Sunday, 26 July 2020

How is the ‘new normal’ for you?

The field of unknowing

On a recent Zoom call with friends the lockdown conversation continued.  How has it affected you?  Your work? Your lack of work? What do you miss most / least?  What do you appreciate?  What do you find most challenging?  How has it made a difference to how you do things? How do you feel about the ‘new normal’? How do you plan for an unknown and uncertain future? How is the ‘new normal’ for you? How are you ‘being’ in the ‘new normal’?

We shared our thoughts and insights generously and left the call with food for thought.  I’ve been sitting with some of those thoughts over the last few days … note the word ‘sitting’.  Those of you who know me well, know that I don’t do much sitting nor sit around doing nothing for long!  I admit, I’m more of a human ‘doing’ than a human ‘being’.  There’s nothing I enjoy more than participating and engaging in work and community projects, meeting people, making plans and celebrating creative connections. I really enjoy the whole business of social interaction even though at times it can be stressful and painful too. I’ve really missed doing many of the things I’ve done before lockdown. The easing of lockdown means that there is opportunity for a little interaction via ‘social bubbles’ and it’s different in the ‘new normal’ environment. I appreciate and understand the need for face coverings, social distancing and non engagement with shielded people (no hugs just yet!). I’m ‘being’ okay with that.  For me, it’s important, it’s being responsible, it’s being safe.

I’ve noted how our schools are ‘transitioning’ our children with their new classes and different teachers. Taking time to ‘transition’ is really important as many children have missed out on education, learning and seeing friends. With that comes many feelings and emotions.  In many schools, teachers and support staff have really worked hard during lockdown.  I admire their patience, tenacity and resilience with ever changing government guidelines.  There’s been a lot of work in schools preparing our children for  ‘different ways’ and how school will be when they return in September. 

Like the children returning to school, we too need to ‘transition’ to new ways of doing and being. I’m learning to use this time ‘to be’, to re-assess, to think about what’s really important and savour the stillness of the quieter days.  It's tough!  Contemplative walks in nature, I can highly recommend.  For now, there’s time and time enough ‘to be’ in the moment and listen for the ‘what elses’ that are being whispered quietly to me. As a busy ‘do-er’, I’ve often missed these whispers.  In the meantime, I sit patiently in the ‘field of unknowing’ contemplating my transition to the ‘new normal’. 

Saturday, 13 June 2020

What makes you stop and wonder?

Walking on the Pastures of Wonder

Sometimes it takes time for inspiration to nudge my writing pen and me. I confess I’ve sat at my desk often, looking out the window, watching the fluffy white clouds move in slow motion across a bright blue sky, observing the sweeping and soaring of Red Kites and simply wonder. 

Today, I see how well the purple Everlasting Sweet Pea in my garden has stretched and grown from the straggly little stem it once was. It’s a particularly cherished flower, a parting gift from staff and children at a school where I once worked.  The extending branches and tendrils remind me how it has grown over the years and makes me wonder about those children and staff with whom I once worked.  Where are they now? Do they continue to grow and develop?  I loved being part of that growth and development. I continue to do so today albeit in a different place.  I wonder where those staff and children are now?  I wonder how their lives are the same or different?  I wonder how I have grown, developed and changed over the years?  No answers required …merely rhetorical questions at this stage!  However, I wonder if there will be a stage when these questions will be asked and shared again? Perhaps in a favourite space over a cool glass of white wine but not right now …maybe later when Covid-19 has become a distant memory?

During the ‘lockdown’, I have found comfort and solace in reading and writing.  I have particularly enjoyed one of my favourite authors, John O’Donohue. He was recognised by many (myself included) as an inspirational writer. He was a native Irish speaker, born in County Clare, Ireland and wrote several best sellers and poetry collections too, Anam Cara, Eternal Echoes and Divine Beauty.  His last work, Benedictus, was published in 2007.  Sadly John O’Donohue died at the age of fifty-two on 4 January 2008.

I highly recommend his writing.  He writes in a beautiful, lyrical style.  His words encourage thought about many things.  I particularly enjoy his rhythmical writing style and how his words and sentences weave beautifully on the page.  For me, he inspires and permits time for contemplation particularly now in the less busy times … like ‘lockdown’. I am currently reading ‘Walking in the Pastures of Wonder’ and enjoying his conversations on wonder, landscape and balance. This particular book is a collection of radio conversations between John O’Donohue and his close friend and former RTE broadcaster, John Quinn.

I think it’s good to slow down and wonder …

What are you wondering about today?

Monday, 18 May 2020

Who needs a hug?


Rainbow hugs by a talented friend

‘The Times they are a changin …’ sang poet and songwriter Bob Dylan in 1964.  And how appropriate are those lyrics for our world today.  How has Covid-19 changed and continues to change our times?  True, it changes how we act, how we react and at times how we refrain from taking any action at all! 

However, it has also provided some of us with an opportunity to take stock of where we are at and what is happening in our respective worlds.  It has highlighted who and what is important.  It has acknowledged the talent within our caring professions and the resilience of keyworkers who ensure essential services operate during these strange and surreal times.  It has changed the ways we meet and greet each other.  Gone (for now) are the face-to-face gatherings where we often greet each other with a big welcoming hug. We continue to respect the social distancing rule of two metres apart. Our connections with family and friends have moved online and whilst this is wonderful for those of us who engage with the technology, it’s not quite the same as a ‘real time’ meet and greet with a hug, is it? 

On a recent online call with friends, the question was asked, ‘What do you miss most in these times?’ The replies included ‘meeting with family and friends’, ‘seeing children’, ‘cuddling grand children’ and 'having a BIG hug'.  Sadly, in times of grief and despair, we would have liked to comfort family and friends.  In these times, hugs are essential and people often need a hug. A hug provides comfort when words are unable to articulate that sense of loss.  I’m a believer that a hug given with love and good intention can make a difference.

During a conversation with a talented, sewing friend, we agreed to create some ‘hugs to share’.  We had both received a little fun gift in the post that made us smile.  A little gift sent with love and it inspired an idea.  We created  ‘a rainbow hug’ for these times, to raise a little smile and as a reminder that hugs have not been forgotten.   So, if you know someone in need of a hug today, do get in touch. 

The ‘times they are a changin …’ and we change too, from real time to virtual time and from virtual hugs to real hugs.  We look forward to a happier time when we can all be together to hug family and friends and the term ‘social distancing’ becomes a redundant word in our vocabulary.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

What are you grateful for today?

 'Rainbow of hope' by local artists 

As I write today, I’m grateful for many things, firstly my health and wellbeing particularly when so many people are adversely affected by the Coronavirus. I’m thankful and appreciative of our amazing NHS staff, support teams and keyworkers too.

I’m happy that I can do ‘essential shopping’ and take a walk as exercise; some people are unable to do so. I’m also appreciative of the kindness offered in my neighbourhood.  I’ve made several new friends as a result of these connections and all within the mandatory ‘social distancing’ levels!

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by our venture into connections with family and friends through online meeting rooms, video calls and other social media options, once only the right of the busy business folk. There has been much laughter in our family with trial and error video escapades. Who needs to watch television for comedy?  For me, the once reluctant ‘social media engager’, well I’m beginning to grasp the intricacies of newer communication methods. There may be those of you reading who will smile knowingly and say ‘about time!’ 

However, as an ardent fan of ‘talk-talk’ and ‘write-write’, I continue to embrace and enjoy the old fashioned ways of communication. I enjoy a chatty phone call with friends and I love writing and receiving letters.  In fact, I’ve been able to pursue both these fine arts during this strange and surreal Coronavirus time. I’m also a big admirer of the beautiful artwork created by our children in these times.  Have you noticed the colourful ‘rainbows of hope’ on pavements, walls and windows?

On a bright sunny morning last week, I took delivery of a beautiful rainbow from a little family known to me.  This ‘rainbow of hope’ is proudly displayed in my window. So for those of you who live outside my neighbourhood, I share my rainbow with you via this blog post.  I’m grateful to the children who took time to create and colour this striking work of art.  

What are you grateful for today?

Stay safe and well everyone.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

When do you stop to smell the roses?

Taken in a beautiful garden I love to visit  

 When the world stopped to smell the roses

I noticed ma and pa blackbird building for the future,
I marvelled at the iridescence of the beautiful blue blooms in my garden,
I noted the daffodils tall and defiant especially after the storm,
I spotted the spider weave his silvery web with creative flair,
I observed the cherry blossom buds on the maturing tree,
I appreciated the morning birdsong more than before,
I watched Red Kites soar in the morning sun,
I sensed the shopkeeper’s mood was really fear in disguise,
I acknowledged the disconnection with his ‘regulars’,
I saluted nurses, doctors and frontline NHS staff for selfless service,
I praised key personnel for all they do especially today,
I laughed at the creative family videos shared to entertain,
I struggled with learning new online communication systems,
I shared fun and laughter to reduce the angst,
I learned that ‘unknowing’ was the scariest fear of all,
I touched the hand that needed to be held,
I spoke the words hidden behind the eyes of concern,
I reassured in the only way I knew how,
I offered hope, with care and love
I prayed for healing and good health of our world,

I wondered when all this unease happened
When I was busy being busy?
When I was to-ing and fro-ing?
When I was caught up in trivialities
When I was living life too quickly?

When the world stopped to smell the roses,
I learned who and what was really important.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

What's the best month for change?


 Photo: La Sagrada Famila by Dee

Happy New Year!  I wish you good health and much happiness for 2020.

Yes, I know it’s more than half way through January, but it’s never too late to wish anyone good wishes, in my humble opinion.  I hope you had a reasonable festive break and have started 2020 fit and well.

I’m purposely avoiding a blog post on New Year Resolutions.  I’m at the stage where if I want to make resolutions and do new things, I just do it! There are twelve months in the year and if my changes are required in the months of May or September, then that’s okay.  New Year Resolutions are not just for January. 

Often, I’m full of good intentions to try new and different pursuits but I find that I sometimes lack energy and focus, so for me, it’s important to be in the right frame of mind before I commit.  It’s fair to say that I like engaging in new interests and being challenged with something that’s outside my comfort zone. This week provided one such opportunity and despite the need to sharpen the pencil and do lots of thinking for ‘said project’, dare I say … I enjoyed the challenge!

I’m a great believer in the old adage, ‘There is no failure, only feedback and learning’.  It’s been very reassuring particularly when things didn’t turn out as I planned . My lovely Dad used to remind me, ‘Nothing is ever wasted, learn from the experience and take away the learning’. I’ve received lots of feedback and learning over the years!  No doubt 2020 will provide even more.

Happy New Year!


Friday, 20 December 2019

Preparing for the festive season?

Festive season by Máire Rua

Well, here we are moving towards the start of the festive season and the end of year 2019.  How was your year? I hope you’ve had a good one.

This week I was invited as honorary guest to my former primary school’s Christmas Story.  I loved it!  It was wonderful to watch the progress and development of all the ‘little stars’ as they performed this beautiful story.  I was delighted to hear the quieter children deliver lines with such clarity and energy.  How they have blossomed under the guidance and direction of hardworking staff.  
My visit to school prompted this week’s blog post.

Best wishes to you and your families during the festive season.

Twas the night before Christmas …

‘Psst, move over.  Let me in.  It’s freezing outside’.

They all moved over, Ma, Pa and the others. It felt good to be back inside again. It was warm and cosy in the old barn.  The straw smelled sweet, almost heavenly, if only I knew what heaven smelled like!  There were voices outside and they were making their way towards our barn! The latch on the barn door rattled.  The door opened.

‘Shhh, be quiet everyone!’ ordered Pa.  We froze, all six of us.

‘It’s the best I can do, I’m afraid.  It’s the busiest time of year and everywhere is fully booked.  It’s not very pretty here but it’s warm and dry.  At least, you’ll both have a chance to rest before you move on.’

‘Thank you sir.  This is fine.  We’re very grateful.  We’ll be just fine.’

She looked tired, exhausted and in serious need of a lie down.  He led the weary, overloaded donkey into the barn.  He loosely secured the donkey to a post, not far from where we were observing the scene. He cleared a space, took her hand and beckoned her to sit on a blanket that covered a fresh bale of hay. She smiled at him and sighed. She looked as if really needed to sleep.

‘I’ll bring some hot food and more blankets for you. You must be hungry,’ said the Innkeeper.

We all felt the chill when the barn door opened.

We watched, curiously and fascinated by the woman.  We didn’t make any noise for fear of being chased from the warmth of the barn.

He tended her lovingly, placed another blanket around her shoulders and began to unwrap provisions from the basket they had packed for the journey.

She busied herself with an old crate that lay nearby. We watched with interest as she wiped down the crate and lined it with hay.  She looked hot and tired. She groaned every now and again. He moved towards her and lovingly held her arm.  She winced as if in pain.  He tried to comfort her but she appeared to be distressed.

Several hours later, we were awoken by the cries of … a baby!

Under Ma’s watchful eye, we crept quietly towards the couple and baby.  There he was, a small, chubby, crying baby.  He moved towards the crying child. He smiled. He spoke quietly, ‘He’s beautiful’.  She nodded and then wrapped the crying baby in swaddling clothes. She kissed the baby’s head, soothed him and placed him in the makeshift crib.  She sang softly to the crying baby to lull him to sleep.  In the morning, a church bell rang out for Christmas Day.

I tiptoed closer to see the baby.  As a baby field mouse, I was too small to be noticed by anyone but I had a strong sense that a baby born on Christmas Day would be a special baby and one that would make a difference to our world.