How Weird Is Your Normal?

Some people embraced the New Normal early on. Others railed at it. Still others pointed out that what is now normal is really weird. Which got me thinking that this may always have been so. Darwin observed that species adapt to survive. Under pressure, some humans adapt more easily than others. But was the old normal really so ‘normal?’ It may have been the routine or the convention, but viewed with de-scaled eyes was normal not a little bit weird?

I am reminded of my first visit to Belfast in December of 1980. The Hunger Strikes were happening. There were armoured military vehicles patrolling streets. An armed squaddie in full combat dress walked the shopping precinct. If you wanted to park your car in a Control Zone you needed to leave someone in it to prove that there was no bomb threat. During the Christmas sales a tightly permed elderly lady dressed in a twinset frisked me before I could enter Woolworths to buy a teapot. She ran a metal detector over my then boyfriend. The Europa hotel was behind metal hoarding, fending off the next bombing.

All of that was normal for residents of Northern Ireland during the 1980s when I vistited. But how weird does it sound to you? After thirty years of living with an eye and an ear for potential threat, how weird must it have felt to see the gradual dismantling of the military presence stand down. There goes the fortified police station in the border town. Up go a block of flats in its place. Even though that happened in 2013, nearly fifteen years after the Belfast Treaty was signed.

So, here we are in these chaotic times. Chaos is our new normal.

The world is on fire

and you are wondering what 
to cook for dinner.
But the fire is faraway,
even as the ash
drifts ever nearer, nearer.
But not close enough
to scorch or singe your lawn.
Still, you know your world
is on fire, but dinner needs
making, the children
have homework for tomorrow.
You can learn to live
with smoke, rubble and embers.
The house is okay,
though dinner's served a little
late on broken plates.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

Catching Fire

High temperatures in summer is no news most places. Except in Ireland, where if it gets much above 20C/65F, we swelter, broil, boil and fry. Partly, it has to do with living in northwest Ireland without a cloud of pollution overhead. The sun is particularly intense here. I have had more sunburns since moving here than anywhere else I have lived. That includes beach time at the Jersey shore in childhood. So it has been an interesting June watching our south-facing field fry in relentless sunshine, seeing the thermometer register 45C at 5pm one day.

So fire and dry heat has been a theme. We are now back to normal ‘good Irish summer’ temperatures in the low twenties, with humidity. I strongly suspect a poem on the theme of steam may emerge over this coming week.

Catching Fire

 

The earth under my feet

is mostly made of peat.

 

We have been a month without rain,

since Whitsuntide at least.

 

The earth under my feet is cracking.

I could flake it.  Snap off a chunk.

 

Set it alight. If anyone wanted to bother

burning some in the grate.

 

This summer’s sun is intense enough

to take a match to the bog.

 

The earth under my feet,

this rich, black gold,

 

is not yet smouldering, but

may burst into flame

 

any moment now.

Just exhaling could fan a flame.

 

Tongues of fire

will speak their pure language,

 

purgation.

It’s a gift.

 

Later, many months later,

the birch will begin.

 

First one, then a sister sprouting

a twin, triplets,

 

a family of trees telling

the whole story, chapter by chapter.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

 

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