Mother

For Mother, who would have been 91 today

Monday, 29 July, 2019

We celebrate the birthday of Kit O’Donnell today with the poem In the Same Space by C. P. Cavafy, translated from the original Greek by Edmund Keeley. We also remember the love, the generosity, the wit, the words and the indestructible legacy.

In the Same Space

The setting of houses, cafés, the neighbourhood
that I’ve seen and walked through years on end:

I created you while I was happy, while I was sad,
with so many incidents, so many details.

And, for me, the whole of you has been transformed into feeling.

C. P. Cavafy (29 April 1863 – 29 April 1933)

Mother


Until only the mountain remains

Saturday, 11 May, 2019

The birds have vanished into the sky
And now the last cloud drains away
We sit together, the mountain and me,
Until only the mountain remains.

Li Bai (701 – 762)

Mountains


The Genus Rosa

Friday, 29 March, 2019

An anecdote from the introduction to The Genus Rosa by the British horticulturalist Ellen Willmott, which was published in two volumes between 1910 and 1914:

“The Persian poet Omar Khayyam, who flourished in the eleventh century, has much to say about Roses. A hip from a Rose planted on his grave at Nashipur was bought home by Mr. Simpson, the artist of the London Illustrated News. It was given to me by the late Mrs. Bernard Quaritch, and reared at Kew. It proved to be Rosa damascena, and a shoot from the Kew plant has now been planted on the grave of his first English translator, Edward FitzGerald.”

Roses at home


For it is in giving that we receive

Friday, 7 September, 2018

So said St. Francis of Assisi and down through the ages voices of compassion and wisdom have told us that one of the great commandments of life is that we should help others without any ulterior motive and give without the expectation of getting anything in return. In the end, it’s not how much we give but the love we put into giving. Or as Kahlil Gibran put it: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

And thus ends this week of posts dedicated to someone who gave more than she received, but she always gave of herself and that’s why she is honoured here.

Giving


Third anniversary

Thursday, 6 September, 2018

Do not go to my old school.
Do not go to my old house —
I am not in any of those places.
Look for me in your hearts
and greet me there.

— Kamand Kojouri

Mammy walking on


What we save saves us

Wednesday, 5 September, 2018

Family, friends and neighbours were the bedrock upon which my parents built their world. These people were there to help and support us, to lend a hand with the harvest and eat at our table. Their presence assured us that we were never really alone.

Drawing in the hay


Things that kept the darkness at bay

Tuesday, 4 September, 2018

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

The small acts of kindness and love here involved baking. Flour, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, butter and raisins were converted into energy in acts of “improvised tradition”. A pinch of this and a fistful of that altered the balance each time my mother made the scones. Each batch was different. Creativity was at work.

Scones of love


Necessary superstition

Monday, 3 September, 2018

Writing in UnHeard, Giles Fraser recalls a visit to Fátima and his impressions of that place of pilgrimage: “This is the sort of religion that so-called ‘thinking people’ tend to dismiss scornfully as popular superstition — ‘the religion of feeble minds’ — as Edmund Burke once called it. But I have something of a soft spot for this sort of superstition, and regret that I have been distanced from it by a ploddingly empirical, secular education that means I find it all but impossible to suspend my disbelief.”

That’s a snippet from Why we need more superstition. Fraser places the enigma of Fátima in historical and political context by pointing out that the First Portuguese Republic, which overthrew the monarchy in 1910, was enthusiastically hostile to the Catholic Church and ordered the closure of its schools and monasteries and banned the ringing of church bells. “Fátima was religious populism springing up as a groundswell of resistance against the totalising ideology of state atheism,” he notes, adding: “And there is something of a class aspect to all of this. The Fátima pilgrims were, and continue to be, generally working class. Their cultural despisers are generally middle class.”

For my mother, Knock in the West of Ireland was Fátima and the ritual of visiting the shrine, the “devotions” observed there and the bottling of the Holy Water were all part of a belief system that she believed protected her and those she loved from the many threats that faced them. It meant something. It was part of being human.

Knock


For Mother’s birthday

Sunday, 29 July, 2018

“Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.” — Roberto Bolaño

Mother's birthday


Riversdale House: 18 June 1952

Monday, 18 June, 2018

On this day in 1952, Michael Fitzgerald and Catherine O’Donnell were married in the village of Lisvernane, County Tipperary. The ceremony was followed by a meal at the famed Riversdale House in the Glen of Aherlow in County Tipperary. Built by the Massy family in the early 19th century, Riversdale House was bought from the Massy Dawsons by John Noonan in 1922, who ran it as a hotel.

Riversdale House

Transport for the bride and her family was via a Ford V8 driven by Jack Fraser, grocer/publican/undertaker. Cars were scarce in the Ireland of the early 1950s so some of the guests cycled. The wedding cake was prepared by the bride, baked by Mrs Ryan-Russell, who had a Stanley Range cooker, and the icing was added by the confectionery specialists of Kiely’s Bread Company in Tipperary town. The sun shone and the couple went on to spend 59 years together, during which time they earned love and respect from those who loved and respected them.

Mammy and Daddy

Scaffolding is one of the first poems Seamus Heaney wrote. It’s a metaphor about marriage and the measures needed to keep it firm in the face of the shocks. Walls of “sure and solid stone” will be strong enough to stand on their own, says Heaney. “Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall / Confident that we have built our wall.”

Scaffolding

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Seamus Heaney (1939 — 2013)


Rainy Day in the Galtee Mountains

Friday, 20 April, 2018 0 Comments

Regular reader and intermittent poet, Liam Murray, is so captivated by this blog’s title and header photo that he has combined the two in verse. The Galtee Mountains pictured above were the fons et origo of our great mother, God rest her soul, and they remain our spiritual home. The Golden Vale mentioned below was a tract of nearby pasture land that represented a form of earthly paradise for mother and father, who cultivated their own fields and gardens as if they, too, were golden. And they were.

Rainy Day in the Galtee Mountains

The gathering clouds announce a change
The Galtee Mountains turn a shadowed blue
Quieter birds in hedge rows sense the mood
Distant rolling thunder fills the ear.

Clouds carrying rivers of rain
Continue to flow across the plain
Bushes shake in windy salute,
In the moist filled air across the Golden Vale.

The deluge pours on expectant fields
Blades of grass glisten; laced with rain drops
Sails of cloud continue to unfurl,
Above it all the sun still shines.

Liam Murray

Cullane Garden