Round Ireland with an iPhone: Belfast#1.

Today in Belfast seemed like the first day of a real Spring season so I took a walk around Botanic Gardens and Stranmillis. Cherry blossoms are everywhere and the bluebells are in full bloom as well, perhaps a little early but I’m not complaining since they’re my favourite flower. Though sunny, the air was chill and I used that as an excuse to do my usual jaunt into the Ulster Museum (so conveniently situated right in the lovely Botanic Gardens). Took a few snaps along the way, hope you enjoy 😊

Clutterville Central:My Domestic Space Dilemma

image of vintage dresser cluttered with china, odds and ends.

Since starting my new part-time job at IKEA I am enjoying a resurgence of energy and activity. I love the work, the creative atmosphere and our lovely team. I’m also studying Marketing at Belfast Met and setting up a small enterprise to combine life and health coaching with business support for sole traders and SMEs.

So, as you may guess, the home front is suffering. In complete contrast to the beautiful environment I work in and help to maintain, my own domestic daily routines have gone haywire and mindful domesticity has temporarily taken its leave.

The laundry gets done but rarely put away. Food shopping happens and meals are made, even though the fridge and cupboards are now pretty disorganised.

I’m sliding too on all the little extras: DIY and decor projects hang suspended in no-man’s-land; de-cluttering on a routine basis is now a pipe dream; windows need shining and bedrooms need sprucing but I simply cannot find the time to start and finish a project on the same day, week or even month. In short, the house is a mess.

On top of that there’s been a hiatus on the writing, blogging, crafting, walking and regular exercise fronts. They are now haphazard chance happenings. In short,

>> I need help! <<

What to do? Everyone is willing to chip in, in spite of the multiple demands on time and energy they too face daily. The challenge is to create an organising and cleaning system and keep it going – a tall order indeed, since we all work and study.

My current muse is tidying guru Marie Kondo, ‘whose method of lovingly connecting with belongings that spark joy and bidding a fond but firm farewell to the rest, is popular in Japan and is now catching on elsewhere.’ [The Guardian, Life and Style Supplement, 27th Nov. 2014].

I bought the book last year, started the ‘Kon Marie’ system and it was all going well until I got caught up in job applications and lost the tidying plot somewhere along the way.

So do I engage some outside help for a big spring clean (or to be more precise a big ‘pre-Christmas’ clean) and for routine monthly or weekly maintenance? This seems sensible and I believe would be money well spent. We could then all share the basic daily tasks and keep our own stuff regulated while outside help takes care of big cleaning. Big questions, though. Is it affordable? Is it justifiable?

>> What to do? Would it work? <<

Your experiences and suggestions would be most welcome!

Thanks and Toodle-oo

‘til next time.

 

Another Maestro Passes, Songs Never Die.

Encountering Suzanne

One day a few decades ago while living photo of Leonard Cohen on album cover in the staff residence of Purdysburn Hospital where I trained, a guitar-backed voice drifted along the corridor and filled the atmosphere of my little box room with such a haunting power that I literally stood still to listen. It was my first encounter with Leonard Cohen singing Suzanne.

My friend Edyth had just bought an LP of this master of lyrics and beautiful melancholic melody and once my obligatory cassette tape copy was manufactured, Leonard Cohen became my ‘go to’ artist for many years to come.

To date there is much commentary around Cohen’s prophetic words and their poignancy for the conditions of contemporary humanity but my purpose here is to pay tribute to an artist who enriched my life and helped strengthen my spirit, and to declare both sadness that his life has ended as well as joy that his songs will live forever. Like David Bowie, another Maestro lost this year, his work is woven into my Self in a multitude of ways. Yet professing this devotion often brought forth responses that were characteristically stereotyped comments along the lines of darkness, gloom, foreboding and nihilism. Not for me, though. I have always found Leonard Cohen’s songs enchanting and uplifting. They always bring me joy.

Warm Words

Laura Barton’s obituary for Cohen on The Guardian’s music blog takes the same view. To describe him as a ‘miserabilist’ is ‘to miss entirely the warmth of his words’, which, she elaborates, ‘run at the same temperature as blood.’ What animates Leonard Cohen’s offering is the joy beyond pain, the lesson in the challenge, the solution within the problem, the beauty within the chaos. As Barton reminds us, he echoes the wisdom of Rumi in his song Anthem 

 ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’.

So to the songs that stick with me most:

  • The Partisan
  • Famous Blue Raincoat
  • Suzanne
  • Hallelujah
  • So Long Marianne
  • The Sisters of Mercy
  • Lady Midnight
  • Who By Fire
  • Dance Me to the End of Love
  • Hey, that’s no way to say Goodbye

Tibetan Book of the Dead Narration

Some time ago I found a documentary on The Tibetan Book of the Dead perfectly enriched by Leonard Cohen’s voice as the narrator, so this is what I’m watching now as  my memorial to another Maestro gone from the world. Check it out, it’s a profound exploration of life meaning and enrichment of the human spirit through meditative practice and Buddhist teachings. There is an empathy and wisdom in Cohen’s voice that makes this film a celebration of life in the midst of physical death. I wish him well on his journey and thank him for the songs.

 

Songs Never Die

 

Elemental: One Wet and Windy July in Ireland

monochrome image of trees blowing in strong wind on a widswept hillside

Image citation https://www.flickr.com/photos/euanzkamera/7916292824 Euan Morrison (September 2012), Trees in the Wind II, Lomond Hills

Many ancient traditions, as well as some modern belief systems, view all life and existence as being made up of five elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit. While each element brings unique qualities to the mix, they all blend together to create the dynamic manifestations of our perceived reality and experiences.

It is, perhaps, in the midst of nature that we humans sense our existence most deeply, feeling connected to the planet while we walk our gardens and even to the wider Universe as we gaze at the night sky. I believe that these sensations happen through direct contact with elemental aspects.

Think of a windswept hillside or rustling trees; a loud downpour of heavy rain or a silent fall of light, fluffy snow; a golden sunrise or crimson sunset; sand sliding through your toes or waves splashing around your ankles; the emotions of relationship and the inspirations of spiritual practice, whatever you perceive that to be. The list of possibilities is endless. I’m captivated still by the Louis MacNeice poem The Sunlight on the Garden, particularly when I look out at the pale streaks or sunrays across our hedge on a winter morning.

Though sun basking is a favourite activity when I get the chance, today I am a little more fixated on wind (air) and water, both very powerful yet both also capable of being soothing and gentle. In the part of Ireland where I live, weather is relentlessly changing and notoriously unstable. Rainfall levels are at the higher end of the spectrum and seem to be living up th their reputation as July progresses; winds bluster and blow from the Atlantic Ocean or North Sea and most winters involve some snow, although we are considered a temperate clime.

Many friends and neighbours complain about the weather and understandably so – I have done my fair share of moaning about it too, especially when it becomes necessary to drive in poor conditions in order to get to work or school. But in recent years I find myself less likely to resist the wearisome weather and more inclined to accept and see the beauty in it all. I find wet, windy days exhilarating now; cold, crisp nights uplifting; frosty mornings enchanting. While I love summer, Autumn gives me some kind of earthy pleasure. It is all so elemental.

Here’s the band Earth, Wind and Fire singing September.

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