Autumn commute (but also, Ireland II.)

Even at this early hour, the deep, jewel-blue of evening is already fading to night’s darker hues beyond the buildings. Still in the city’s small heart, though, the sky glows and refracts between windows, brightened by the lights from inside, the street-lamps outside.

There is a quickening, an energy as commuters move away from the centre, a flow that pulls us all along for a block or two until the shift to calm that comes with the transition to neighbourhoods.

Then it is dark, night descends quickly, a blanket sprinkled with the twinkling of porch lights. The cold wind refreshes, blows nostalgia at me through a small park; the scent of fallen leaves.

This is home. It is familiar. Canadian.

I love this about where I live – the familiarity, the nostalgia, the ease of moving around here, of knowing what to expect, season after season.

And yet, the other half of my heart continues to tug me, as it always has, toward Ireland.

Advertisements

Ireland I.

It was momentous for me – going back. In the months and weeks leading up to the trip, I had been so busy with work and life that I hadn’t really considered how it would feel to be there again. At some point, I had actually thought I didn’t want to go, though I suspect now that was some form of self-preservation. Steeling myself against the onslaught of emotion.

It wasn’t until we were on the plane that I allowed the excitement and anticipation and meaning of it all to cascade over me. I smiled, my heart tripped over itself, my eyes filled with tears.

And now, on the other side, it is all just a memory. Ephemeral. Wisps of not-quite-real.

*

We all have our personal myths, our stories that make up who we are, gathered and guarded, told and re-told to ourselves, to anyone who might listen.

Mine has always been Ireland.

First it was Ireland The Dream. That began when, at the age of 2, I had the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem as my imaginary friends. This dream followed me through school – my room a deep green and adorned with a map of Ireland – and an undergraduate degree in Celtic Studies, when I was also President of the university’s Celtic Society.

Next, I moved to Ireland and my myth grew and spread. I was the one who stayed. The one who moved there.

I never wanted to leave. It was a whim, really. I followed a boy back from Ireland to Canada. At first, I pined for my memories, my life there, my dream. My pining turned to bitterness when the relationship fell apart. I gave up all thoughts of going back.

Until this year. It was my mother’s 75th birthday and I suggested we do a trip to mark the 20th anniversary of the first time we had gone, bringing my son along on the adventure.

*

And so there I was. On the plane. The full significance of it all just dawning.

Adrenaline – and stars and blossoms, too.

I recently found this fragment of writing in my drafts folder, written at a time when work was beyond busy. It sums up the frantic energy — tiring but rewarding — that has been tearing me away from any creativity recently.

 

How rare is it now that I look up to see the stars, or down into the tangled sprawl of blossoms? Though I may look, I so seldom see beyond the words on a screen, printing their way across my thoughts, or the many tiny puzzle pieces of a schedule I must fit together, the ever shrinking number of days left to do it.

None of this is to say I am unhappy. Busy, tired, at times overwhelmed, but challenged, stretched and growing, too. 

So many thoughts employed, so much to do, that I must beg your pardons, stars, blossoms, but it will be another few weeks till we meet again. Till then, I am flying by will and grit alone.

Hiatus interrupted

It has been a little over a year I think since I posted anything I’ve written. Cyber-silence doesn’t mean not writing, though. I’ve written things, jotted down thoughts and impressions and moments I wanted to capture.

I just haven’t shared them…for multiple reasons: because they have been incomplete, or unpolished, or because I forgot to or never got around to it.

Or because I have managed to lose some (why does that always happen to the best ones? There was this one fantastic one about my emotional Irish homecoming this summer…).

Snippets of poems and stories and posts have continued to jump into my head, but life happens and I forget their substance. By the time I am ready to write, I remember only that they existed and that I was excited about them, but I don’t remember what they were.

I’ve noticed lately that these snippets and thoughts are becoming more and more frequent. And the thought of posting them is also more frequent, a filter colouring them with a brighter yearning.

So here I am, writing, in the domain of non-silence.

Am I back? I don’t know. But I am for today.

I won’t try to cover all the things that have happened in the past year, at least, not here. Or not in detail.

The most important highlights of the past year are:

  • I have been willingly and completely consumed by my job as an international migration specialist. Those of you who read my earliest posts will recall that I had been on stress leave when I first started this blog, and waiting for a thunderbolt of inspiration to tell me what I really wanted to be doing, but eventually had gone back to work. Well, apparently, my job was my thunderbolt. I couldn’t be happier. But maybe I could be a bit better rested. There’s lots happening in international migration.

 

  • After 10 long years of alternating between daydreaming and denial, I finally went back to Ireland. This is momentous because for the first 23 years of my life, everything was about getting to Ireland, for the next 5 I lived there, and for the subsequent 14 1/2  years, I have tried to get over leaving.

That about does it. Now that we are all caught up, as though I’d never left, I have to get going.

Talk soon.

SL

Grounding

Life has been flying past me lately. Or rather, I have been flying through life. I recently spent close to three weeks on difficult negotiations at the UN in New York (New York, where everything moves on hyperdrive anyway), working long, lunch-less days, only to return home and continue working on the same negotiations from here, with the same hours.

My son, meanwhile, has been at camp for five weeks, with one more week to go. I miss him all the time, but this weekend I missed him something crazy. I found out yesterday that he’d been feeling homesick over the weekend, too. When we got to speak and I told him he was better off up in the great Canadian wilderness than being in the city while I worked, he was silent for a moment then said, “But Mum, you should be enjoying your summer!” Oh yeah, summer. Quite right. I remember what summer is like…

But there’s much important work to do, work I believe in, and anyway, it’s preferable to keep busy while he’s away.

Of course, when you’re tired and stressed and overwhelmed and missing a part of your soul, all the negative is magnified and everything feels bigger, worse, more dire. So in the end, working more probably isn’t the answer.

If I can catch myself when everything becomes too overwhelming, when it all moves too fast and I feel as though I might drown, I try to focus on the small, delicate details of the world around me. I remember how aware I was as a child, how intimately I knew the flowers of a specific plant, the terrain of the earth beneath it, the patterns of its leaves. How I followed and memorized the veins of quartz cutting through granite. Or the positions of the stars in the summer sky.

This weekend, disillusioned and overwhelmed and brain-tired, I went out to weed, to reconnect with nature and escape all the words and all the screens, and this memory of my childhood familiarity with the world came back to me. I sat down in the path, got as close as I could to the plant beside me, and looked. I forgot everything else. My world shrank down to the size of the plant – variegated leaves, pink flowers, knobbly bumps of earth and mulch beneath. Briefly, I let that feeling of childhood wash over me. I tried to hold onto it but, after 40 years, it’s elusive. Perhaps it takes practice.

Later, as I sat on our rooftop deck and let my gaze sink into the indigo sky of evening, a plane cut across my line of sight. Small, toy-like. The sun glinted off it, turning it copper, polished, bright. The expansiveness of the sky, the minute plane, and I, smaller still. I felt again the way I had in the garden. Real. Small. Connected to something concrete.

When life is flying past, whether we let it because it’s easier than stopping and feeling, whether it takes over because of factors beyond our control, the best thing we can do is reach out and take hold of something, anything. Reach out and hold on – to the flowers, the trees, the earth, the stars. Let them slow the spinning, if only for a moment. Let them bring you back, bring you down, let them ground you.

Remember to look around, then. Stop thinking and instead, feel.