THE SIGNS ARE GOOD


How the hell are we already in March? It seems like Christmas was only yesterday.

The daffodils have blossomed, their buttery brightness cheering up the still muddy garden no end. I love daffodils. They are such a symbol of hope. In our family we mark two anniversaries in March – my father died ten years ago and my brother fifteen years ago this month. So daffodils bore witness to the grief and desolation of both of these bereavements. But they did so by quietly speaking to my soul of hope and of life continuing even when it seems impossible. For that I will always be grateful to these seemingly everyday flowers.

Of course in Ireland we have (finally) counted all the votes that were cast last week and we (almost) have a new Government, which in itself brings new hope. We have been promised new ways of doing things, new politics but most of all we have just had, what some commentators have termed, a pencil revolution. The people of this little Ireland reacted angrily, not with protests on the streets or strikes but by very conclusively removing the governing parties of the last 14 years from office. The Green Party have been rendered completely ineffective with no seats in Dail Eireann at all and the all powerful Fianna Fail who have dominated politics here since the foundation of the state have been reduced to being the smallest of the main parties represented in the new Dail.

Psychologically we, the people can feel ‘job well done’! We now need our new Government to get on with the very challenging job of getting this country back on its feet.

The excitement of their first day in Government Buildings got the better of some of the newly elected boys and girls. Especially Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O Connor who was so taken with it all, got a tad mixed up in the carpark when she attempted to leave. She ended up driving her sexy red coupe onto the plinth in front the Dail and then down the steps to the gate where the photographers and reporters recorded her Top Gear moment. Was she making a case for ministerial mercs to be retained?

Finally, yesterday we beat England at Cricket. And not just any old cricket match – but the Cricket World Cup no less! Up till about 5pm yesterday I doubt if very many people knew that there was even such a thing as a Cricket World Cup – much less that it was actually taking place at the moment. Can victory for Jedward in the Eurovision be far off now? Is the tide turning for Ireland? Are we finally getting our mojo back? The signs are good!

Photo by John Morgan on Flickr

WELCOME TO 2011

Finally, we have arrived at the New Year. I love the fresh feeling and hope that the dawn of a new year brings and this year we also mark a new decade. It is a time for looking forward. It is time to stop wasting time with regrets or worrying about the year that has finally ended.

2010 was a challenging and difficult year for Ireland and her people. I, no doubt am not alone is being very glad to see the back of it. Last night, for the first time in many years, we just sat by the fire as a family and allowed the old year to slip into history. (Before you wonder if I have lost it altogether – me and him did have a glass or four of wine!) Today we are looking forward to all the possibilities this brand new year may bring to us.

So what about this new decade? I am hoping that we will make 2011, the year that hope is reborn in Ireland. We lost so much confidence in 2010. We were bombarded by a media obsessed with our economic difficulties. In 2011 I believe, that each of us need to make a conscious decision each day to hold on to hope. We need to focus on the future and on recovery. But most of all we need to hold onto the belief that we can make it happen…. And we will.

Personally, along with hope, I am going to attempt to live fearlessly this year. Many of us are finding that fear is making it difficult to see a way ahead. Fear is a very limiting and damaging emotion and is only useful if you are facing directly and immediately into danger. Fear should be fleeting – not long term.

So I say drop the fear, hang onto hope and march confidently on into the new decade! Fake it till we make it, if you like. Although the last verse of Bette Midler’s The Rose also captures the sentiment perfectly:

When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been to long,
and you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong,
just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed that with the sun’s love
in the spring becomes the rose.

May we all witness the blooming of prosperity, justice and peace for all in 2011

Barbara

A Candle in the Window

Christmas is a time for memories. I was very lucky to grow up in a reasonably normal home where we had a fairly traditional Christmas. Christmas was a far more modest event back then. Our decorations were of the paper variety and were strung from the four corners of the room to the centre ceiling light. Our Christmas tree was decorated in multicoloured baubles and lots of tinsel. Tinsel also adorned mirrors and pictures on the walls. The only fairy lights were, what we considered to be, very sophisticated Cinderella Carriage lights which were strung on the tree.

As a child the magic of Christmas Eve was always special. I remember the mounting sense of anticipation, tinged by the slight worry that I may not be able to get to sleep. One of my clearest memories is of watching out the windows as the light died and darkness fell. My mother would come into the front room and hitch up the net curtains in order to place a lighted candle on the window sill. I gazed out into the street, waiting as each of our neighbours did likewise. In 70s Ireland the only premises that were adorned in Christmas lights were pubs, shops and hotels. So the simple single candle in the windows of homes all over the countryside was a powerful symbol of hope and of welcome.

I am a great believer in the need for change and for progress. Life is fluid and little remains the same and that is a good thing. I indulge in fairly lights all over the house for Christmas and I string a set into the tree in the front garden – like many of my neighbours. Candles are a common feature in most homes nowadays and are lit year around.

But on Christmas Eve, as the light drains from the sky I often wish it were not so. I imagine a brief pause in all the excitement and a turning off of all the fairy lights – just for a few minutes. In the quiet and in the darkness and with appropriate reverence I wish to could again watch as each house could placed their simple, single candle in the window. Each one spilling its modest brilliance into the darkness of this special night.

But instead I will do what I always do. I will close my adult eyes and re-imagine the darkness of the 70s neighbourhood where I grew up and see again the flickering light in each window. I will recall just how powerful and poignant symbol a hope and of welcome these candles are. And I will take my lantern and light my own candle. And although it will be somewhat lost in the glow of my fairy lights, it carries the same, very Irish message, unchanged for many hundreds of years. There is a welcome here. Hope lives here.

Nollaig Shona Duit Go Leir!

BACK TO THE FUTURE 1963

The 26th of June 1963 was my mothers 28th birthday. On that evening she stood in the front garden of our house on the Swords Road in Santry with her 18 month old daughter in her arms and together they watched as one of the most glamorous and charismatic leaders the world had ever seen, swept past in his motorcade on the way to Aras an Uachtarain.

I don’t know if the fact that I saw President Kennedy from my mother’s arms explains my fascination with his story. I think most people, particularly us Irish, find the story of JFK compelling. It has it all – power, glamour, wealth, success, Hollywood legends, conspiracy and the ultimate tragedy of a life cut short. To this day and no doubt into the future, JFK is the President many leaders, particularly American Presidents aspire to. Clinton and Obama made no secret of their admiration for the 35th President of the United States and the Kennedy family’s endorsement of their campaigns, was a key element in both their elections to office.

What was it that made John Fitzgerald Kennedy so special? Watch old film of this attractive man, who was 43 when elected, and his charisma is still evident today. Charisma, no matter what your role in life is, is a very useful commodity. JFK had it in buckets. He was by all accounts very charming and had the ability to make people like him. His self deprecating sense of humour also won people over. He was a leader whose two most powerful tools were charm and charisma. Coupled, no doubt, with a sharp intellect and innate understanding that politics is all about people, combined to make him a very effective statesman.

He understood that to connect with people, be they your countrymen or not, was essential. He arrived in Dublin on that June evening in 1963, straight from Berlin where he had made his famous ‘Ich bein ein Berliner’speech. JFK knew how to connect with people alright.

But connecting alone is not enough. Kennedy also knew how to communicate very effectively his vision of the world. He used big broad brush strokes when painting that vision. Many years later, African American poet Maya Angelou said “… people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And when he came to visit us in Ireland, Kennedy made us feel good, good about ourselves and good about this country we live in. What a precious gift.

When he addressed the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas on the 28th of June, he delivered one of his trademark, powerful orations. It was full of references to Ireland’s proud literary tradition, stressing our relatively new independence, and the role he saw for Ireland in working towards World Peace. Probably the best known passage from the speech that day was when he quoted George Bernard Shaw’s approach to life :”other peoples see things and say ‘Why?…. but I dream things that never were – and I say: Why not?”

Kennedy went on to say
“It is that quality of the Irish, the remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination that is needed more than ever today. The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask, why not?”

These words, delivered directly here to us in Ireland, inspired our country almost 50 years ago. We listened and we believed. Why? Because they were delivered by a charismatic leader, who had a vision to communicate to us and who ultimately made us feel good about ourselves. To me, this is the very essence of leadership.

We should be grateful to Ryan Tubridy for putting the spotlight back on those momentous days of 1963. Because buried among the newsreel footage, the anecdotes and the sheer excitement, is Kennedy’s speech to the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas. It is a speech that is as relevant today as it was on the day it was delivered. Almost half a century later, his words are still a wonderful gift to us. As we flounder from one financial crisis to the next, in a vacuum devoid of leadership and of vision, let us remember that the 35th President of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy told us we possessed a remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination. And let us hope that he was right!

SPRINGTIME

Autumn is my favourite season but there is something so joyful and hopeful about Springtime; a message now more needed than ever.

Clear skies reveal the true blue ceiling to our world.
Sunlight dazzles and sparkles sending fingers of warmth to stroke my face and arms.
Air ripples with the joyous tumbling notes of bird song.
A fat furry bee buzzes against the window.
Splashes of buttery yellow hopefulness in unexpected corners.
Summer faintly humming in the near distance.

Earth’s whispers on April breezes,

Echoes of unseen stirrings beneath her soft surface.
Whispers heard deep in my veins,
Pulling me back outdoors.
Softly urging me to be part of this ensemble of recreation.
This colourful exuberant birthing of new life.
Delicate buds hiding unfurled leaves,
Stately tulips, bearing witness.
The cherry tree tosses her blossoms on the breeze
With the wild abandon of a Bollywood heroine.
And busy birds, singing, building
I take my cue.
Fingers deep in soil, breathing it’s loamy aroma as I dig and plant,
I give thanks to Mother Earth
For her reminder, that life is a journey
A series of deaths and rebirths
She turns through the seasons, year on year, she whispers ‘all is well’

HOLDING ONTO HOPE

It is now a week since the disastrous earthquake in Haiti. Since then the descriptions and images coming from the beleaguered Caribbean country have been truly horrific.

In the last few days I have been visited by one particular set of images. They are of another me. A Haitian me. A wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend who has lost so much; loved ones, her home, pets, a livelihood, normality. I am struck by her almost overwhelming fear; fear of further quakes and aftershocks, fear of the aggression of others who are driven to the brink of insanity by the enormity of what has happened, fear of long nights full of foul stenches and total darkness. I am struck by her loss and her grief which has no expression as she struggles for her own survival and that of her children. And I am struck by her loss of hope. In ways that is the worst of all. A life without hope is a life without light.

And perhaps this is what we, here in the safety and security of the developed world, are called to do at this time. Perhaps our job now is to hold the light, hold the hope for our sisters and brothers in Haiti. We must stand firm while they struggle with despair and misery.

We are the carriers of the message that all is not lost. We must hold the vision of better days ahead for Haiti. As we feel their pain and bear witness to their suffering, through whatever means we choose, be it prayer, fundraising, moments of silent meditation, we hold the light.

We guard the hope of a bright, brand new day which is just beyond view. Just over the horizon.

__________________________________________

“Now the music’s gone but they carry on

For their spirit’s been bruised, never broken

They will not forget but their hearts are set

on tomorrow and peace once again

For what’s done is done and what’s won is won

and what’s lost is lost and gone forever

I can only pray for a bright, brand new day

in the town I loved so well “

Phil Coulter

Filled with Gratitude

Hello, hello, hello.

It seems like ages since I have been posting on Seeking Serenity, due to the fact that I had two wonderful Guest Writers posting their wit, wisdom and words here for the last two weeks. So before I go any further can I thank both Susannah Bec (Joy Frequencies among others) and Niamh Griffin (Writer On The Way Home) for their beautiful and inspiring and uplifting posts. I enjoyed both and know, from the comments, that they went down well with you too!

So, its almost Christmas and we are getting ready to welcome the return of the light (methaphorically and physically). We are also in the last days of this year of 2009. I am sure that many of you, like me, have mixed feelings about 2009. It has been a difficult and challenging year but thankfully punctuated with good things and high spots too. So as we cruise towards it’s end, it might be a good idea to remind ourselves of what was good about this year. And you know even, the trauma of recession and church scandals are fulfilling an important purpose in allowing a cleansing and detox take place. Our world may be moving towards getting rid of inequality of wealth, greed and injustice during this period of collapse of banking and financial institutions. And I am not for one moment trivialising the loss of other jobs, collateral damage as it were, in this painful process. But I am merely making the point that at the end of this process we may all be better off in ways it is hard to imagine now.

The church is also going to continue its painful period of being cleansed of bullying, secrecy, abuse and rigid control. I am proud that Ireland may well turn out to be the country that leads this re-examination of the Catholic Church. In my heart I hope that we can all return to the values that Jesus taught and leave the bullshit behind us. Then the thousands of children who suffered at the hands of these men of God, will not have suffered in vain. At the moment I am constantly reminded of Jesus’s words “suffer little children, forbid them not to come unto me for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It may well be that these children are going to be remembered and honoured, as through their bravery as adults they began this important process of change.

So it is with optimism that I head gladly towards the end of this year. 2010 will be better, I am sure.

Finally, I want to thank you! I set up this blog in March, on a wave of enthusiasm after attending a brilliant Inkwell Writers workshop led by the wonderful Beth Morrissey. Since then I have posted all sorts of bits and pieces and more recently have set up my second blog, My Word Songs, which is dedicated to my writing. I have discovered a whole new virtual world, made some new friends (whom I have never met) and have so enjoyed reading your comments. So thank you – for checking in, for leaving comments, and for being new friends.

Nollaig Shona go leir agus here’s to 2010 – lets hope it brings us all an abundance of all that is good!