The Grand Silence

Long time, no blog. 2022 has been a year, hasn’t it? My much beloved Windows 7 steam-powered laptop finally expired and I am test driving the new laptop with this blog. Which, in part, explains the long blog silence. As a touch typiest who learned on a manual typewriter (yes, i am THAT old!), I hate typing on a tablet. But sometimes if you don’t feel there is anything fresh to offer, then it is best to shut up and garden. And work on the house. My husband and I have done both. They have been grounding activities as we have wrestled with online banking and branch closures and other administrative frustrations all this year posst-pandemic.

Note to young readers out there: the older you get the less elastic your adaptability becomes, especially after two years of sequestration. And why are they closing bank branches just when we hunger to see faces and can safely deal with human interaction? Somedays it feels like the War of the Robots is the new business model for just about everything! Now, I REALLY sound old!

My husband is quite extraordinary. As a sort of throw away wish during lockdown, I said aloud that I wanted part of the garden to be dedicated to Brighid (aka St. Brigit of Ireland or the goddess Brigid). I researched plants associated with Her. We walked the acre and identified a spot that looked a likely place to put it. Come Imbolc this year, Tony began digging out rushes, orris root and comfrey that had run amuck. The site is slightly sloping so he needed to level it some and also put in drainage in parts. This is West Cavan after all and though we have a lot of ‘black gold’ peat , there is also a lot of clay, some of it that blue daub that you could make into dinner plates. We began with some rockery plants, including one rock rose called ‘The Bride.’ Because there were also a lot of large rocks he dug out.

Then he created small raised beds and made a bamboo pallisade to support a wall of sweet peas this past summer. We put in a number of perennials, like veronica, wild plants like Lady’s Mantle, teasel, and milk thistle. I planted red-orange coloured gladioli to give a ‘flame’ effect in the summer. When I visited Bloom in Dublin this past June I scored two hardy fuschia; fuschia is a flower that symbolises abundance and so does Brighid. We kept one patch of rushes at the heart so I can weave St. Brigid’s crosses this coming February. This past month or so we have cleared the sweet peas and planted spring flowering anemones and and narcisssi – Anemome St. Brighid and The Bride and Narcissi Bride’s Crown. A winter flowering jasmine has been added for some winter colour and a heather bed.

Friends have pitched in with making signs and a hand made bench will arrive so you can sit and meditate in the space. I got an online company to print my poem “Brigid’s Mantle” onto a non-PVC banner and it has gone up.

Next Spring will see an Orangery erected so I can write in a midge free zone during the milder months. I will also be able to invite friends to sit in and drink tea and look out at the flowers in all weathers.

This does not include the many vegetables that we harvested and that I cooked, froze and processed. We are still eating potatoes that Tony planted in tubs. So we are about three-quarters self-sufficient in spuds this year. There are still broad beans in the freezer and there were some home grown green beans left in the freezer for a Thanksgiving green bean casserole.

Now we are in the middle of a major kitchen tear down, rehab and re-wiring job. Which I hope will be done by St. Brigit’s Day, a new bank holiday in Ireland in 2023 for the first time. And not before time! She actually was born in Ireland, unlike St. Patrick! It feels like a good sign that women will be getting more rights and that misogyny will wane. St. Brigit was the most canny of women. And a survivor and adaptor par excellance! She evolved from pagan goddess to a Mother Abbess – and a bishop!

Once the Poetry Map project was launched for Cuilcagh Lakelands Global Geopark in March, I was badly needing some time out. I continued with my Zoom group of women writers throughout the year, but my own output has been very small, scappy and first draft languishing. Nothing was getting my pulse racing. No ideas or projects felt diverting.

So it seemed sensible to remain silent. Editors and readers want something fresh. While I had plodded on throughout various Lockdowns, maybe I needed to admit to myself that I was as tired as the World itself.I repeatedly heard people report fatigue and exhaustion. Maybe it was partly because so many of us embraced activities that have been impossible for two years. (We returned to a community drum circle this autumn and singing/music practice with two other friends.) But interaction with more than a handful of souls was a skill that had gone a bit rusty. In our rural fastness I found I was much more sensitive to loud noises and crowds. A trip to IKEA in Dublin was way too over-stimulating for my nervous system.

Perhaps it will take a while for the World and Its Wife to re-boot after two years of virtual seclusion. You would have thought I had had about as much silence as I could take, but then again…The world was knocked off its axis and it has not yet regained its balance. Things are still very wonky and people are still getting sick.

I do still believe in the healing power of words. But I also know that stillness and silence are even more profound and very deep medicine indeed. Staying connected to the earth and nature have been grounding not just for me. Maybe I have also been doing some of it for you, who may not have nature just outside the front door. Maybe it has been more important to remain anchored when so many are uprooted by war, economic recession, and bereavements of so many sorts.

Stay grounded. Bear witness. Testify when it is time.

And in the estremely severe temperatures in Ireland this week – frost on hoar frost on hoar frost – -7C most nights

When I am not writing…

I am popping peas from their pods

Plucking carrots I sowed last May in nice, neat rows

Snapping the necks of courgettes

Pulling lettuce for supper, washing it, gussying it up like its a gala

instead of Wednesday night

I am eating ice cream everyday because it is sultry

Or to cool off after savage Scrabble games

Or inventing cozy mystery titles over dinner, like

“The Last Scrabble Match”

(where the victim has a U shoved down the throat)

I continue to cheat at crossword puzzles

The pets pant and lie on tiles

And shed like they want me to spin thread from their coats

I could knit into shawls for wintertime

I  chase animal hair down the corridor

Like they are ghost town tumbleweeds

At the launderette I watch God go around with the wash

It’s spin cycle time

But the rains come and give the laundry on the line

Three heavy showers so it takes five days to dry

I still have to iron dry the cuffs and waistlines

I Hate ironing

I mention my not writing to my bestie who asks carefully if anything

is festering

I embark on a long

Extended metaphor about how it is more like compost building

And I have been doing that, too

Wet stuff, then the green matter scrunched up from the recycling bin

Then some chopped comfrey as an activator

But you need heat to make the good crumbly fertile stuff

That is perfection

And I am not sad. Or anxious.  Really.

I remember the profound silence at the solar eclipse a month ago

When the whole world was holding its breath

It was that still, palpable

I held it like it was a touchstone or talisman

The blank page isn’t really scary

It is just waiting patiently for that moment

When the cloud formation speaks

And it is time to transcribe

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith