25 June 2012

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

My children have flown 
the nest to find their
way in the world.

I have flown the nest
to find my way in the world without them.

I hardly know where to start.  I was away to Ireland for a retreat last month and have not written a post on this blog for even longer.  I've missed all of you so much, and especially reading your blogs.  My Google Reader and my entire Google including email and my Blog, were tragically kidnapped during my recent travels and I've just gotten them back.  I promise that this week, I'm going to tear up the airwaves, cable, gateways and streams of data, reading and re-connecting with all of you.  Meanwhile, I want to share some of the Shenanigans I've been up to so you'll know I'm not just making excuses!

Most of you know that if there's one place in all the world besides home my heart belongs, it's Ireland.  It is the home of my ancestors. I've travelled there, far and wide and it is there that I have made some of my best memories.  A few years ago when I was in Cork at a party where everyone took turns singing old Irish ballads of history and love, filled with forlorn memories and longing, someone in a drunken stupor yelled out, "Give us a song yank!)"   I looked around sheepishly, pointed shyly to myself as if to confirm it was me, and commenced to sing, Kiss Me Through The Phone by Solja Boi.  Is that wrong?

Several years ago my hubby and I renewed our wedding vows there at a little monastery down by the sea.  I go there whenever I'm able. Whenever I do I leave a big piece of my heart.  So of course sometimes, I have to go back just to pick it up!  Recently, when I desperately needed a break from a long bout of physical and emotional trauma drama, my husband said, "Get up the yard! (Get lost!") my hubby was all for it, and made it possible for me to fly off all by myself to Ireland. I picked up my heart right where I left it last time I was there, and I indeed think I came home with it just a little bigger!

This blog is my happy place and I don't write about the dark side here so I won't start now.  Suffice to say, I have had an interesting, almost fictional-like life.  It has been exceptional, vastly uncommon on many levels, bloody but good and I've been tremendously blessed.  As do many people who live lives that may be a bit on the extraordinary side, I have stories and memories to fill missives 10x over. I've incurred many sacred wounds along the way and the story of one of them resides in the midst of  a very interesting book I'm writing.  Its part self help and part memoir, but full of hope! You'll be able to read all the gritty stuff there, if you're so inclined when I finish it.  Meanwhile, unless I revamp this blog, you're stuck with the sunny, positive side only.  I gather that's why you're here anyway, so I aim to please!  Regardless, back to my most recent shenanigans.  I desperately needed a break, or a break down and I chose the former.  

Sometimes God calms the storm...
Sometimes He lets the storm rage
And calms His child.

Flying over Scotland from the window of my Virgin Atlantic Flight.  (It looks a wee bit cold out there, I said, to myself.)

The first leg of my flight was on Virgin Atlantic which I highly recommend.  They treat you like a child who needs a good nap.  We were given a goody bag with darling red socks, a teeny tiny tooth brush and tooth paste, a soothing eye mask, and of course a pen.  We had a nice dinner and then they came around with warm chocolate pudding and tea or coffee just before bedtime.  Lights out except for those who left theirs on to read, and on the back of each seat was a wonderful screen which showed all the latest chick flicks, had a GPS map of where we were flying, or one could watch the latest reruns of sitcoms. We were gently woken in the morning with a smile, a cuppa and a hearty breakfast.

The hairy part was landing at Heathrow in London and getting to the gate of my Air Lingus flight into Cork, Ireland.  Apparently the English were still ticked at the Irish when they decided where to put the gate.  It couldn't be further away from the British side.  I took a train, then a bus, then walked/ran as fast as I could. I saw a sign at one point that said, you only have half a mile to go.  You'd think I would have been relieved, right?  The good part is I made it!  And for a woman traveling alone, who barely leaves home unless she can walk there, getting from good ole San Diego, USA to Cork, Ireland was a coo.  After a two hour drive from San Diego, CA to Los Angeles where I caught my flight, all the waits in between, the flights, and then a bus which took three and a half hours from the city of Cork out to the wilds of the Beara Peninsula, I was traveling for almost twenty-four hours.  I never slept the whole time and that's not bragging, it's whining.

You know your in Ireland when...You see a kid Irish dancing that looks like a ringer for your grandson; and then all your troubles begin to fall away.

This is what my Google looked like when I arrived in Ireland.  There I was in the computer age, no cell phone, no watch, (because I usually use my cell phone for the time), and my Google was now in the hands of the Irish whom seemed to have it out for me where my blog, my Reader and English was concerned.  I must admit, the Irish ads were lovely and I now know where to go for Irish dance lessons or where to get a good Irish plumber!

ANAM CARA.  After all my travels, this was my final destination.  Every hassle, every moment of being alone, confounded, confused and petrified that I was carrying luggage that said in 8" letters OVERWEIGHT, was more than worth the journey at the end of the road.  ANAM CARA.  I would invite you to read all about it more formally right here on their website, Anam Cara Retreat.  Anam Cara means Soul Friend and it is an Artist's, Writer's Retreat in The Beara Peninsula, West Cork, Ireland.  

Meet Sue Booth-Forbes.  She is the founder, and the heart and soul of Anam Cara.  Anam Cara is not just a retreat, it is Sue.  They both will become one with your heart if you should ever be lucky enough to retreat there.  Through the wisdom of her own battles in life, her experience as an entrepreneur, a writer and editor and extraordinary human being  Sue created a retreat and a place for Artist's and Writer's to begin, restart, reshape and sometimes finish up their art and writing projects.  She is an American who has lived in Ireland for fourteen years now and she just obtained her Irish Citizenship.  I'm  sorry that I won't be there for the Ceili, (Irish festive celebration with music and dancing) which everyone from all around the Beara will come to celebrate with her on her special day. I've a feeling it will be a serious hooley and I hate to be missing all the craic! 

There is so much to tell you about Sue.  She is the bravest most amazing woman of strength and character I have ever met.  She is a fantastic listener, an amazing story teller, a mentor, a trail blazer, an accomplished writer and editor, and I aspire to one day make her as proud of me as she made me feel worthy of. She taught me to be able to recognise the choices that diminish my dignity and to count myself a success whenever I make choices that nourish my soul. This woman consoled me when I cried, she constantly made me laugh, she gave me the ability to see things more clearly, throw away guilt and my iron, and learn some new phrases which I can't get out of my head, such as, "allriiighty then!"  If I could give you all one gift, it would be for you to be able to go to Anam Cara and spend time with Sue.  It will change your life.  Seriously. We all need an angel in our life.

What I did friends, was this.  I made a month long retreat, tacking a little over a week onto each side of a space of time where an artist was in residence teaching plein air watercolor classes.  The Artist, Evenlyn Dunphy, was phenomenal. Please see for yourselves her gorgeous website and paintings here at this link: it will be a treat! For any of you out there who have an interest in painting and want a teacher who is accomplished, patient, and has the energy of ten people, Evelyn should be your first choice.  She travels the world working with artists in watercolors and pastels.  Painting with her is only the first of the privileges you will be afforded.  She is also one of the sweetest and most dear women you will ever meet. My medium is usually acrylics or oils on canvas so I was a newby and she not only encouraged me daily, she never yelled at me once! 

Besides reading, writing, painting, eating, and napping, and because I missed my own pups so much, I became the official dog walker for Sue's Jack Russell, aptly named, what else?  Jack.  We developed a beautiful friendship on our journeys over Irelands high roads and I learned much from him.  Such as, unless someone gives you a reason not to, you can trust him.  Also he taught me the amusing and effective pee pee dance.  I'd show you a photo but I don't want to embarrass him.  Lets suffice it to say I had to re-name him, Jack Russell Spunky Sparky Sassy Booth-Forbes and we'll leave it at that.

These cascades are on Sue's property, easily assessable and a work of art themselves.  Here where the falls rage and the sweet, fresh water pools, one can paint, contemplate, stare the indignity's of life right in the face if necessary and mostly, gently give thanks for blessings given.

A retreat is not your typical trip to visit a foreign country.  There is very little sightseeing, traveling, touristy shopping or the like.  When I got home everyone wanted to see all the art I produced.  Although I did produce some, I left some there and brought some promising studies home.  However, I was there to paint and retreat, not just produce.  I'm 57 years old and have been basically a grown up since I was 11 years old, so I was taking my first real break and retreating in the land I love. Without guilt, which of course I would have had before I learned (better late than never) how important it is to take care of my own needs. I mostly wrote, contemplated my life, ate ravenously, napped, hiked the hillsides with Jack and did farm chores.  Oh, and I may have mentioned an awesome woman named Sue mentored me regarding my future in writing, art and just being. Anyway, I wish that everyone could experience what I did in the BearaI lived my life there, one day at a time, one moment at a time. 
Have you heard the saying that it only gets worse with time?  I had, which confused me.   Thanks to these men and women I've just spent the past month with, I have hope that the best is yet to come!  Creating art and getting serious about my writing and painting, long walks, napping, indulging in my friendships, traveling, and taking more time to enjoy every second of every opportunity in every day is what I've been up to and plan to do more of.  More being and less doing! I'm beginning to think that life really only just begins after 50!

From our own perspectives and perches in front of cottages on the windy roads of Eyeries, we all painted our own versions of the colorful, whimsical town which boasts the title, Tidiest town in Ireland.  I'd like to add friendliest too!  At the end of our week with the artist Evelyn Dunphy in residence, we through an art exhibition and invited all our new friends.  It was a great success and my first exhibition!

Have I mentioned how much I love radiators?  The fact that they keep a half frozen all the time, person such as I, warm and comfy is only half the love affair.  When you wash your clothes in the shower (thanks for the tip Bob and Suzanne) you can dry your cacks on the radiator (in the privacy of your own room). And now because I apparently have no shame, in the public arena of the internet.  Fabulous!

A feast for the eyes as well as the pallet. Every meal was a decadent repast of comfort food.
I ate things I haven't eaten in years and I ate them like I would never eat again!  My tummy is still full.

When you sign up for a retreat at Anam Cara you may sign up for one of the chores that need doing if you so choose.  You say you have ducks and chickens that need to be fed and let in and out each day? Well, farm chores are a specialty of mine.  Added to my resume now, chicken feeder, egg gatherer and duck-herder.  Allriiiighty then!

My home has been filled on and off with kids for the past 36 years.  My five kids, all my  foster kids, all their friends and cousins and neighbors!  My last two, the ones we all still refer to, much to their disgust dismay, as "the babies" have just graduated high school. They are barely a year apart in age thus referred to as, Irish twins, they have been the last two to keep me hopping!  It's been a grand run, but now my nest is lonely empty.  I went to Ireland to do a little redefining of my life.  I think I'm off to a grand new beginning, don't you?

Le gra go deo to all the good people who have blessed me with hope and inspiration.
Sue Booth-Forbes my mentor and my friend at Anam Cara; Suzanne and her husband Bob, my So. Cal partners in crime; Ginny and her side kick Gayl who made me laugh 24 hours a day for a week; Solvegia with whom I got to celebrate a birthday in Ireland;  Mary who through her devotion to her late husband produces some of the most amazing paintings of ferns I have ever had the pleasure of gazing upon; Artist extraordinare, Evelyn Dunphy and all my new friends such as, John Eagle  Maureen, Joan, Cormac, Kieran, Maureen O'Driscoll who became my most serendipitous friend and whom I will include in another blog post soon; John and Therese (who makes the best rashers around and allowed me to eat cocoa crispies on a regular basis); and Mrs. O'Geraghty whose students make the best music in all of Ireland.  If I've forgotten anybody it's only for this moment.  Mo chro, my cairde ndeor (forever).  

And to you all my blog friends, it's grand to be home and writing for you again.  I'll be in touch all this week so keep the blog door open:)

From my cozy retreat room at Anam Cara, overlooking fields of patchwork and The Coulagh Bay...

Back to the glorious sunsets at my Cottage By The Sea...



From 23 May 2010
A Farewell Poem

Sacred wounds healing
the beginning in sight
back to the rugged Beara
of my soul and the land
Ireland forever
truly my heart
friends I will miss there
nare really we do part
lessons about tolerance
faith and deep pain
from others I've learned
life is truly a game
important to linger
and drink up the good
but always remember
the wounds of the soul,
In order to heal them
you own them through pain
you've nothing to lose
yet everything to gain.
Fingers of islands
reaching out through the bog
the rain drops of Heaven
bursting through the sun
rainbows appear after the light
the stars in the Heavens whisper
angels in sight
blessed country of my heart
sleep sweetly tonight

LJM (tia)