April hedgerows

Bumble bee
Blackthorn blossom
Herb Robert

It's three years now since I started this blog. One of my earliest posts was a photograph of creamy Blackthorn blossoms on the ditch. Today just a short walk up the lane reveals again the quiet beauty of our wildflowers. While the coconutty gorse dominates and is blooming all over the hill, along the ditches there are small splashes of colour. Getting in closer (some of these are really tiny) there are ladybirds competing for space along the grassy highway, and bees busily buzzing.......

Take a deep breath, spring is here, summer is just around the next corner, and creamy blossoms are still as good as it gets........

There are some more Irish Wildflower images here


Seeking the feminine #Pilgrimage

The city of Rome is a masculine environment. The might of the Basillicas of both Ancient Rome and Vatican Rome, the heroic figures in the sculptures of the Piazza Navonna and the Trevi Fountain. The strong backs of suited men drinking espressos at cafe counters in the early morning. Rome has a magnificent male energy which I'm sure is soaked up in litres by the beautiful sallow skinned male population of Italy.

So I went looking for the feminine.  

And I couldn't resist the beauty, the softness and the quietly subsumed presence of the feminine, always there under the surface. It's in the beauty of the young women riding bicycles through the narrow streets; in the clusters of religious women on their way in and out of churches; in the many images of the Madonna reverentially adorned with lighted candles and spring flowers and in the amazonian women represented in the mosaics of the Colosseum. 

Maybe the prominence of the masculine is all about looking back, while the influence of the feminine belongs to the world of the future? A world we are yet to fully imagine, where all that is now hidden is revealed. This is where women have often struggled; managing the balancing act between the artistry of our comfort zones of quiet knowledge, with the public world of engagement and power. 

Just before we left Rome, on our last legs from another meandering hike through the streets, we sat admiring four women holding up a beautiful fountain. Unlike many of the androgenous angels, they were female for sure!  And I couldn't take my eyes off them; their resilience, their quiet endurance, their unassailable beauty. 

Today as I look out at this Irish Spring, I know why we rest so easily in the reflections of water splashing in the puddles of April showers; why we will sit and meditate for hours on a drift of daffodils; why we are not always ready to take on the patriarchy at full tilt; how we are going about it all in a more knowing and quiet way.

And as the girl threw her coin in the Trevi Fountain and made a wish, I wondered if she knew all that too?

See more images from Rome here


Seeking light in Rome #Pilgrimage

I skip the Pope's house this time. I am always cautious not to disrespect another's idea of beauty or religion, all I know is that I would never find light there. In the midst of droves of pilgrims making their way to the Basillica of St. Peter's I am as usual walking in the opposite direction, towards the pagan past.

I diverged from Catholicism when my father sent me to discuss my Easter Duty with the parish priest. Although they exerted great pressure I wouldn't come up with any interesting sins and refuted the idea of a 16 year old girl being forced to confess for some arbitrary feast day. I explained to the priest that people were basically good and anyway I had done nothing wrong...... 

Some how through steadfast argument I got away with it and never looked back. Instead I moved over to mystery as the only possible conclusion about life, death and who made the world. I fell in love with mother earth, constellations of stars, and the beauty of it all. I suppose I'm a kind of aesthetic/humanist if a label is ever needed.

That being said, I still harbour an appreciation of certain rituals and I especially love to indulge in candle lighting. These spaces where ordinary people are drawn to kneel are so full of hope in something magical and grander than ourselves. The congregation's collective adoration is soothing and healing. Throw in a bit of singing, some ethereal shafts of sunlight and I find myself connecting with something deep and unfathomable...... 

And as I say my own prayer wishing for strength and peace, my mantra for this pilgrimage is like a constant flickering flame ......seek light, embrace shade and live in glorious colour......

See the Pilgrimage Gallery here and the Rome Gallery here


Every hop, nibble and silvery whisker

Sometimes they sit staring into space or take small naps in mid-nibble. As the sun goes down one cuddles up to a rock, settles down and I am left wondering who will survive the stoats and the foxes tonight?

I know now from my lens that rabbits have completely individual faces. Some are braver than others and they seem to have eyes in the back of their heads. The smallest vibration sends them scurrying, their white tails catching the light as they turn towards the hill.

On twitter they joke with me about shooting them! But I see it all through a romantic haze and hang on every bunny hop, twitching nose and silvery whisker thinking how lucky I am to share breakfast with three baby rabbits every morning.


Selfies from 1979 #Pilgrimage~ March

New York 1979

Most days after work during that damp hot July, I spend a dollar and take the Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan just to feel a cool breeze. Sometimes I go over and back a few times and watch the familiar skyline come in and out of focus until the sun sets beyond the Statue of Liberty. 

By day I am employed in a Yoghurtarian Cafe in the Chrysler Building, in the evenings I walk around the corner to work in an Italian Restaurant and at weekends I make cocktails in a Chinese Bar Downtown.  In between I bask in the luxury of air conditioning at the Museum of Modern Art or in the movie theatre where Woody Allen's Manhattan is showing. I see it every week.

I am totally smitten by New York City; the art, the purple pin stripe trousers I bought in SoHo, the eons of grime, the noisy diner on the corner, gunshots in the subway, sirens at night. I have romanticised it all, a habit I will perfect much later in life.  

Our cockroach infested apartment on Greenwich Street is in the shadow of the Twin Towers. On humid nights we sleep on the roof. Next door under a flashing neon sign is a bar where girls dance on the counter and Tequila Sunrise is the drink of choice of Irish girls from the College of Art in Dublin.

I miss my husband of less than a year. I call him regularly from a phone box across the street. We plot and plan to reverse the charges in a way that means neither of us will have to pay for the transatlantic call. It's an old emigrant's trick. Without hearing his voice I would fade away.

I seem to accumulate a lot of dollars. I get good tips by practicing an "innocent Irish girl abroad" routine. Attracting tips doesn't come naturally so I learn to speak a bit louder, shine a bit brighter, and follow the system the other waitresses explain. 

On a night off we frequent CBGBs, see Patti Smith and hang out with RUR a band we follow. Hair gets shorter and shorter, skirts are replaced by tiny fitted hawaiian shirts and narrow pants. I finally get my ears pierced in an underground tattoo parlour and chew gum on the subway to ward off interested parties. 

And it's all flow and freedom here. The rhythm and music of it, every detail lit up in sharpened outline, every day played out in upbeat vibrancy. After a while when I think about going back home I am hesitant, as if I would be stepping back in time to another me, one that doesn't exist any more.........

The "selfie" wasn't yet a concept when I took these photographs. They seem dark and sombre now, but I was actually a fairly soft edged punk. This Pilgrimage route currently seems to be leading me back the way I came......see more images in the Pilgrimage Gallery


This felled giant

Did you ever wrap your arms around a felled giant and get up close and personal with it's roots and heart? The wooden body feels so strong, there are new buds on the tips of it's branches but the torn roots are dry. This Beech tree will never come into leaf again.

So many fallen trees since the huge storm last month are lying pitifully broken exactly where they landed. Having blogged my nightmarish journey home during the big wind, I'm still checking out trees I know and finding they are gone. This beauty is lying on the front lawn of Mount Congreve one of many lost there over the winter.

I photograph it's awkward sprawl and then the daffodils blooming around the gaping hole where it once stood magnificent. 


Going green

Ireland is going green. 

First of all it's the National Holiday, Saint Patrick's Day. But even more importantly it is also Spring. 

At last, at last, at last. 

After the grey, stormy winter, here in the fields, every small twitch of change registers. Buds, shoots, blossoms, flowers. Nest building, mad march hare dashing, and the buzzing of flies. For now I just love flies!!! 

Wake up, shake a leg. I walked up the lane without a coat, without a hat! I sat on the beach and felt sun on my face! I'm sitting here at an open window listening to a blackbird chirping!

But more than anything else, it is this particular shade of green. It starts out so light and fizzy. And it's not just the EU grasses and the fertilised meadows. It's the fresh new leaves and the wild grass on the ditches. The buds of brambles, the tips of gorse. This newest spring green is the most Irish thing I can think of just now! 

I have lots of photos of smiling faces and funny hats but for Lá Fhéile Phádraig or Paddy's Day (it's never ever Patty's Day by the way) I offer you the green of an Irish spring and a Happy Saint Patrick's Day.

And for actual funny hats and craic see here


Exploring sacred space

Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.  Joseph Campbell

Alone time is precious. Quiet moments sitting at the desk with a cup of coffee or meandering in the small fields amongst the signs of Spring. Day dreaming whenever there is an opportunity, staring at the lake or photographing the small birds outside the window. 

I would never, ever tire of practicing this kind of "finding yourself again".

The work space is still a bit of a moveable feast but I am drawing on a life time of "letting go" experience when things don't turn out as expected. As the eldest of 4 girls, not a stitch of clothing was ever off limits to any of them and my Barbie doll was covered in blue biro tattoos and a badly drawn moustache. As a result I travel lightly enough through life......

But I do get very attached to Mother Earth, the *Wild Mother and to the fabric of the places I spend time in. Small groves of trees and certain banks of flowers will comfort me in ways I can't fathom. I seek out the quiet and untrampled on the one hand and the ancient on the other. Sacred spaces, places with soul.

Soon I am soothed and at home. Gnarled lichens developing on Blackthorn trees, tangled spider villages on the Gorse bushes, early morning dew turning to fat drops on every leaf. And yes, as Campbell says, I find myself and all the good stuff about being here in these small mysteries. 

Where do you find your sacred space?

*Women who run with wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Also posted on Vision and Verb today


Pastel diary

Pink, blue, lavender and softest grey, the pastel diary of early spring days. The promise of a new palette. Until then soak in the light, the heart, the hope. Warmth streaming through the window after our wintery lunch. 

Pull back the curtains, throw open the door and listen to the whisper of the world turning.


The colour purple

After the devastation of the storm, the tree may be gone but the crocuses are still blooming unharmed beneath it......