THANK YOU FOR THE MAGIC….

I am not a big fan of science fiction.  I don’t like Dr Who or Star Trek.  I don’t understand black holes and the concept of a huge infinite universe melts my brain completely.
But a fiery sunset can take my breath away.  A rising creamy moon spills magic onto my world.  There is little quite as beautiful as a shimmering tent of stars overhead on a dark night.  These things speak to my soul.  They tell of wonders that exist just beyond my understanding and comprehension.  They never fail to move me and remind me that there is so much beyond this world; that our journey is far more than we can see or feel or touch.
On the 20th of July 1969 Neil Armstrong took his ‘giant leap for mankind’ onto the surface of the moon.  For decades it seemed to me that this was the pinnacle of man’s achievement in space.  Nothing has ever come near to wonder of that first space walk.
Sure, I am aware of probes to Mars and the fact that we have a Space Station hurtling around us where all kinds of experiments are carried out.  My twitter feed for the last few years has occasionally told me about ISS passes and what time it might be visible over Dublin.  I think I saw it just once.  It was not much more exciting that knowing the aircraft overhead is a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to New York. 
Then on the 5th of January a tweet appeared in my Twitter timeline with this photo.  The caption read Tonight’s Finale: I’m not quite sure! Ireland, Wales or England, through a gap in the cloud. Where is this port town?
The tweet had originated on the ISS and was sent by a Commander Chris Hadfield.  Commander Hadfield had found Dublin and Ireland was just beginning to find Commander Hadfield.  More stunning images followed including the one below of the moon setting over the Earth.
Who knew Canada had astronauts?  But they do and to borrow a line from a famous ad… If  *insert beer name* did astronauts, they would do Chris Hadfield.
Commander Hadfield is exactly what I thought an astronaut wouldn’t be.  He is creative.  His photographs show a remarkable eye for composition and the words he chooses to accompany these pictures are beautifully crafted and carefully chosen.  But more than that, as I quickly discovered, Chris Hadfield is an accomplished musician. 
In February he posted a video of his accompanying a children’s choir from Canada, singing a song called “Is Somebody Singing” … you just have to listen to the words…. It captures beautifully the magic of looking at our world from 240 miles above in space.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvAnfi8WpVE
I was hooked.  Hadfield posted photos of cities and towns and landscapes, as we had never seen them before.  We saw amazing weather patterns and sometimes con trails from aircraft far below. And we saw moon rises like never before.
On the 18th of February he posted a magnificent night time shot of our capital city with the words Tá Éire fíorálainn! Land of green hills and dark beer. With capital Dublin glowing in the Irish night.  And an entire nation fell in love.  Irish in space – imagine that.
He sang Danny Boy for St Patricks Day, he made videos explaining life without gravity but most of all he captured the magic and wonder of our little blue planet.  He showed us a little of what he could see from his ‘tin can in space’. 
There have been many nights in the last six months when I have gazed skywards.  I could have been putting something in the bin, or locking the car or calling in the cat and I have smiled, knowing that up above my head somewhere was the charismatic Canadian with a guitar.  An astronaut with the heart of a poet and the soul of sage. 
Commander Hadfield, a man of science, sees the wonder and the magic of our universe and of our planet.  But more than that, he knows exactly how to capture it for us so we can get a taste of the magic, the beauty, the wonder back here on earth. 
I would dearly love to have five minutes some day to interview him.  To hear him speak of this wonder, to hear if it has changed him, to know how it feels to see life from 250 miles above this little blue planet….  And to know what he is going to do next….
Thank you Chris for sharing… it’s been wonderful.

THERE’S MAGIC AROUND THIS WEEKEND

This is a weekend of magic.

Tomorrow night we should hopefully be treated to a wonderfully enlarged and brightened full moon as we witness what has been called a Supermoon. This phenomonen occurs about every 20 years when the moon comes about 17,000 miles closer to Earth. So, hopefully the weather will co-operate with clear skies so we can admire Grandmother Moon as she hangs in the sky, 14% larger and 30% brighter.

This weekend is also the Spring Equinox (Sunday) when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal. This was a very important festival in pre Christian Ireland and one still marked today by Pagans. The Equinox marks the mid point of the Celtic Spring which began on 1st of February. It is time to get out into the garden. Clear away the debris from winter storms and make ready for the abundance of summer. The Equinox also reminds us to check our own lives for balance.

I am always amazed that the animals I live fully recognise the new season. They too feel the pull outdoors. Dylan da Dog drives me mad with is constantly looking to go out, and then coming in only to want out again 30minutes later. But the cats being more independent by having their own cat flap enjoy heading out to a sunny area to sit for a while and contemplate life.

We spent Patricks Day gardening. I now have pots ready to replant, a patio ready for a steam clean and once that is done, we can uncover the table for alfresco dining. We will then declare ourselves ready for summer…..

Isn’t it just great!

BY THE WAY: If you are near a radio or online tomorrow (Saturday) at about 11.40 (GMT) tune into 4FM (94.4 in Dublin or online http://www.4fm.ie) tune in. I will be on with Gareth O Callaghan, shooting the breeze.

Magic in the Kingdom

OK.. so what is it about Kerry?

As soon as those amazing mountains appeared on the horizon I was aware of a change in the energy. Kerry has a mystical and magical air about it that I have not experienced in any other part of Ireland. Perhaps that is why they call it not a county but a Kingdom!

The people of Kerry also seem to be infected with the same majesty, which manifests in their quiet confidence, their openness and their air of calm; something which I particularly enjoyed in the current climate and especially during the week of our mini budget! Where else but in the Kingdom of Kerry would a dolphin choose a solitary life engaging with locals and tourists alike?

This is the land of St Brendan, a man who clearly dreamed big dreams and then made them happen – against all odds. This is also the county that gave us Tom Crean – another explorer whose quiet confidence played no small part in the amazing story of the Endurance Expedition in the Antarctic. To have lunch in his pub, The South Pole Inn in Anascaul was one of the highlights of our week. And in Ballinskelligs we learn of the lives of the monks who carved, quite literally, a life on their rocky outpost on Skellig Michael, 8 kilometres out in the Atlantic, almost 1.500 years ago. The fact that these monks not only survived but built an Oratory and their famous bee hive huts on such an unforgiving island is again testament to the Kerry spirit.

And so it was with regret that we headed north and back to Dublin, having basked for a week in the amazing scenery and spirit and energy, in what used to be known as the edge of the world. Kerry people know that they have something special. Something unique. They inhabit a Kingdom. A Kingdom full of magic and mystical possibilities. Kerry is good for the soul. I can’t wait to return!