Saturday, 28 May 2011

Food for thought

Food for Thought

Written in 1833 by Balzac (Honore De
Balzac) to his friend Zulma Carraud
during one of his most prolific periods.

“I must tell you that I am submerged in
excessive labour. The mechanics of my
life have altered. I go to bed at six or
seven in the evening, like the hens. I am
awakened at one o’clock in the morning
and work till eight. At eight I sleep for an
hour and a half. Then I have something
light to eat, and a cup of black coffee,
and harness my wagon until four. I
receive callers, I take a bath or I go out,
and after dinner I go back to bed. I have
to live like this for months on end if I am
not to be overwhelmed by my

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

What more could I want?

What more could I want?

I had a garden once that I appreciated so much more than any of the others I’d shared or used by default. It was small, about 20 x 20, with a wooden shed at the end, a typical picket fence at the back and right side, and gloriously fertile wild berry bushes along the left.

No grass or soil, though, just pebbles; the landlady’s idea of designer rubble, but I loved it because it allowed me the freedom to place my pots wherever I wanted without the bother of digging borders, or even buying a spade or fork. I got by on a trowel and dirty nails.

I loved my pots – all shapes and sizes – long and short – deep and shallow – square and round. I even used a triangular shrub pot as an outdoor goldfish pond. I filled the bottom with pebbles (thank you, dear landlady) and a few stones from Strandhill for the fish to hide under. There for me to watch from the comfort of my bedroom window sill, taking in the morning sun – ignored completely by the blackbirds and finches washing themselves in the fish-flavoured water.

So many birds visited my little Eden. Some came for the nuts, while others fancied bread crumbs or dried grubs. I fancied them all, especially the robin and her chicks who thrilled me with their welcome familiarity.

In spring, the pond was surrounded by the post-winter glory of iris and bluebell, slowly giving way to all kinds of heart-lifting daffodil, with space, as there should be, for the long awaited decadent tulip.

My sunflowers thrived, as did the sublime sweet-pea – I swear my girlfriend only visited so she could cut a bunch each evening. Lucky me. There was always room on my sill for her. Still is.

Rain, hail, or shine, I would step out through my bedroom window and stand amongst my friends, breathing in their unconditional love, their strength of giving. It broke my heart when I had to move. As much as I love nature, a wintery water-feature across my bedroom wall proved more than even I could take. I prefer leeks, not leaks.

I packed up my bits and pieces, my books, my journals, my sleeping trees, tiny in their tubs. My fish got bagged, all pots and bulbs transported; the bedroom window shut on what had been.

I’ll always have a garden, even if it’s on my coffee table, on the floor beside my tv, or watching me as I eat my breakfast, but I will miss the one I had outside my bedroom window, where I could enjoy my solitude and be, without effort.

Now the fish reside outside my front door, keeping an eye on the postman, and the teens who smoke hash now and again under my stairs. Each of my steps hold two pots, a bit on the Spanish side, and the sweet-pea flourish along the steel rail, more difficult to harvest, but my girlfriend still cuts a fragrant clump each evening. My sleeping trees are wide awake now, their hazel fronds caress my legs as I stand on my little stoop and watch the evening sun go down on Sligo town, my urban garden. What more could I want?

Monday, 23 May 2011

The moment

The Moment

There’s only so much you can take from the smell of death. Or maybe I mean the smell of decay, because death, by its definitive nature, takes only a moment and smells of…what? The scent of summer roses wafting in the breeze beside the brook where you tripped and knocked your head on a rock?

The ever-memorable tang of vinegar coming from the chipper just beyond where you were distracted by pangs of hunger and fell under the wheels of a reversing van?

So, what we associate as death, is really its aftermath; Nature’s act of recycling; that pungent aroma we so studiously ignore as we lean in to kiss the brow of our loved one just before the lid is screwed into place.

It’s the scent we try to mask with everyday reminders of life as it should be: happy; loving; longing; lusting; fresh; alive.

Alive. In as far as life is forever tainted by the smell of death; the thought of death; the fear of death; the constant of impending death; the absolute inevitability; the one guarantee we need no proof of, or have no argument about, except perhaps which kind of death we will experience.

Then, how do we experience death? As again, it is a happening beyond which we have no anecdotal references. Everything leading up to the moment is still a living experience, irrespective of levels of cognisance or suffering, so the actual extinguishing of life, after that final exhalation; after the fading of synapses; after…

What comes after? Degeneration, most definitely, leading to…that smell unique to decaying organic matter. The recycling process has begun. Life continues, at least for those our body is sustaining as it journeys along its next phase. Everything has shifted place, and all must move with it, or be left behind, like death.

It is so much better to live before it than to wallow in the mire of ‘what if?’ One moment is as important as the next. It’s just part of the ever-shifting process of life.

Live and let death look after itself.

Friday, 20 May 2011

The chains of Time and Space

Our need for space is relative to how well we cope with the confines of our own existence, not just physical, but internal; emotional, psychological, and spiritual.

Many cannot deal with the minimum of time spent within their own personal space – have rarely tasted the wonders of discovering their highs and lows, ins and outs through quiet contemplation of who they are and what they are about in relation to their short time spent on this earth.

How can we hope to deal with crises of Self if we have no idea, not just who that Self is, but what has shaped it and brought it to its present position?

How do we know how time really affects us when most of it is spent running away from that which forces us to face it?

How do we decide which space we are happiest in when we bury ourselves in the busy crowd of strangers and thoughts that keep us safe from the quietude and risk? That risk of facing who we were, are, and will be.

Will that time arrive when we cast off the blinkers of soap and tabloid, embrace the space where we may at least discover and accept the truth of past; when we may realise the reality of present, and where we may discard the unknowing of future?

Without dumping the chains of time, we will never find space to discover our personal truth; never be able to pass quality of Self to those we love, and those who come after us.

Without overcoming the fear of space, we will never find the courage to step inside and see the true wonders of existence.

Find time and step into your own space. You never know who you might meet.
Some of my poetry can be viewed in a new online poetry journal: The editor, Libby Hart, a gentle, passionate, poet from Australia, will be launching her new poetry collection, 'This Floating World' tonight at 7pm in Ellen's pub out in Maugherow, County Sligo. You can follow her blog at:

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Good Fight

The main thing for me when preparing to write is to have my workstation exactly as it should be, otherwise the struggle to produce will be weighed by the negative dynamic of distraction.

But that comes later. First off, for a successful session to happen, I must have a pillow at my back, with another on my lap, followed by a foot cushion on the coffee-table so  that my feet are rested and my knees are up at the correct angle for me to sit back in my armchair and be able to write longhand without discomfort.

The manuscript, usually an A4 hardback, sits nicely on my lap pillow, with dictionary, style-bible, notebook, and pens to my right, well out of the way of my left hand - my writing hand.

Music in the background, because there has to be, is usually a classical assortment – the kind that goes subliminal – that doesn’t have to be listened to, but still wins full appreciation.

Then I write; one scene or chapter, nothing more, though I usually stop before the climactic moment to give me something to return to. It’s always good to have the end of a moment to complete before moving on to a relatively new beginning.

The only break I take is the time required to put the kettle on to make a cup of tea – maybe once every hour, which is just about the way it should be because tea needs to be appreciated and can only be in its singularity.

When I’ve accomplished my objective, I go for a walk and reflect on what I’ve written, gathering along the way a vague, though germinating, picture of what’s to come.

Then I return, boot up the laptop, and transcribe the work onto my hard-drive, using this process as the simplest of initial reviews.

On the other hand, if things aren’t right at the beginning, if the head’s way, or the budgies are acting up, distraction slips its far-reaching tendrils into my head and I’m up and away at the drop of a hat. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often.

It won’t be long now before I’m finished this first draft. Then a new phase begins. It’s a struggle, it’s a fight, but it’s a good fight, and I’m on the winning team.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

You are more than just a detail

You are more than just a detail

It is about not just filling the canvas, but using the essence of a specific detail, in all its varied levels of shape, texture, colour, substance, and spirals of light and dark, to bring the space to life without it necessarily making sense to an outside observer.

The point, of course, is not to spend time ‘thinking’ about composition, or even reasons why, but to have confidence in your ability to take that step into the spectrum of the unknown.

Time spent wondering about external reaction to subconscious manifestation, ultimately hinders that forward momentum needed to make the required leap of faith, which is basically about believing in who you are, and that you are more than just a detail.

Allowing the shades and colours of your personal rainbow connect and swirl through form and thought, puts time and space together on the canvas of your mind, and slowly, so slowly, there grows before you an abstract that mirrors the twists and turns, the hot and cold, the dark, deep dynamic of who you really are – that quantum of experience – unreadable beyond learned speculation.

Brush on, brush off – deep reflective strokes, drying and congealing like blood before the camera shot. Your board is full and heavy with the labour of belief. Exhalation acts as a semicolon, leading to an expansive smile, and recognition that stepping across that dark and colourless threshold didn’t lead to artistic annihilation after all.

Without belief, there can be no appreciation of colour.
Without colour, there can be no peace.
Believe in yourself and you will find peace.