reef.

R: Rowing. Sounds strange, yes, but I actually enjoyed the act of rowing when I owned a rowing machine, and I used to think that I would like to translate the act to the water itself. If not full on rowing, then kayaking. Ideally, I would kayak in Australia and then fly over to New Zealand to visit Peter Jackson . . .

S: Selectric, vintage (see B above). Red or black. Good working order. Will pay for shipping . . .

T: Tri-gold interlocked ring, preferably antique. Again, another long-held desire of mine. A friend of mine at the newspaper had one as her wedding band, and it was an antique, and I coveted it from the moment I first laid eyes on it. Such a simple design but so beautiful. When Corey and I first talked about getting married, I had told him that I wanted one, but we never found one.

Carter Chambers: [to Edward, of the two questions asked of the dead by the gods at the entrance to heaven] Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others? ~ The Bucket List

U: Not a country, not an item, not a person, but a feeling: unburdened, unencumbered, as in no more outstanding debt. No more calls from creditors. No more bills that cannot be paid. To feel the weight of such a state lifted from our collective shoulders—achieving this one would be pure bliss. Truly.

Buick Enclave

V: Vehicle of my own, mine, just mine. I know that this is an American thing, that Europeans don’t possess this car-love, but it’s been so long since Izzie, my Trooper, and I haven’t had my own vehicle, and gosh darnit, I want one. I only have a few specifications: small SUV, hybrid would be nice, color must be black or charcoal grey, leather seats so that I can have heat for my back, a good stereo system, and plenty of cup holder space. The vehicle doesn’t have to be new, but it has to be mine.

W: A walkabout. I don’t know where, perhaps the Appalachian Trail, but I love the concept. Not a Forrest Gump kind of walkabout, but a Crocodile Dundee kind of walkabout, without the hamminess. I used to love to go hiking in the Virginia foothills, and always fancied going further. Men can do walkabouts, but a woman setting off on her own in an unknown direction for an unspecified amount of time? Still not possible, really, is it? For now, I’ll fill this dream with simply getting back to walking. Soon. Really.

X: I always think of Coleridge when confronted with x, and a place that no longer exists: “In  Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome decree.” I’m going to cheat on this one because I really cannot think of anything x-specific, so instead, I’ll do math: a+b=x, with a being the equivalent of a room, and b being the equivalent of ample space, which makes x the equivalent of a room with enough space to have my writing area, my books, and a comfy seat to curl up with a book.

Window Seat (from Coastal Living)

Y: Yoga. I miss yoga. I loved the way that it made me feel. These past few years when the money has been so tight and extras have been out of the question, I’ve put the idea of yoga classes on the back burner. I’m hoping that by this summer I might be able to start taking them again.

Z: This was a toss-up. Should I choose zenzizenzizenzic, which everyone knows is the eighth power of a number? Or how about zho, the cross between a yak and a cow? Or perhaps zoanthropy, the delusion that one is an animal? I do happen to like zydeco, Louisiana Creole music, and I have eaten zwieback, a toasted biscuit. I’m not particularly fond of ziti, finding it too thick. I could go on for days; the Internet is a wonderful place for nonsense. In other words, I don’t have a z place or a z person. I suppose I have arrived at zeroable—able to be removed from a sentence without any loss of meaning.

Runners-up: A hedgehog, anything leather by Kenneth Cole, Iceland, white-water rafting, a 5K, built-in bookcases, room of my own, a comfortable couch, the Venice opera house, and the means to buy any book that I want.

Thanks again, Sweet Mother.

More later. Peace.

                   

Late addition:

ABC

I’ll never find out now
What A. thought of me.
If B. ever forgave me in the end.
Why C. pretended everything was fine.
What part D. played in E’s silence.
What F. had been expecting, if anything.
Why G. forgot when she knew perfectly well.
What H. had to hide.
What I. wanted to add.
If my being around
meant anything
to J. and K.
and the rest of the alphabet.

~ Wislawa Sz;ymborska 

This. Right Here.

Not a real post today, but a visual representation of every conceivable reason why I want to live in Ireland. If only Corey would understand that this, right here, is everything, and that house, sitting in the middle of all of this green, that would be my version of heaven.

Dunes of Inoshowen, Ireland, by Dave Johnston for National Geographic

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~ St. Augustine

 

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu

It’s 7:50 a.m., and I haven’t been to sleep yet.

Corey and I stayed up very late watching King Arthur with Clive Owen. I felt the need for a Clive fix, and I still wasn’t the least bit sleepy at 3, so I decided to watch another movie. Corey came into the bedroom right as I was starting the movie, and he decided to watch with me. As a result, we turned off the television at 6 a.m.

Corey went to sleep immediately. I, however, did not and have yet to close my eyes. During the movie I noticed that I was scratching my arms and neck but didn’t really think anything of it. Once the movie was over, I was in full-blown itch mode, and have yet to get it under control. I took a Benadryl around 6:15, hoping that it would stop the itching and put me to sleep. An hour and a half later, I’m still scratching and not asleep.  I just took another Benadryl, so I thought that I would write a bit until something kicks in—either a rash all over my body or sleep. Personally, I would prefer sleep.

Last night I was getting ready to insert my images into my post when the Internet went out. How annoying. I finally wrote a post (of sorts), and then couldn’t publish it. I was this close: formatted, quotes, song, but then bam. No Internet.

Today I had planned to write about traveling, as in if I could go anywhere in the world, where would I go and why? I’ve selected five places, all for very different reasons.

“Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking” ~ Antonio Machado

Irish Cliffs of Moher
Irish Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

Ireland: I have wanted to go to Ireland since I was a teenager. Ireland is the land of poets and writers. It’s the land of civilizations long gone and ancient ruins. I want to see the River Shannon and visit Limerick. Take pictures of the 8000-year-old Castle of St. John, and then to County Clare’s west coast to see the Cliffs of Moher. Then on to Derry and visit some pubs.

My friend Kathleen has an Irish heritage, and she was finally able to make the trip a few years ago. She says that Ireland is one of the most beautiful places that she has ever seen. I used to work with a photographer of some repute who actually lived in Ireland with his family and flew to the states for shoots. We talked about the advantages of living in Ireland and how it is a country that embraces its artists.

Australia Whitsundays Islands
Whitsundays Islands, Australia

Australia: Even though my dear friend Maureen lives in Australia, she is not my main reason for choosing this country. In fact, my ex and used to talk about moving to Australia. In particular, I would like to visit Queensland, see the Great Barrier Reef, and of course, visit the Whitsundays Islands.

I don’t know if I am generalizing, but it seems that Australia has so many more opportunities to get away from the hectic pace of life. And then there would be the opportunity to sit across the table from Maureen, sip tea, enjoy some of her baking, and talk for hours.

Greece: Ever since I first saw pictures of the white church domes against the blue sea, I have wanted to visit Greece—the cradle of Western civilization. This ancient country has so much to offer: The Acropolis with the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike; the Castellian Spring in Delphi. Even though it’s supposed to be a tourist trap, I would like to go to the island of Santorini.

Fira Santorini Greece
Fira Santorini, Greece

The landscape is beautiful, with the cliffs, the white houses with blue doors, and the black sand. I know that my idea of Greece is probably idealized, but that first image has stayed with me for years, and I know that some day I am going to see those blue and white domes overlooking the sea. I just don’t know when that will be.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” ~ Jawaharial Nehru

France: The Louvre. I could stop there, but there is so much more. France is steeped in culture and fine cuisine. We visited briefly when I was a child and my father was in the Navy. But even that short stay still sticks in my mind. I want to see Paris when it isn’t overrun with tourists, and I want to visit the valleys that are lush with vineyards. I want to see the countryside of Aquitaine and the Bordeaux vineyards. Tour La Champagne and see the medieval castles and the Forest of Ardenne.

When I think of France, I think of expansive fields of lavender in Provence, fine art, and rich creamy sauces. I imagine myself sitting outside at a café, sipping coffee and listening to the bustle of people about me. Or walking the beaches of the Riviera, enjoying the sunshine and azure waters. It is an appealing image.

And finally, Italy: Rome. At one time, the Roman Empire stretched across Eurasia. So many aspects of contemporary life can be attributed to the Romans: our system of government, the architecture that reflects Roman influences, even the idea of arenas. Of course, I want to see the Colosseum in Rome, but just as enticing is Tuscany: the rolling hills, the museums in Florence (the Uffizi and the Accademia).

Venice Opera House
Venice Opera House

I would also like meander through Venice, see the mosaics in the Basilica di San Marco, visit the rebuilt Opera House, travel in the canals, and wander through the perilously narrow streets. Actually, there is far too much in Italy that I want to see. I would probably need months and months to satisfy my appetite.

Perhaps I should probably do a Mediterranean cruise. Then I would be able to see the hot spots without having to find hotels, which can be quite pricey. Come to think of it, I could do an an Australian cruise. And once I have completed all of my cruising, I could decide on where to relocate!

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” ~ Martin Buber

I know. I’m daydreaming, and I’m daydreaming quite extravagantly. Just imagine how much money would be involved . . . but the exercise was not to fret over cost but to consider where I would want to go, not how I would pay to go. That’s why it’s called daydreaming and not reality.

Oh well. I’ll just have to keep my passport valid and hope that one day I win the lottery.  No wait. You have to play in order to win, don’t you? Well I suppose that rules out that particularly unrealistic massive windfall.

How will I get to these places? I’ll think about that tomorrow . . . right now, I’m going to try to close my eyes and sleep. I’ll let you know how that whole peaceful dreams thing goes. I would love to know where you dream of going, which places you would like to see given the opportunity.

Piano music of George Winston . . .

 

More later. Peace.

Sometimes It’s the Little Things

clas tub + candles

 Feels Like a Little Bit of Heaven

Fifty Things About Me That Are Totally Irrelevant:

  1. My middle name is Gayle. Just think about that for a minute . . . Lolita Gayle. Can you perceive any possible rhyme or reason why those two names might be linked together in any way? Me neither. It has always dumbfounded me as to why my parents chose this for my middle name, and I have always hated having Gayle as my middle name. It’s not the name that I hate, per se. It’s the name in conjunction with my first name. No poetry there. No melody. No logic. But what can you do? My cup of teadaughter hates her middle name also, and her father and I thought that it went very well with her first name, so I suppose that it’s just one of those parent things.
  2. Whenever I go to a bar, I order three things simultaneously: whatever liquor I’m drinking, for example Kahlua and cream, plus a glass of iced water, and a cup of hot tea. This is one of the reasons that I like to go to places where the wait staff knows me. They don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I place my order. Why do I do this? Why is my middle name Gayle? Exactly. Actually, I like to drink all three things at once. I pace myself by drinking water throughout the night, and I like my hot tea. I’m not a big drinker in the first place, so my combo works very well for me.
  3. I have only had short hair a few times in my life, and the times that I did have it, I hated it. I’m just not a short hair person. I feel like I look like a monkey when I have short hair. Of course when I was a child, my mother used to chop off my hair regularly. She would see a hairstyle that she thought was very chic, and then I would lose hair. I hated it when she would do that.womens-collage
  4. I have always been a flaming liberal, and females who say that they aren’t feminists don’t really understand the true definition of the word.
  5. I have two crooked toes. They were never broken, but the fourth toe on each foot is curved like a comma. It has never really bothered me unless someone asks me about it.
  6. Speaking of toes, I have Filipino toes, as in, I can pinch with my toes and pick up things with my toes. I know, also very strange, but trust me, this is not an unusual trait among Filipinos.
  7. Cats make me have asthma attacks, which is a shame since cats love me, and if I enter a house in which a cat resides, said cat will make a beeline for my face.
  8. My favorite thing to do when I go out is singing Karaoke. That’s because I’m a ham and a thwarted Broadway star. I had planned to run away to New York after high school, but it never happened.
  9. I’m a classically-trained pianist, but never felt that I was very good at it, even after 14 years of lessons.
  10. I have been a vegetarian a couple of times in my life, and there was no particular reason for it other than I got tired of eating red meat. I’ve never been a vegan and don’t even have the least idea as to how one does that.
  11. I love Beethoven as much as I love the Beatles, Frederic Chopin as much as I love Kenny Chesney, Stravinsky as much as I love Springsteen. My playlists usually cover about four genres of music.
  12. Cayman Islands beachMore than just about anything else, reading is my favorite way to pass the time. Reading on a tropical beach is even better. Reading a good mystery on a tropical beach with an umbrella drink is the best.
  13. My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love to decorate the house and to buy the perfect presents for the people in my life. No one else in my family gets as excited about Christmas, and that always makes me a bit melancholy.
  14. I make lots of lists—grocery lists, shopping lists, to do lists—and I lose them almost as soon as I make them, which kind of negates the whole purpose of lists.
  15. painted toenailsI always keep my toenails painted. When I went into labor with Alexis, I took the time to paint my toenails and mop the kitchen floor. One of the things I hated about having back surgery was my inability to paint my toenails for a while.
  16. I have worked as a writer, editor, marketing director, resume writer, newsroom supervisor, grants writer, proposal development specialist, graduate teaching assistant, university English instructor, membership coordinator, publications manager, 6th grade public school teacher, senior education specialist, and research and development assistant. The job that I hated the most was teaching 6th grade for Norfolk Public Schools. The job that I loved the most was teaching at a university. The environment that I enjoyed working in the most was at an arts museum. The environment that I enjoyed working in the least was for a non-profit help group.
  17. I have been to the following countries: England, Scotland, France, Germany, Morocco, the Philippines, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Belize, and Spain. The places that I have not yet been to that still want to see include Ireland, Wales, Greece, Costa Rica, Australia, China, and New Zealand.
  18. A job that I think I would have been good at? Being a crime analyst (in the lab, not in the field). I love solving mysteries, and it seems that analyzing evidence would be one of those jobs that would continue to evolve.
  19. The major that I seriously considered and actually regret not pursuing is marine biology. I considered pre-med, psychology, and anthropology. I ended up getting two of my degrees in English, but I have always been interested in life under the sea. I did take my LSAT’s because I was going to go to law school when we moved to northern Virginia, but then I got pregnant with Alexis and changed my mind. 
  20. Tartan 27 Sailboat
    Tartan 27 Sailboat
  21. I almost bought a 27-foot boat when I was in college that I wanted to live on. Do I regret not doing this one? Absolutely. How often are you that free in your life? No ties, no debts, the ability to make life-changing decisions. I was completely stupid for not following through on this one, and the only thing that held me back was fear.
  22. My best feature? My legs. My worst feature? Everything else.
  23. My favorite flower is lilac.
  24. My favorite scent is Calvin Klein’s Eternity.
  25. My favorite colors are black, red, and purple, in that order.
  26. I love black leather boots, my full-length black leather coat, and squooshy black leather hobo bags. My favorite leather designer is Kenneth Cole, and I don’t believe that you can ever have too many boots or purses.
  27. black bootsI love cashmere but cannot wear it because it gives me a rash.
  28. I love silk and wear it as often as possible.
  29. I love the smell of freshly cut roses, but hate the smell of rose-scented candles.
  30. My favorite jeans are Levi’s, and I cannot imagine ever paying $200 for a pair of jeans.
  31. My favorite jewelry, besides my wedding rings, are my crosses. I have a gold Claddagh cross, a gold crucifix, and three rosaries. I am not Catholic.
  32. I would have been a good lawyer because I like to win.
  33. Among the things that I like to collect are watches, especially ones with big faces and leather straps.
  34. My mom pierced my ears with a needle when I was 12.
  35. I have one tattoo on my back. I want to get at least two other tattoos.
  36. I am claustrophobic in crowded places: elevators, coliseums, rallies.
  37. I can curse without moving my lips.
  38. gem_aquamarineI spent several formidable years of my childhood in London, England. I went to a public school, and I had a very proper British accent. I haven’t been back to England since I was a child, and I would love to go back just to see how much it has changed.
  39. My birthstone is garnet, but my favorite stone is aquamarine.
  40. I am stupidly jealous, and more than once have made an idiot of myself because of it, but it stems from my insecurity.
  41. I believe that if you make a promise, you should keep it even if it’s to a small child. If you know that you aren’t going to keep the promise, don’t make it. Broken promises cause disillusionment.
  42. Keeping information from someone is the same thing as being dishonest. I know. This is probably a woman thing.
  43. I could go my entire life without watching the NFL and never miss it.
  44. I want to live in the mountains and by the sea.
  45. I love good coffee, Belgium chocolate, and angel hair pasta.
  46. I love fresh seafood, but refuse to eat lobster because I think that they should be allowed to live on the bottom of the ocean for as long as they can.cupid's bow lips
  47. I miss wearing suits and heels.
  48. I always have something on my lips, at least gloss, throughout the day.
  49. I would love to pursue another degree.
  50. Nothing is better for stress than a hot bath, lots of candles, a glass of wine, and someone washing your hair for you.
  51. This is the longest amount of time that I have spent thinking about just myself in forever, and I only did it because I couldn’t think of anything else to post.

More later on a different subject. Promise. Peace.

One Hundred Things

A dock at sunset on White Sands Island in the Maldives.

These are the things . . .

I realized that even though I’ve done a few memes on here, I haven’t ever really talked about myself completely, honestly. So I thought that I would compose a random list, just to see where it takes me. So here we go:

  1. I like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. About the only vegetable I really hate is okra, and that’s because it’s slimey and hairy.
  2. I’ve never eaten escargot. No matter how much garlic you put on it, it’s still a snail.
  3. I love shrimp, but I will not eat lobster. If someone around me orders lobster, I make clawing motions with my hands and say “help me” in a high-pitched voice so as to shame them for eating something that could live for years and years in the ocean.
  4. I also will not eat lamb or veal. Do you know how they make veal? If you did, then you couldn’t possibly eat it.
  5. I love chocolate. I have tried to give up chocolate many times as it is not good for my headaches, and it is full of calories, but it keeps coming back and jumping into my mouth when I’m not looking.

    kayaking-at-first-landing-state-park-by-karen-roberts
    Kayaking at First Landing State Park by Karen Roberts
  6. The last time I was timed, I typed 126 words a minute. That was a long time ago, and I type much faster now.
  7. I have gone kayaking, and actually really enjoyed it. If I had the opportunity, I would own my own kayak and use it on the Chesapeake Bay.
  8. I like to go hiking in the foothills of Virginia, but I haven’t done it since I hurt my back. My ex and I once went hiking/camping with some friends of ours. The girl wore penny loafers to go hiking. That was her idea of old shoes. I ended up carrying the guy’s pack on the hike back. Not outdoor people.
  9. I love my dogs and treat them like children. Dogs are meant to be loved and talked to. People who abuse dogs should be put in jail as far as I’m concerned. A man who will beat a dog will beat a child or a woman. Don’t ever believe any differently.
  10. I enjoy the smell of fresh cut lilacs, rosemary, gardenias, and lavender.
  11. Butterflies are small miracles.
  12. tiger-swallowtail-on-lantana
    Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana by L. Liwag
  13. My three children, who are no longer small, are still my pride and joy, even when they screw up. After all, who doesn’t screw up once in a while?
  14. I would love to have more children, even though I am considered past my childbearing years. But what does that mean, anyway? I really don’t care.
  15. If I could live anywhere in the world, I would live somewhere where I could see water and mountains at the same time.
  16. I believe in nationalized medicine and a flat tax rate.
  17. I am a liberal liberal. I don’t mind paying more taxes if it means that there will be better schools and better healthcare. My only protest against paying more taxes is that I want the rich to pay their fair share, too, and to stop having so many loopholes so that they end up paying less than those of us in the middle of the road.
  18. I miss my father every day of every week of every year. I see him in my dreams often. I believe that he is looking out for me as best he can.
  19. When I was at the beach once, I asked god for a sign that things were going to be all right, and then the waves pulled back, and a perfect shell was there at my feet.
  20. I believe in angels.
  21. I wish that I remembered more from my publishing class on computer systems, but it was such a painful experience the first time that I think that I have blocked everything that I managed to learn.
  22. I love Beowulf (not the movie, the written version)
  23. I wish that I looked like Angelina Jolie, but I wish more that I had her ability to go to poor countries and do something for the people who live there.
  24. angelina-jolie-goodwill-ambassador
    Angelina Jolie as Goodwill Ambassador
  25. I collect stuffed bears, and I buy the ones who look like they need a home.
  26. I have a calendar fetish. I always have at least three calendars of my own: one next to my desk, one in my purse, and one in the kitchen. If I had more places to put them, I would have more.
  27. I am a speed reader, but I don’t scan in order to read more quickly. For example, I read each of the Harry Potter Books, even the longest one, in just one day.
  28. I have read The Lord of the Rings more times than I can remember.
  29. The English Patient is one of the most beautiful books ever written, and the movie is still one of my favorites.
  30. I get silly drunk about two times a year, but otherwise, I drink very seldom.
  31. I don’t do illegal drugs, and the worst thing I ever did when I was a teenager was speed, and I hated the way that it made me feel.
  32. I love to learn. I have one bachelor’s degree, and two master’s degrees. I would go for another degree in a heartbeat.
  33. I miss being in the front of the classroom but not enough to teach in the Norfolk Public School system.
  34. I’ve never been in a girl fight. How utterly stupid.
  35. I am very sentimental. I can cry at a Hallmark commercial, a Lifetime movie, or a YouTube clip. Sarah McLachlan’s commercials about animals in shelters just kills me.
  36. I am fiercely loyal and protective.
  37. I am an Aquarius.
  38. Eamonn and Caitlin’s birthdays are within ten days of each other in March (Pisces); Alexis and Brett’s birthdays are within three days of each other in July (Cancer).
  39. It’s far easier to give birth in March than in July.
  40. I’m not afraid of needles, as in having blood drawn, but I hate it when I get someone who is not good at putting in an IV. That hurts.
  41. I talk back to the computer and other inanimate objects. I also carry on conversations with other drivers, but they don’t know it.
  42. I love coffee and hot tea. I drink cream in most types of hot tea except for Earl Gray and Oolong.
  43. claire-lerner-blue-tea-cup1
    "Blue Tea Cup," by Claire Lerner
  44. My favorite dessert is Tiramisu, followed closely by real New York cheesecake.
  45. I used to be a shopaholic but have since reformed, for a variety of reasons.
  46. I believe that psychopharmaceuticals were developed for a reason and that no one should be ashamed of having to take them.
  47. I hate it when people jump to conclusions.
  48. I have a terrible habit of correcting other people’s English.
  49. My husband is younger than I am, and when we first got together, no one thought that it would last. We’ve been together for nine years, and it is the best relationship of my life.
  50. My mother is without a doubt the one person in this world who can get to me more than anyone else. She knows exactly what buttons to push.
  51. I wish that Alexis believed in herself more, but at this point, I have to let her be who she is and try not to interfere.
  52. My last beta, Mulder, decided that he didn’t like me and wouldn’t look at me any more. I took it very personally. He doesn’t live here any more.
  53. blue-beta
    Blue Beta: Mulder Did Not Look Like This
  54. I am hooked on crime shows: CSI, Without a Trace, Law & Order. I do not like sitcoms.
  55. Heidi Klum is über gorgeous, especially when she is pregnant.
  56. American society is fixated on how people look and doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to educating its children.
  57. Someday, I want to go to Australia, Ireland, and Greece.
  58. I love to take pictures but don’t like to have my picture taken.
  59. Cruises cease to be fun when you run out of money.
  60. My big goal in life is to be debt-free and to have good credit again.
  61. All of my children inherited my propensity for depression as I inherited it from my father. Sometimes genetics really sucks.
  62. I wish that Mari lived nearby so that we could spend time together again.
  63. I need to get off my ass and put together my book, but I am too scared of the whole rejection process.  
  64. point-woronzof-sunset-2-by-janson-jones
    Point Woronzof Sunset by Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana
  65. I managed a newsroom when I was 19-years-old.
  66. One day, I will figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
  67. Ending sentences in a preposition really bothers me.
  68. I love to use quotations by other people in my own work. It helps me to focus.
  69. I love sunsets and sunrises. I cannot think of anything more beautiful than a painted sky.
  70. I miss getting dressed, putting on make-up and going to work everyday. I love make-up.
  71. I hate dreaming that I am at work.
  72. I believe that men and women can be friends, but sooner or later, sex tries to get in the way.
  73. I love music: classical, pop, classic rock, country, new age (whatever the hell that means), opera, blues, even some hard rock.
  74. My birthstone is garnet, which I love, but I also love pearls, aquamarines, and diamonds.
  75. One day, I am going to have a big diamond ring, just because.
  76. I used to love to wear hats, but now I just look silly.
  77. I have long wavy hair, and I would like a new hairstyle, but I look like a monkey when I have short hair.
  78. I usually eat one big meal a day (dinner), and maybe a snack, but I cannot lose weight. I hate that.
  79. I can be very impatient, which can lead to my being snarky, especially when I’m driving.
  80. I find that I always end up telling Corey where to park, even though he doesn’t need my help. I wonder why I do that?speed-limit-sign
  81. I speed on the interstate, but I obey the speed limit in the city.
  82. I desperately need a new old car that is just mine because Eamonn ruined Izzie the Trooper, and it smells like cigarettes.
  83. I love ankle bracelets and earrings, and I love watches, but am down to about four now that still work.
  84. I smoked during college exams, but I hate cigarettes, and cigarette smoke.
  85. I don’t look my age, but that is because of good genes and Oil of Olay Regenerist, and I don’t ever tell people how old I really am.
  86. Writing my blog posts is my daily therapy.
  87. Both Shakes and Tillie snore, but Tillie snores louder. I snore louder than anyone in the house.
  88. I hate my body. I feel like a sausage most of the time.
  89. I really love shoes and boots, especially boots.
  90. I wear Christmas socks all year long.
  91. We are not friendly with most of our neighbors. I wonder why.
  92. I have never really wanted to own a horse, but I have considered living on an old farm.
  93. I am a hoarder when it comes to books and sentimental things like old cards and letters.
  94. I used to own a yard tractor and would mow the yard in my bathing suit. Of course, that was when I was in good shape. My nasty neighbor to my left thought that it was scandolous.
  95. I hold a grudge, expecially if I feel that I have been wronged unfairly.
  96. I think about revenge, but have never actually taken it.
  97. Bad manners offend me, and my sons know this and use it to drive me crazy.
  98. I wash my hands a lot, but I don’t think that I am OCD about it.
  99. One day, my bedroom will finally be painted, and I will be able to put in my new furniture.
  100. I like antiques even though my mother calls them “tired, old things” and believes that people should move on.  
  101. yoda-1
    Original Yoda
  102. I have a hard time moving on, and don’t adjust to change very well.
  103. I like the first three Star Wars movies (chronologically) a lot better than the last three (numerically).
  104. Corey brings me a cup of hot mint tea every night before bed. Isn’t that thoughtful?
  105. I am a pantheist: I believe that god, some kind of god, exists in all things: people, animals, trees, water, and that if we listen carefully enough, we can become one with all things in nature.
  106. One day, I will finally go on a poetry retreat.
  107.  

That’s quite enough for today. Peace.