If you live in the shadow of the mythic embarking on any sojourn requires patience.dog  mt haiku

A car. A bus. A pause and another bus. A rainy night in a B&B in Cavan Town where the upstairs neighbours were an army rampaging in stiletto heels. Imperfect pillow with sleep interrupted at two hour internals. (Did they fall out of bed upstairs?) Gave up sleep at 5:15. Meanly contemplated turning TV on really loud as vengeance upon the heavy footed folk on the upper floor. Mastered self and let it go.

Pull the 12.5 kilo wheely suitcase down the Main Street, lugging 7.5 kilos on my shoulder. And an unestimated weight in the Tardis that masquerades as the handbag for this sojourn, hanging bandolier style across the rain coat that covers the sweater coat.  Layers being the the fashion solution for a sojourn in Britain in March when the  weather is decidedly bipolar.

A mini-bus with eleven virtual strangers with a seat mate gradually becoming less strange as we bond over dog adulation and the necessity of the Platonic ideal of a comfortable pillow for sleep.  Belfast International. Why does every airport in the world have a modernist metal gateway arch? Sort of brutalist in a Stalinist approved art form way.

Yet again set off the metal detector. Humiliation of assuming the position in stocking feet. The randomness of it. No, it is not the titanium in my ankle setting if off. If you say so.   Feeling tickled as I got frisked around my waist.

The passivity and quiet of the departure queues.  Airplane as sardine tin, packed in, knee joints locked as wing flaps up.

The brutalist metal gateway. Manchester Airport seems to have one, too. Or am I dreaming this in my weariness?

Medieval travel as Basho wrote of it in his haibun could not be more brutal than the purgatory of the Departure Lounge.

Tomorrow embarking further- a  tram, a train, a taxi, Arvon. Tonight another pause in the sojourn.  A new pillow to sample, to wrestle, to embrace  with/towards unconsciousness.

Bee Smith is travelling in March 2014 with the Leonardo da Vinci Life Long Learning Programme “Developing Creative Practice Across Borders” to Yorkshire and Lancashire organised by the Cavan Arts Office.


Travelling Prep

“Traveling is a brutality.

It forces you to trust strangers

and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home & friends.

You are constantly off balance.

Nothing is yours except the essential things:

Air – Sleep – Dreams – Sea – Sky…..

all things tending towards the eternal

or what we imagine of it.”

-Cesare Pavese –

Natural Cathedral

Certainly travelling forces you out of your comfort zone.  Between choosing what to pack for all British weather eventualities (snow is forecast for one day at Lumb Bank),  preparing what to take for a fortnight’s travelling for a combination of both rugged country and inner city locations, my logistical muscles are getting a workout for this fortnight’s sojourn. With my laptop and all other writing utensils going as my single carry on I have to squeeze two weeks worth of travel clothing and comfort into a single bag no more than 20 kilos in weight. I keep lifting the suitcase (which has had three versions of travelling logistical schemes so far) and telling myself it’s not as heavy as a Cozyglow bag of coal. So it must be alright!

Yes, I will be leaving home and friends but I’ve modelled some of my essentials on a friend’s wisdom.  When she left Ireland as a child she amused family by piling rocks into her suitcase.  She counted that literal ‘touchstone’ as essential baggage to help her remember her homeplace.  Last week she gave me both a Tibetan shawl from some of her own travels and a Hag Stone pebble. It’s small and has three holes through it.  Hag stones are sacred to the Irish goddess the Cailleach; with the three holes it also resonates to the Triple Goddess.  So I have a  spiritual touchstone to keep me grounded and the shawl to keep me warm in what may be a chilly stone house at Lumb Bank.   So  much for renouncing comfort!

(As an aside I have become fussy about pillows in middle age. I once slept in nine beds in 14 days and forbore the discomfort by dreaming at each stopover that I would meet the Platonic ideal of the perfectly comfortable pillow.  My nephew has good sources and won the challenge. There is no room to pack a pillow, which constitutes a great sacrifice of comfort and may compromise the essential of sleep.)

I digress.  I have my symbolic travelling comforts of Hag Stone pebble and shawl.  Hot water bottle. And herbal teabags. (One must cherish one’s digestion on the road.)  Travel insurance. That’s about the height of it comfort zone-wise. There will certainly be strangers as I will travel with ten people only one of whom I’ve ever been introduced to before. But even nodding acquaintance still makes you essentially astrangers.

Whenever I prepare for a trip I think of my mother.  She was the one who meticulously taught me the art of packing a suitcase. Of course, she did most of her travelling in Depression and wartime America when suitcases were  things of utility, beauty and heft.   I can hear Mom’s voice in my head, a memory of being taught the proper way to fold blouses, trousers,rolling socks.  Like much of her advice, I deviate from the template. Yet every time I haul the suitcase out and prepare for another trip she turns up, telling me what matches or clashes, honing the perfect capsule wardrobe.  My mother liked travelling, going places. She used to look up at passing planes while she hung out the laundry and feel her feet begin to itch.  She did travel later in life and got to Italy, the Holy Land and England. While I pack I remember the excitement and yes, anxiety, too, of ‘going places.’ Anticipation is often a mixed emotion.  Yet we volunteer for travelling, to be a bit off-kilter as we seek those things that are eternal.

Bee Smith is travelling in March 2014 with the Leonardo da Vinci Life Long Learning Programme “Developing Creative Practice Across Borders” to Yorkshire and Lancashire organised by the Cavan Arts Office.


staying temporarily

moving on and through

ever shifting viewpoints

what shall I take?

what shall I leave behind?

sojourning smith

     I embark 1st March on a two week sojourn to Yorkshire and Lancashire on a Life Long Learning course “Developing Creative Practice Across Borders”.  In this case I will be sojourning with ten others, mostly strangers to me, embarking on this creative writing fortnight practice.   This is a Leonardo da Vinci Life Long Learning experience facilitated by the Cavan Arts office, the EU and Leargas.
     What will happen to my writing without the daily distractions of virtual internet world,  my own context of jaw dropping scenic beauty and rural splendour, the domestic procrastinations that quell creative writing time. Once I get to the Arvon Centre in Yorkshire will I go on a book binge reading jag when I get an eyeful of their library?  Will I dry up before the blank page? Will I have the courage to write anything, even the really bad, poorly formed sentences that get past the internal censor?
     Once I get to Manchester will the country mouse go de-mob mad in the big city? Or will I hole up in the hotel room tapping away at the keyboard, once again hard wired into wifi?
     A sojourn is by definition temporary.  Some people go on creative writing retreats. Rather than going in I am venturing out from my rather splendid rural isolation. Let’s see what crossing some borders does to my consciousness and see what decides to communicate with the sojourning.