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The Politics of Walking | An Update

Ooooh... which way will I go?

Ooooh… which way will I go?

Today, Carys’s walker was sent home from school with a note saying, “We don’t need this at school any more, we don’t use it.”

In other words, in the week and a half since I took the Walkolong into school, Carys is walking so well in with it, that she doesn’t need the standard issue walker her physiotherapist has insisted on for over six years.

I wonder what the politics of this are

I think you can guess how I’m feeling right now, which is just as well, because I couldn’t express it in words if I tried.

 

Walk of Wonder

Bright One

I took Indi the Mutt-Hound for a walk up the lane yesterday. Hadn’t been that way with him for a while, and I was blown away by what I found! Irish wildflowers are flourishing in the verges and hedgerows of Ireland, and no one seems to notice or care. Ireland’s countryside is alive with flora and fauna, which we seem oblivious to.

Do I just walk around with my eyes closed? Why have I never noticed this thriving diversity crowding our roadsides? It may sound crazy, but I felt like these beauties were introducing themselves to me, they were just jumping out at me wherever I turned! I feel so glad, but saddened that it’s taken so long.

There were daisies and dandelions and buttercups everywhere of course. But then I spotted this…

bright7

Ferns are beginning to unfurl. There is something wonderfully prehistoric and primaeval about ferns, I think, especially at this stage. I love them.

I thought these tiny little stars of gorgeousness were forget me nots, they were rambling everywhere, but they’re actually a type of speedwell, and quite common in Ireland’s verges and roadsides.

wonder8

I’ve never seen these little purple and white lovelies before, which surprises me because there were so many of them. I think they are a type of vetch.

bright2

Next up… do my eyes deceive me? I thought this was a wild orchid, which made me feel very excited! But no, I think it is a lone dog-violet, and very beautiful it is too!

There are thirty types of wild orchid native to Ireland, who knew? Their Irish name is magairlín (mog-er-leen) which means ‘testicle’, on account of the shape of the bloom of the native early purple orchid… just thought you’d enjoy that little nugget!

bright4

These were very eye-catching, and stood out a mile among the profusion of greenery. I think they might be sandwort, but I’m not sure.

These need no introduction… I think you know very well what they are, and how much I love them. I was able to get a picture of a field border hedged in gorse, you can see how invasive it is. Left to itself, it just creeps further and further into the field. It can gladly invade my garden!

bright6

The hedge cutting has been severe this year. I don’t think this one will ever recover. Still, I was truck by the silvery bare knotwork of branches against the intense yellow of the gorse and the vibrant green grass.

wpid-2015-05-23-18.16.36.jpg.jpeg

After I took this picture, my battery ran out, and there were several wonders I was unable to bring to you this time, so this concludes my walk of wonder for now. Last year I ate tiny sweet wild strawberries and blackberries picked from the verges when I walked with Indi… that’s what I’m looking forward to next!

I take all my pictures on my Samsung Galaxy S4, but I’ve noticed recently that all my images seem to lose their colour and clarity when I transfer them to WordPress. Any ideas among you photographer types? I think I may have to invest in an actual camera, but it must be simple, small, budget and novice friendly, and have a powerful zoom… any recommendations would be gratefully recieved!

A vote for All the colors of the Rainbow, Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum. May 22nd 2015

Ali Isaac:

I’m not allowed to vote on issues concerning Ireland’s constitution unfortunately. I just hope come Friday the Irish people will demonstrate common sense and equality, but with the clergy preaching for a NO vote from their congregations, I wonder. Is intolerance and prejudice the only route into heaven?

Originally posted on Nigel Borrington:

All the colours of the Rainbow Nigel Borrington All the colours of the Rainbow
Nigel Borrington

This Friday (May 22nd) Ireland votes in a referendum for same-sex marriage and its a big moment for this country !!!

I don’t usually comment here , if at all about social of political issues , this is my area of personal escape in many ways from these areas !!!

However by posting one of my rainbow images here , I hope I make it very clear what I am thinking !!!

We as a race (HUMAN RACE!!!) need everyone – all ( colors, shapes and sizes ) and this involves everyone being equal and thus having the same rights in all areas of life !!!

Details of the vote

SO Clearly I will be Voting YES!!!! :) :)

Rainbow Colors

by Sharon MacDonald

A rainbow of colors,
In the light, after rain.
There are seven of them,
And, each one has…

View original 99 more words

#1000speak | What Connection Means to Me

webWe are so fortunate to live in this digital age; it allows anyone and everyone to be a writer, either through publishing a book, or posting on a blog. We all have a voice. Thus we can be heard all around the world, not just the tiny patch of it which we physically inhabit, and make connections with like-minded people we could never otherwise hope to have met. We are all connected.

Perhaps even more important is our growing awareness of our interconnectedness; the ability to see a universal ‘oneness’ in all things, that no matter who or where we are, or how different we appear to be on the outside, we are all part of one whole.

Science has taken this idea a huge step further; archaeo-anthropology and archaeo-genetics can now trace our genetic pathway back through thousands of years to the origins of mankind, so determining our common ancestors. It seems we are more interconnected than some of us might like to admit.

Take, for example, the recent exhumation of the body of King Richard III from beneath a car park in Leicester; he died on August 22nd 1485, yet using samples of DNA obtained from his remains 530 years later, it was possible to trace his descendants around the globe who are alive today. Imagine discovering that connection!

All these strands which connect us in the modern world seem as fragile and intricate as spiders webs. They are invisible, blurred by distance, connections we can neither see, nor feel. They are easy to overlook, ignore, deny. Herein lies the disconnect.

Our connections on the web, social media, local radio, tv and so on informed us of the devastation of the two recent earthquakes in Nepal which left over 8500 people dead, and we were shocked. But we are immune, because we are so far removed from such horror. In our part of the world, these disasters rarely happen.

Watching or listening to such events unfold in distant lands to people we don’t know arouses only vague senses of sorrow and empathy. A quick donation later, and we’ve moved on to discussing the weather, or preparing the dinner, and tomorrow there will be new news.

But the disconnect is insidious and sly. It creeps stealthily into our everyday lives, and our immediate community. I know, because I see it and I feel it. I always have.

Every day I battle with my twin demons; connection and disconnection. I disconnect so I can write; so I can avoid large social gatherings, where I mill about on the fringes feeling more disconnected than ever; so I can avoid feeling different, or inadequate, in fact so I can disconnect from my feelings of disconnectedness, which society makes me feel so aware of.

While I’m doing that, I’m connecting via my blog and social media with people who judge me only on my content, on what I have to say, on my voice, on my interaction. No one here finds me lacking. If they do, they just disconnect, unfollow, never comment again. It’s a wonderful freedom. No wonder more and more people are joining the blogosphere.

The most precious connection of all, though, is that I share with my children. It’s a multi-faceted jewel which is constantly growing and evolving. It’s more than words, mere communication; its nurturing, displays of love and affection, sharing, taking an interest in each other, making time for each other, and so much more. I am reminded of this daily, when I lift my non-verbal child from her bed every morning. Lack of communication does not make for lack of connection; her squeals of joy when I walk in the room, and the intensity of her hugs are proof enough of that.

Irish Mythology | Tree Lore (Part One) – The Apple Tree

I love trees. I have always loved them. Not in the tree-hugging sense, but as in respect, awe, admiration. Seeing trees being cut almost hurts, and certainly makes me feel incredibly sad. In Irish mythology, tree lore features in many of the old stories and legends. Not only that, but the secret ancient code of Ogham is based on trees and alternatively called the Tree Alphabet.

It is said that out of Ireland’s 16,000 townlands, 13,000 of them are named after trees. I don’t know how true this is, but certainly the town near where I live, Virginia, is known as Achadh an Iúir in Irish, which means ‘field/ meadow of the yew'; Kildare comes from the Irish Cill Dara, meaning ‘church of the oak’, whereas Billis, the townland where I actually live, na Bilí in Irish, refers to a large, isolated sacred tree.

The ancient Irish held trees in great esteem. Not only did they provide fruits, nuts, berries, flowers, leaves, bark and roots, all of which could be harvested for nutritional and medicinal purposes, but they symbolised longevity, virility, and immoveable strength. Their roots penetrated the magical lands of the Underworld, or Otherworld, whilst their branches stretched into the starry deeps of the sky, thus connecting both realms with the physical, surface world in which we live.

Brehon Law, which as we know was certainly very forward thinking for its time, protected living trees and levied hefty fines on those found to be unlawfully chopping them down. It classified trees into four categories, each containing a list of seven trees;

  1. Chieftain trees, such as the oak, hazel, holly, yew, ash, scots pine and wild apple.
  2. Peasant trees, such as the hawthorn, alder, willow, rowan, birch, elm and wild cherry.
  3. Shrubs, such as blackthorn, juniper, whitebeam, aspen, spindle-tree, strawberry tree and eldar.
  4. Bushes, such as bracken, gorse, blackberry, heather, bog myrtle, broom and dog rose.

The punishment for illegally felling a chieftain tree was three cows. In ancient times, cattle were a measure of wealth, and used in place of currency. To cut down a peasant tree would result in a fine of only one cow.

Just as there were five provinces, with five roads leading to them from Tara, there were also five great trees of Ireland. They were  Bile Uisnigh, the ancient tree at Uisneach; Bile Tortan at Ardbreccan in County Meath; Craobh Daithi in County Westmeath; Eo Rossa, a yew at Old Leighlin in County Carlow; and Eo Mugna, an oak at the mouth of the Shannon, Co. Meath.

There is a lot of information regarding tree lore on the internet, so I’m not going to regurgitate much more for you here. But I am going to tell you some of the myths and legends associated with some of Ireland’s trees, starting with the apple. Watch out for more coming soon.

Organic red apples on branch

The Apple Tree is a chieftain tree, and its Irish name is Aball. Confusingly, in the Ogham tree alphabet, it is represented by the character known as cert, or quert.  

The first story which springs to mind is the Tragedy of Bailé and Aillin. Bailé was Prince of Ulster, and he was riding south to meet his beloved betrothed, Aillin. He and his entourage met a strange old man who told them that the Princess Aillin was dead. Overcome with grief, he falls down dead. As his people begin to mourn and prepare his funeral mound, the stranger turns south and travels to the court of Aillin, where he informs her that her lover is dead. She is also overcome with grief and dies.

Out of her grave, an apple tree grows with the likeness of her face preserved in the bark. From Bailé’s grave, a yew tree grows, with his likeness imprinted in it. They lean towards each other over the miles, consumed with love and longing.

After seven years, the trees are cut down by poets, and all the tales of romance for each land carved into the wood, which had been made into tablets. These were then carried to Tara and placed in the High King’s hand. As he examined them, they leapt together, and became so fiercely entwined that no one could separate them.

If you would like to read this story in all the beauty and glory of the language it deserves, you can now download a free copy of Grá mo Chroí from Smashwords, which contains Jane Dougherty‘s beautiful and lyrical retelling.

Atlantic Salmon HeadThe Tragic Death of Cú Rí mac Daire (note: daire means ‘oak’) is another fascinating story of Irish myth. Cú Rí was an ally of Cuchullain, and a great magician. Dividing the spoils of war after a battle, Cú Rí claimed the lady Blathnait as his bride, but Cuchullain, being a bit of a ladies man, wanted to keep her for himself. The magician carried her off to his fortress on top of the mountain at Caherconree, in Co Kerry.

Blathnait was blindly in love with Cuchullain, however, so she contrived for the old magician to send his men out quarrying for stone to improve the defensibility of the fort against the young warriors arrival.

Whilst they were away, and her husband lay sleeping, she hid his weapons, and poured milk into the river to send a signal to the waiting Cuchullain at the bottom of the mountain that all had gone to plan. The warrior then stormed the fort and claimed his love.

However, the end of the magician himself is not clear. Whilst one version of the story says he was killed by Cuchullain, another claims his soul entered an apple which was thrown into the river. There it was eaten by a mighty salmon, which only rose to the surface once every seven years. When Blathnait discovers Cú Rí’s escape, she informs Cuchullain, who catches the salmon and kills it. Talk about vindictive!

There is a story which goes that Connla stood on the Hill of Uisneach with his father Conn of the Hundred Battles, when a beautiful maiden approached him. She told him of her love for him, and begged him to return with her to Magh Mel, the Plain of Pleasure in Manannán’s land, for she was one of the Sidhe.

Conn managed to save his son from her clutches by getting his Druid to chant spells, but before she disappeared, she threw an apple to Connla, which he caught. From that day on, the young man spoke to no one, nor ate anything but from the apple, which each day was magically renewed and sustained him week after week.

After a month had gone by, the beautiful maiden approached the young man once more, speaking of her love, and entreating him to accompany her in a crystal curragh to the magical lands beyond the ninth wave. Connla was torn by his loyalty for his father and his clan, but also by his love for this young woman.

Sadly his father gave his permission, and together the young couple sailed away and were never seen again.

Butterfly Wings

Butterfly and dandelion

It has been such a bittersweet week. Carys has unexpectedly lost two of her CFC big brothers.

Craig was seventeen and lived in Scotland. He had battled through so many challenges, but had the biggest smile and most beautiful eyes you’ve ever seen. He couldn’t walk or talk; he couldn’t eat but was fed by a tube straight into his tummy; at night he needed to sleep with an oxygen mask, his bedroom was like a hospital room with all its monitors and machinery and medical equipment.

But that wasn’t what defined him. Courage, determination, love and a beautiful soul, that’s what I see when I remember Craig.

Jacob wasn’t much older than Carys. He put his whole being into his smiles and hugs. I watched his achievements, and he was an inspiration to me, a shining example of what could be accomplished.

Now they’re both gone. No more suffering for them, I know, but its still so hard to accept. Now it’s time for those they leave behind to suffer their loss.

As parents, so much of our day is spent simply taking care of their needs. Their not being here leaves such a huge void, not just in our hearts, or our arms, but simply in the time between waking and sleeping, and often beyond. What do we physically DO when they are no longer with us? How do we fill the time? How do we ever recover?

It has been said that they have earned their angel wings, and now they are healed. It’s a beautiful, comforting thought even for those of us who are non-religious. In Ireland, it used to be believed that butterflies carried the souls of the dead into heaven, and that the white ones in particular bore the souls of children. Perhaps there’s some truth in that, for I have seen butterflies everywhere lately; not real ones, its too cold for them just yet, but representations in picture and words.

And impossibly, unbelievably, in the midst of this sorrow comes joy. For us, at any rate, which kind of makes me feel guilty. How is it possible to experience happiness and sadness in one heart at one time?

Yesterday, I met with Carys’s PT and teacher. Carys demonstrated the Walkolong perfectly; she walked confidently and steadily up and down the packed dining hall, stopping traffic so to speak with her prowess and her unique walking aid.

It was agreed that she would now use it every day in school; in fact, her teacher told me she really believed Carys would benefit from it. Today Carys walked all around school and even outside to the playground and back in it… she was so tired from all her exercise, that she fell asleep waiting for the bus to bring her home!

When I think of our CFC children, I think of butterfly wings; bright and beautiful, fragile and easily bruised, a blaze of glory in a world which would be sadly lacking without them, no matter how short-lived.

Irish Mythology | Étaín

 

butterflies design

When I saw Sacha Black’s writing prompt to write a piece from the viewpoint of an insect, this story popped immediately into my head, although life being life, it took me over a week to finally knuckle down and write it. Although I wrote it for Sacha, I decided to post it here too, because I have butterfly wings beating in my heart and my brain this week, and I can’t stop them. I’ll tell you more about that another time. For now, if you aren’t familiar with Étaín’s beautiful story, you can read  a short retelling here.

And now, my version…

I am Etain. Once I was Sidhe, and a Queen, adored and admired. Now, I spread my wings, and they are beautiful, vibrant, shimmering. The wind catches them, takes me up into its arms, and I am airborne. Invisible lips blow me here, there, and I delight in my freedom, my weightlessness.

When I tire, I alight on a blossom. The petals are no match for me; they pale in my shadow, for I am a purple jewel carved from living flesh by an alien hand. The sun warms my body; I glitter in its light. I flutter my wings, and radiate bright ripples of colour and fierce joy.

But I am distracted. The flower hides a secret. Its scent draws me in, more powerful, more intoxicating than I ever experienced in my past incarnation. My wings fold as I feed on nectar sweeter than honey, more precious than the Gods’ ambrosia.

Giddy with sweetness, greedy for more, I leap from bloom to bloom, heedless of the darkening sky, and the wind which whips the trees into clumsy dance. Raindrops fall, hard and heavy, brushing the colour from my wings like dust. Bruised and battered, I realise the wind is no longer my friend, and I am buffeted before it without mercy.

Until kind Óengus takes me in. He builds me a crystal bower, where I rest and recover. He feeds me pollen and sugar, and I need do nothing more in return but shimmy my wings now and then for his pleasure. It feels good to be adored again.

But a wild creature needs its freedom. I exchange my crystal prison for air and sunlight, and journey where life takes me. Then one day, I hear a sound I have long missed, and I am lured by my longing.

A man is playing a harp, its light liquid notes falling through the air more silver than birdsong. Men and women gather to listen; they talk and laugh softly, and I am struck with the sharp pain of sudden loneliness. I perch on the rim of a goblet, but there is so much beauty around them, I am unnoticed.

When she lifts the vessel to her lips, I tumble into the swirling red depths. I desperately beat my wings, but they are immersed, trapped in the fluid as if it was glue. Unknowing, she swallows more than wine. I flutter my wings, and she feels those faint stirrings, for she places a hand softly over her belly.

I am Etain. Once I was Sidhe, then I was dealan-dhe. Now, from the dark, warm recesses of woman, I will be born mortal.

Freestyle Writing Challenge

I was tagged by the fabulous Jane Dougherty to take part in a writing challenge. I’m always up for a challenge, and I thought this one looked like fun.

This is what you have to do…

  1. Open an MS Word Document
  2. Set a stop watch or your mobile phone timer to 5 or 10 minutes, whichever challenge you think you can beat
  3. Your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!!!
  4. Fill the word doc with as much words as you want. Once you start writing do not stop.
  5. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check (its only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write the right spelling and stick to grammar rules)
  6. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals. However, if you do, it would be best
  7. At the end of your post write down ‘No. of words = ____” so that we would have an idea of how much you can write within the time frame.
  8. Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nomination (at least five (5) bloggers)

My challenge was: You’ve inherited a small fortune. You can move to any part of the world you would like to go. Where would you go?

I set my phone’s timer to 10 minutes, and here’s what I came up with, typos and all.

I always imagined myself living somewhere hot and sunny, where it rarely rained, and the flowers were vibrant against a deep blue sky. I always imagined writing at my laptop, the cool morning breeze blowing in off the sea, beside an azure pool, my own pool. On my desk would be a strong cappuccino.

I would hear goat bells tinkling in the distance as they climbed the sloped of mountains behind me. Closer, chickens would scratch in the dry earth, the sounds of simple rural life going on around me, much as it has always done.

Not too far away, there would be archaeological remains to visit, with stories of mythological heroes, battles, Gods and lovers… it sounds much like a Greek island. You certainly can’t get more idyllic than that.

But that was then. And now I imagine green rain-washed hills, craggy shores with stormy grey seas, and cooler climes. I hear the lowing of cattle, and the call of crows, and the ring of a church bell. Wind blows through trees, sometimes wild, sometimes gentle, bringing with it the whisper of voices from a far distant past. Water glistens wherever I look, but it’s finite, pools with boundaries opening doorways to another world.

If I could live anywhere in the world, its exactly where I am now, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

225 words in 10 minutes and 7 seconds… yeah, I went slightly over, I’m afraid. I just wanted to finish my sentence.

I would like to tag the following people to take part in this challenge, and I hope that you do join in, but please don’t feel pressured, if its not your thing. It’s just a bit of fun!

Craig Boyack (you just knew I would, didn’t you?)

Rachel Carerra

Sally Cronin

Toni Betzner

Cybele Moon aka The Dune Mouse

And your challenge is… Please don’t scroll down to find out what it is until you’re ready to start! Thanks!

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If you could go back in time to any period in history, when would it be, and why?

Himba mothers of Namibia

Ali Isaac:

Fascinating article about a matriarchal community in Namibia with the most wonderful images…

Originally posted on Motherhood in prehistory:

“Himba mothers are loving and attentive, but they don’t hover. Above is Krocodile’s son, crawling across the hot sand toward his mother, who is about 100 or so feet in front of him. Though she saw him coming, she didn’t attempt to pick him up, knowing that he would make it to her eventually.”

Photo: Susan Portnoy Photo: Susan Portnoy

Read more here:

http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/04/23/himba-people-of-namibia

Wonderful pictures of motherhood and childrearing amongst the Himba in Namibia. As a prehistorian, I love reading ethnographies from around the world. They broaden the thinking about all the possibilities of how children may have been brought up in the past.

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