Sunday, 28 July 2013

Forever Begin

Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.

Holly Cottage's entangled bank
It's a quiet Sunday morning in the Holly Cottage, just past 6am and a soft and cooling mist is lifting from the garden and resting on the trees that line the estate wall of Charleville. Another few minutes and it will have disappeared, witnessed only by the later night revellers and the early risers. The last few weeks of sunshine and heat have been a gift to the people of Ireland - who would have thought that the long, hard winter would give birth to the long, hot 30 degree + days and the quilt defying heat of the nights. All that heat coupled with seemingly un-darkening nights and eternal days. And even though at times stifling, no one dared to raise a voice to complain or to bemoan the heat, the dry earth or the sleep challenging nights. A touch of grumbling from the farmers perhaps, but you couldn't expect them ever to be completely happy!

Here in the Holly Cottage we duly surrendered to the lazy days of summer - shorts and flip flops took over from the combats and wellies of last year, and even the bikini got exposure to  the Irish sun and was dipped in an Irish midlands lake with the wearer for good measure (a note on swimming with your dog - it's a lot of splashing and pretend throwing of sticks and can cause quite a splash ;) so maybe best to do it far away from the company of other bathers!). 

Strawberry thirst quenching delight
- awesome
The garden has been delightfully, almost free of slug damage and the days of harvesting are well underway. We had to buy a new freezer just to store the abundance of broccoli, strawberries and rhubarb. Peas are packed in there too, but again never quite reaching the brilliance of 2011 when we really must have overdone it on the chicken manure! We left most of the raspberries to the blackbirds and the few lingering strawberries have been picked over by the stealthy work of Holly the dog. She also managed to sabotage a number of pea plants - can't blame her really for munching her way through several pods to get to the sweetness of the hidden delicacies. However, she won't be getting her pearly whites on the next batch and number one gardener spent a lot of yesterday securing dog proof netting about the next crop. We shall see - Holly has a way of getting what she wants though and she does love her peas...

Yesterday was the day to clear out the old pea plants, cut back the raspberry canes and trim back wandering rocket and seeding turnips. The early spuds have already been eaten halfway through and it can only be a week or so before the onions and beans are ready to come out of the ground. No tomatoes yet, although cucumbers are lengthening by the day and there are first signs of sweet peppers and chillis to come (they already had amazing melon and sweetcorn in beautiful Donegal - wow!). In lots of ways we have reached a new chapter for the garden and now we must plan for the late winter and spring harvest so that will require some thought, and also that summer is rapidly moving onto to autumn. Suggestions are curly kale and spring cabbage, and we will try to make the most of the greenhouse this winter, despite our failed yet best intentions of 2011 and 2012. 

Holly proof pea defence
It's been a busy time on the inside of the Holly Cottage as well, and while some might call it nesting, I think I prefer to call it catching up on all those jobs you never quite got round to and the prospect of a small baby in the house that will make this near impossible probably until it is feeding itself and writing its first paper on cosmic theory'. This work involves painting the last of the rooms left since moving in three years ago, chasing patches of mould in the bathroom, getting rid of un-wanted furniture and that most difficult of jobs - clearing out presses and shelves of the accumulated nonsense of stuff that lingers purely on the grounds of nostalgia and it might come in useful or be worn again. But you need to make space for the new to begin and this is the cycle that runs through our lives, from birth to death. Of course new beginnings are not without their own share of pain or uncertainty. That's what makes them so memorable and adrenaline fuelled - be it the joyous ones or the sorrowful ones - and discerns them from the hum drum of normality. 

Yesterday I had a painful morning reciting the history of every item of clothing hanging in my wardrobe to a very bored man and dog - I was struggling to justify their secure place in the wardrobe of the future when space will become even more limiting. Thing is, I could write a book on some of the shoes (oh remember!) and old jeans, tops worn once and dresses that almost sing the memories of themselves dancing in near and foreign halls and still carry the scent of perfume worn for a while and then passed over for another as tastes and preferences changed and developed (I'm reluctant to say matured!) over the past 20 years. Yes, even the catalogue of near empty perfume bottles and Body Shop body butters tells a story of growing up and changing and coming to increasing levels of balance (still not 100% there yet - but then, all that balance could be imbalance?). Of course, this level of nostalgia is often associated with the annual birthday reflections - and list making for the future of which myself and Michelle Quinn of Clara House were expert!

Sweet pea perfume
However, it's sweet pea scent coming from the flowers from Mornington House that the beautiful Katy O'Hara brought over last night that are filling up my senses as I write this morning, and their renewal brings me back to summer days working with my mother in the garden, collecting the flowers for the summer altar in the local church and helping her work her magic bringing a cold and dim lit church every July to blissful pagan outdoors beauty and nature's summer standard. Every scent and sound of summer brings with it a memory of a seemingly past life lived in my short time living on this most generous of planets. This year in particular - those sensory stimuli seem stronger and more urgent in their gaping absence from the four wet summers gone by. It's the smell of hay, the sounds of people laughing and joking while loading big bales on enormous trailers, the endless loads of turf being saved and carried home by bouncy tractors of all makes and eras, the hum of the bees in the lavender, the armies of butterflies along the paths in Boora, the taste of a 99 on a hot Monday afternoon and the sound of children playing long after their normal bedtime into the late hours of the longest days. 

And this - the collection of joyful and comforting memories of childhood summers and rose tinted reflections on the trials of growing up (this growing up lark by the way goes on until our deathbeds  - just so you know), and the setting down of new memories linked with new places, new experiences and new awakenings of ideas and feelings within, that gives us the strength and the want to begin again, and again, and again, and even again. To take up new challenges, to brush off the cobwebs of the wet summers and long winters, and long nights and begin each day with renewed vigour and expectation. For me, this generally comes in the morning time - and sometimes it is such a strong feeling that I actually have a knot of excitement in my inner being and a feeling that anything can happen. Now, truth be told, this rush of excitement generally fades after mid morning when my levels of creativity ebb and give way to a much more sedate and calmer woman, and as always tiredness and fatigue can dampen any level of excitement. The moral is - try to quench these deathblows of excitement before they quench you (yes, I am psyching myself up for sleepless nights). But overall and in general most times and most days, the excitement and anticipation of what may come in any new day is there - however small yet oh so powerful in all its guises, it is a faithful companion and it certainly adds a whole lot of spice to my living ;)

To pull all of this ramble together, the words of the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly are ringing in my ears again and again - I hope you find resonance with their clarity and resounding perception.  

by Brendan Kennelly

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic 
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin. 

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