Saturday, 30 June 2012

When Night Comes

When night comes,
As it comes, over
And over again,
Pay attention to the
Closing down of colour.

Sky fills with unreal hue,
As blackness rises
And if you breathe deeply
You can taste

Six am

Its six in the morning and I'm awake. Sleep won't come again tonight. The sun has already risen, and it's a glorious morning.

Lying in bed five minutes ago, I felt frustrated to wake so early on a Saturday, on a day where I don't have to rush myself and the children out and about our days.

Out here in the garden now, standing in the wet, overly long grass, I'm glad I woke early. I can relish these few quiet hours before the world begins its bustle again.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Midsummer Nightfall

(oil pastel on paper)


I was in Portugal recently and was intrigued by the fruit buds softly and greenly ripening on the fig trees. In June, they are already round and green, and just starting to enter their fullness, although they don't ripen completely until August.

They look lush. The leaves look lush. Coming to fruition.

The figs don't have to work hard to become what they are meant to be. And they don't control their destiny. Maybe they'll be eaten by birds, their seeds scattered. Maybe they'll be eaten and relished by people, licking the stickiness off their fingers. Or maybe they'll grow so ripe they fall to the ground and feed the small animals and insects.

They bud, grow, have their moment of fruiting and are gone, part of everything else in the universe.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Midsummer nights

Its 10.30pm. Still light outside.
A slight breeze, and warm.
Bats swoop low over the road above my head. Distant tractors clunk their way home.
I find an old road I never knew existed, not five minutes from my front door.
A gentleness around me.

Basic Needs

(Bruno the pup at 5.30 this morning)

Observing this new arrival, since he left his mother and his brothers and sisters in the litter six days ago, I'm struck by the universal needs reflected in the world of a small pup.

When he's left alone, his cry is loud enough to spread through the whole house. It's unbearable. Of course it is. It's designed by nature to let his mother find him if he gets separated from the pack. He's crying because he's designed by nature not to be alone. His place is with the pack, with the litter, with his mother.

When he's with us, his substitute pack, he doesn't cry. When he's left alone, his whole being focuses its attention on becoming loud enough to be found.

Humans too have a basic need to belong; to our families, our communities, our friendships and relationships, our organisations, workplaces and places of education. And yet so many feel they don't belong. So many struggle to find their belonging. Perhaps if we had a loud distress call, and it was socially acceptable to cry out our longing to belong, we could be more easily "found" and reconnected.

"I'm not lost, I'm not lost, just undiscovered" James Morrison

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Swallows nesting

(oil pastel on watercolour paper)

Swallows and hope

The swallows are trying to nest again. Every year, faithfull, like clockwork, they start building their nest on our gable wall, under the eaves. Every year, without fail, they complete the nest and the westerly winds sweeping up the valley from Clara Vale pull the clumps of mud, so carefully made into a nest, off the wall.

Its a triumph of hope over experience. I watch them, and decide to take in this lesson about starting over, again and again, however futile it may feel.

Play and learning

"It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age"

Margaret Mead

Friday, 22 June 2012


It's astonishing to think that six months have passed since I wrote this, at the winter solstice:

...and here were are at another turning of the year. What an extraordinary six months it has been. The longest day. The shortest night. Midsummer's eve. As a gale rages outside, and the sun approaches the horizon through misting rain.

What an extraordinary world, and how lucky are we to be part of it?

My world has turned, and turned again in the last six months. Many things I was certain of have disappeared. Many things I did not expect have arrived.

Summer solistice. Stretching me wide, as wide as can be, to wait for a future I cannot imagine.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Arrabida sunset

(acrylic on watercolour paper)

My interpretation of last night's sunset.

Last night of holiday. Ah my! Wishing we could stay.


Andrew is 7. He woke up this morning, on this last day of our holiday, and said "can we write something". Then he gave me this:


Teardrops. When you cry,
They dribble down you,
Like a silent waterfall.
And the waterfall ends up
In a lake. The lake carries on
With happiness, until
It hits again.

Andrew Howell
Palmela Village

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Dawn, Palmela Village, Setubal

Sunrise Palmela Village
(oil pastlel on paper)

I woke this morning early, and couldn't get back to sleep.I lay quietly for a while and tried to let all the fretting die down.

At around 5.30, the wedding guests arrived back. I heard the bus pulling in, people opening apartment doors. No more.

Still I couldn't sleep. I stepped onto the balcony, and watched the sun begin to lighten the sky.This is what I saw.

Another Sunset

The world sets out to enrapture us, day after day, and we blithely go by, caught up in our daily dramas and our self absorbed scripts.

There are moments that make us stop, draw breath, and connect with the mystery.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


Bark on an unknown Portuguese tree

I'm fascinated by the texture, pattern and colour of bark. This bark is completely different to what I find in Ireland. Far more bumpy and knobbly.

It's good to be in a new landscape, and to find new things to notice. Driving today, I was struck by the large numbers of stork's nests, on chimneys, on electrical pylons; and the storks abroad, stretched long in the sky, searching for food for their chicks.

Now evening is falling and colours are beginning to mute. Life is good. Life is good.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Costa Caparica Sunset - waves breaking on rocks

Caparica Sunset
(acrylic on watercolour paper)

Last night, we headed to Costa Caparica, to the "eat all you can" sushi restaurant. When we'd eaten all we could of raw fish, wasabi, pickled ginger, noodles and octopus, we took a stroll along the seashore. The sun was just setting. A beautiful Portuguese evening, cold enough to need the jumpers I'd brought. We walked out onto a rocky promontary, and listened to, and watched the waves break. Not ferocious, but steady, and strong.

I took some great photos, and planned to post one today. But hey ho, this morning brought a trip to the village pharmacy in Quinto do Anjo, to get painkillers for a boy with a sore throat. I called into the little newsagent's in the square to get pencils and a notepad - and found a small "schoolkit" of tiny 10ml tubes of acrylic paint - black, cyan blue, yellow, magenta and white. All for €6.90 including a plastic paint tray. Two small brushes at €0.90 each.

And hey ho ~ I painted it instead.

Saturday, 9 June 2012


Taking ourselves so seriously all the time.

Slice a watermelon in half. Feel the flesh seperate.

Slice it again into manageable pieces. Taste. Life is sweet.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Of my flesh

Somewhere high over Spain, I catch sight of my boy from behind. A thought comes, unbidden, perfectly formed. "I will never again hold in my arms a new person who five minutes before was inside me".

My time of my children is racing by. One day soon, in the blink of a decade, the youngest will fly the nest.

I let these precious days pass by, with loving, impatience, hugs, annoyance, frustration. And yet, flesh of my flesh, right here. One, become two, and manifest in the world.

Self becoming other as it slowly moves away.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

On a grey wet morning

On a grey wet morning, as the country heaves itself back into action post bank holiday, its good to remember the glorious day yesterday. As we approach mid-summer, this photo was taken at 10.15pm at Vartry lakes, high in the Wicklow mountains. I was moved by the stillness of the water, the reflection of the hills, and the small lights in the distance - human-ness as the world slowly darkens.

Monday, 4 June 2012

An Adventure

By early evening yesterday, I had reached that particular place where I wanted to do nothing but sit in my pyjamas and watch tv.

But I'd committed to driving my daughter and her friends to a disco, half an hour away in Greystones, and to collecting them at 11.15. More for Andrew than myself, I told him we'd have an adventure. He too was happy on the sofa, and after 24 hours of rain, it was hard to know what we would do on a grey Sunday evening.

We dropped the girls, and pulled up at the car park by the rocks. Andrew was not happy, wanted to wait in the car while I walked the dog. I persuaded him, reluctantly, to put his coat on, and we got out of the car.

The minute we were out of the car, we felt the cold. This was not just cold weather, it was hats and scarves and boots weather. And as we approached the sea, we could already HEAR the waves breaking on the rocks.

For ten minutes, we stood on the concrete fishing platform, just watching as wave after wave washed over the rocks and flowed like a river in spate down the steps and back into the sea.

The dog was surprised again and again by the thud of waves crashing against the wall and the shower of spray shooting over the wall onto where we were standing. But Andrew was shivering. He didn't want to move, he was enjoying it so much, but I said we had to keep moving to keep warm, and off we went, along the rocks.

And treasures we found. A washed up buoy. A stick that looked like antler's horns. A bottle with rope tied to it Then later, we took the steps down to the small beach, and found stones and fragments of shell that looked like fins. A washed up seabird, caught by some current or tide.

We ran around the projecting rock to the second beach between waves. But as we went to return, we found the waves were higher. Three times we started and ran back. On the fourth, the sea came up so quickly, it covered our feet and our ankles, even as we scrambled up the rocks. In an instant, Andrew went from confident excitement to fear. "We'll never get back".

We did, of course, a quick sprint when the waves receded, and there we were with wet shoes, socks and trouser legs.

As we walked back to the car, we watched the gulls hover and dive into the froth beside the rocks. A man stood staring at the sea and at the gulls. We spoke of how exciting the waves and the sea were, how unusual on the 3rd of June, and how a passing dog had taken Andrew's antler stick. We turned back, followed the dog, who politely gave the stick back, distracted by our dog, then headed to the car.

Before driving off though, we crossed over the footbridge, and to the fish and chip shop for a steaming brown bag of chips. Then a drive to the 24 hour Tesco, for dry socks and shoes.

Rock detail 

An adventure doesn't have to mean travelling far away.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Somewhere In The Middle

"Somewhere In The Middle"

Somewhere in the middle, this child of the crazy house, the drama house.

There are strangers who will treat you well. And good, kind friends who will treat you poorly. Hard work can be your salvation. You can shape reality with fantasy and desire.

Still - here you are, in the middle between crazy and abandon, trying to be good and make it all right.

And over the whole world, the rain washes down; a baptism; a cleansing; fading and blurring the sharp lines of memory, and offering something approaching an answer.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Tonight its raining and grey

Tonight its raining and grey; I need to remind myself that not many evenings ago, the sky was magical at sunset.

Nothing stays in one state. The natural world is always changing. Why do we expect our human world to stay the same?

Beauty at every turn. As we turn, look to see the beauty. A turning world. Turning lives. Beauty in the turning.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Cafe au Lait in Covent Garden

What an amazing world we live in. After a 4am start, I watched the sun rise pinkly through the clouds as I drove along the M11 towards the airport.

By 9.30am, I had arrived at my meeting in Central London. After the meeting, walking past Buckingham palace and all the Jubilee preparations, through Green Park and on by tube to Covent Garden. A wonderful bowl of Cafe au Lait enjoyed while waiting for my friend, and then a buckwheat pancake with gruyere cheese and tomato and a glass of white wine.

The fast train to Luton airport and then back in Dublin by 4.30. Home and watching a movie with my son by 8pm.

What an amazing world!