Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Slán a fhágáil ag duine....

A year ago, my sisters and I had a crazy idea: let's all go to Ireland together and stay in the Carrowholly house. When I put out the suggestion, I expected to be answered with "not possible" -- between us there were so many schedules to coordinate, and so many variables to account for: lack of funds, unemployment, a foreclosure already in the process, illnesses in our families -- and yet miraculously we all not only figured out a way to make this happen, we all managed to get on the same flights. It took months of planning, with ultimate disappointment the expectation, but finally, the first week of January, we scheduled it.

The joy of anticipation was as good as the anticipation of Christmas from a child's perspective. Our paternal grandfather emigrated from New Ross, Ireland, in (I believe) 1912, and only one sister other than me has visited the country of our ancestors. I'm fortunate to possess dual citizenship. For this last Christmas, in anticipation of this journey, I created for my sisters a hand-bound, hand-sewn ten-copy edition of a chapbook, Fiddlehead, Heron: Notes from Carrowholly. It contains photographs from one of the most magical places on earth -- a place wherein resides a large portion of my heart -- as well as journal notes from my many visits there.

An excerpt:

I wished for a blue-speckled eggshell

to place at the feet of Our Lady of Flotsam.

The previous June, in a hazelnut copse I’d found one,

but it’d disappeared since our last visit here.

And I hadn't a clue where I'd find another;

So this afternoon, when Paul called out,
There's an eggshell on the patio,
I answered,
No! It's a snail shell!
(Thinking it was the leftover bits
from a sparrow’s treat.)
And Paul:
T., I know a bird shell from a snail shell!

He was right:

not an apparition
but a perfect half-shell, blue & speckled,

amidst scattered seed.

Not fallen from a tree,
because there is no tree in the yard.
It's as if a bird was doing an exchange:
shell for seed.

The universe was granting my request—

Not a miracle, but a gift.


Upon the shattering news I received three weeks ago, this trip fell apart. No longer staying in the property owned by my husband, two sisters were forced to cancel. I can no longer afford to take time off from work. Two other sisters are still going, but on a very different itinerary. This trip of a lifetime -- five sisters stepping back in time to embrace a long-sought heritage -- is off.

I'm not seeking sympathy here -- my trips to Eire have been numerous and replete with generosity. But the cruelty in this decisive blow on the part of one person, the capability to throw what seems like a single stone into a pond, and create a tidal wave of consequences -- is profoundly disturbing.

I don't know what else to say except that my heart -- that 300 gram muscle pumping life through this human husk -- continues to shatter.

More from Fiddlehead, Heron:

I wonder, when it rains hard here

and all the low bogland and shallow fields

fill with water, if suddenly on ordnance maps

there appears additional evidence of lakes and ponds?
Over-spilling, and everywhere the constantly

changing sky reflected on the surface of the earth.

There is a beach several coves away
where broken pottery washes up—nothing
particularly special—cheap plates flung to bits.
Beautiful in their disarray, every year more,
and I gather pocketsful and place them
on my kitchen sill. But flung from where,
and by whom? A deceived wife in splintered rage?
Fallen from a boat in a move from island to mainland?
Out of fashion teacups cast-off to sea?

My neighbor Pat tells of an elderly island man

whose body was strapped to a door

and towed to town behind a dingy when he died.

(There are 365 islands in Clew Bay,
some as big as a wink.)

These shards remain a mystery.


I've put my requests out to the universe, which, though not without its gifts, remains ever a mystery.


  1. sadly, a great disappointment, one among many. Yes, the ripples from one person's actions and profound.

    Perhaps the trip can take place at another will be all the sweeter.

    sending you love, T.

  2. Basically, life is doing or not doing.

    When someone else exerts negative influence then one is a victim. When one steps up and acts positively, that person is free.

  3. Bill, working on the "doing" full time here.

  4. There will be another opportunity, one on which "the one" will be unable to have any influence. In time, his ripple of influence will grow smaller and smaller until he has no more consequence than a sneeze.

  5. I am sorry that this trip cannot take place as when and how it was originally planned. That is another sorrow among so many.

    Love, C.

  6. Oh T, I'm so sorry for your troubles.
    Do you know that poem by Sheenagh Pugh that begins:

    "Sometimes things don't go, after all,/from bad to worse..."

    And there's a couplet at the end that makes me think of you:

    "The sun will sometimes melt a sea of sorrow/ that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you."

  7. me, too, T. i was really hoping that you would have that trip as part of a way to heal. (and 2 of yr sisters were living in a house he owned...holy f*@#ing crap. to put it mildly.)
    i hope you can plan something maybe on a smaller scale that is special for you & your sisters.

  8. He's a bugger...that's all there is to it.
    This is crap.

  9. Susan, I must clarify: because of no longer having the option of staying at that house during the trip (thus paying for hotel/B&B), the cost of the trip increased substantially, forcing three of us to cancel.

  10. When we have the experience, the consciousness, of gifts we know such things do happen. With time, and probably less of it than you would imagine, they will happen again. I am sorry for plans torn asunder but trust the best parts of the story will continue to unfold. xo