Cyprus, Limerick, Dublin, London, Connemara, Sheffield and, of course, the Farnham Estate, Cavan have been my points of orbit this summer in what has been a hot, dappled, yellow sun, blue sky, fluffy white cloud event, smelling of burnt concrete and metal.
In Cavan, every day, Poppins and I walk the woods, meander the lake, stroll the golf course but, actually, I am traversing the streets of Dublin, listening to the poetry of Ulysses, the unabridged version read beautifully by John Lee or I am in Ethiopia, New Zealand, Iran, Russia or Chicago listening to the Guardian’s Audio Long Read podcast https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/the-audio-long-read . So far, I have learned about how Silicon Valley are buying up New Zealand, the Rise of Russian Neo Nazi Football fans, Homaro Cantu the genius chef who cooked exploding cigars and more. I also like The Inquiry which has informed me why every morning in school Iranian students, shout Death to the English, whether we can understand how animals work, and how we eat our way out of climate change. And, as I listen, I wonder about what I’ll cook for dinner, how to strengthen the first paragraph of my short story, feel lonely in my routine and smile at Poppins leaping through long grass.
It’s been a good summer despite Jerry and I losing our mothers in the last six months, but both women seemed ready to leave the planet. If you have read Threads, my second poetry collection, you may will know what an unhappy parent grappling with old age and dementia presents to a child. My mother’s death left a gap in my life and I think of her often, but a calm, deep blue sea has filled it. My response to my mother in law’s death six months later was different. At her funeral, I wept in a way I could not for my mother. I wondered if these were tears in disguise, but I don’t think so. I was happy for Margaret’s life and sad to know I wouldn’t see her again. But death is death, and the loss of a parent has a rippling, unnerving impact, so the walking and listening to podcasts this year has been restorative.
And I have also been reading some fabulous books: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, Outline by Rachel Cusk, Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman, the Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Dias (I learned about him from the World Book Club podcast) Ta-Nihisi Coates Between the World and Me, Borges, Flaubert, Tóibín, Strout, Rachel Kushner, JG Farrell and more recently David Parks and John Boyne. I have been picking up books recommended on podcasts and sold at the various festivals I have attended this summer, most recently the John Hewitt Summer School, others of which I have already blogged about.
I am a lucky woman. Blessed, my mother in law would say. Yes, I think this as a I walk each day. I am. And I try to keep creating such blessings coming. This has been made easier by my mother who left me a little money. So, I go to festivals, buy books, organise trips to the theatre, visit friends, order more books from Amazon and plan poetry workshops. My poetry and creative writing workshops, and my literary evening, AT The Edge, Cavan keep my ‘what for’ at bay.
Now I am excited because yesterday I planned a trip to Beirut this October. Beirut was the war of my childhood. It was the focus of the news which I watched at 6 o’clock with my mother. Then the Lebannon was a war torn, bombed out place, full of factions I didn’t understand: Christian Militia, Druze, Shia and Sunni – and I want to visit it now to see a thriving city, explore its treasures, enjoy its cuisine, and meet its people as I hope maybe my own children may be able to visit Damascus in the future.