Communing with Deer

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(There’s a big map in reception showing the path through the park)

I woke up early this morning to birdsong. The rain had stopped and I had an idea. Before I could change my mind I had popped on some shoes, my furry fleece and was standing outside the van recording the sound. We’re still parked at the Parque Biológico de Gaia so imagine a lot of birds. I walked for a few paces to position myself where I thought the loudest birds were and turned on the recording app on my phone… Before long I was mesmerised but then I noticed something move in the park behind the trees.

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(Look closely)

It was when Fernando was taking me on the tour of the park that I realised the motorhome parking overlooks the deer enclosure. There’s a line of trees between us but at certain points the trees thin out and you can see part of the enclosure. Their area is quite big so the deer were off in another section most of the time we’ve been here but this morning as I listened to the birds I realised the deer were less than a 100m from me.

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(The lighter coloured deer by the fence was very cute, from time to time she used to put her head through the fence and nibble on the green plants and then wriggle her head left and right to get it back inside the fence)

There were no one around just me and the deer and it was awesome… There are lots of signs around the park telling you that the animals don’t like noise so visitors should be quiet and respectful. Well I just love rules and boundaries, I see them as guidelines for a happy life. So I was more than happy to stay quiet and this morning I was rewarded by the company of deer. They are so calm and gentle and slow and focused and standing with them I felt calm and focused too.

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(I promise you that fuzzy bit behind the branch in the middle of this photo is a red squirrel, you can just see his little ear)

My phone was still recording sound when I noticed something moving in the tree above me. It was a red squirrel, he mustn’t have noticed me because he squirreled (you can’t call it running, can you?) towards me and then stopped to shake his tail and squirrel away again out to the edge of the tree’s expanse on the tiniest of branches. Until he jumped to the next tree and was gone from my sight.

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(I know its hard to make out but…that one in the middle, that’s a stag!)

When I looked around again, there was a stag in with the deer. With huge antlers. Walking around. Just over there, over the fence, across the path, over the other fence. A stag!

I love this lovely life, Mairead.

Potato Soup Time


(The stained recipe page)

I’m making soup. I love making soup. I love how it tastes, how it smells and I even like looking at it. It’s potato soup (it’s always potato soup) well, there’s also thyme in it but the main ingredient is potato. I’ve been making it for about fifteen years. Well, no, I mean, I’ve been repeating the soup making procedure for the past fifteen years, not, it’s taking fifteen years to make some soup. But… also, I mean it’s taken fifteen years to make this soup.


(One of my second-hand French tea towels –  beautiful shadows! Into the soup too!)

When my little boy was in primary school sometimes I would make the potato soup early, just before driving down to collect him. When he got into the car he would know that I had made it. How? He’d smell it on my clothes!! Now I know this might not please everyone but I loved it. You see, he loved the soup and he was happy when I smelled of soup because he’d soon be having soup! And I loved that I could do something so simple and have that impact.


(Snow from 2010 – into the soup too! It started snowing in my sister’s town in Canada today – oops)

So that and everything else I’ve experienced in those fifteen years goes into the soup I’m making today. Even though I use the same (stained) recipe book (I can never keep a recipe in my head…) and stick to the same basic recipe, the soup is filled with much more than the list of ingredients. It’s filled with the stories, the lessons, the happy days, the sad days, the angry days, the embarrassing days that I’ve experienced, because all those things are part of me now and they’re here as I make the soup. They’re in my arms as I dice the onions. They’re in my hand, full of thyme –  bigger and nicer because now I grow it. There in my choice of real butter, for a time it was olive oil, before that it was coconut oil. They’re in my back as I wonder about the weight of the saucepan, because a few years ago I longed to feel what my grandmother must have felt using a giant saucepan on a solid fuel cooker to make soup for her six children.


(Love, love, love stitches, especially if they’re HUGE – into the soup too!)

The soup we’re going to have today for dinner owes its magnificence to the complete picture of the person who makes it, warts and all. Mairead.

If you only had one… What would you do… With that day?

0910d(Cute (Little gazebo in the walled garden in Marley Park)

I have lots of old magazines. I brought three with me to France to use in my collages and montages. I didn’t really think three would be enough, which reminds me of the glue and how enough that was… Anyway, it turned out three was more than enough and I’ve decided not to break into my big magazine stash until I really, really need to. Maybe keep them for my course (details here!)


(… and nice door…)

So yesterday I was paging through one of the three – an Image magazine from 2010 – and I was selecting colours and pictures and I stopped at a page with a photograph of the fashion designer Paul Costelloe. He was smiling, surrounded by lovely models. The headline of the page said “if I only had one day…” and the text was full of the things Paul Costelloe would do on his perfect day. You’re probably way ahead of me in terms of what he wanted… It was simple things, like cycling in his scruffy jeans and eating fluffy potatoes!


(… and strange carving….)

Something made me stop on this page. When that happens usually I start thinking about it but my time spent in France putting my attention on big picture thinking (creativity) has had an effect. So, I got out my tools and started to play with the page. I tore it out and roughed it up a bit with paint, ink and sandpaper. Only then did I notice his hands… In the picture he’s clapping, as they do at the end of the runway when all the models have modelled a new collection and everyone is clapping the designer and the designer is clapping too. So his hands were up and I could see the palm of one hand. There was a long jagged cut running down his thumb to his palm which was covered in plasters. He must have hurt his hand.


(…and a Medlar tree  – thanks to the Happy Pear for the name)

It turns out I had some preconceived notions about this man and they fell away as I looked at his hand…The story I was believing was about a famous man with loads of money, who could do anything he wanted and he had it easier than me… And now? Now I was making up a new story about him… about a man who worked hard, his job caused him some pain, in fact it might not be easy, it’s possible he found it hard to drop everything and do some things I take for granted. Sure, he still had money but now I was wondering what my perfect day might hold, because simple things like scruffy jeans and fluffy potatoes are well within my price range.

So… what would you do with your perfect day? Mairead.

Pensive on a rainy Monday


(Photo I took of Glendalough round tower last weekend)

The weekend before we left Ireland I was down in Glendalough at a family gathering. Sixty-five cousins (four generations) from my Dad’s side of the family came together on a Saturday morning to walk in the hills and share a meal. My Dad had three brothers and the organising committee was made up of one member from each of the four brother’s families. I was my family’s representative. It was a very easy committee to be on, everything seemed to slot into place.


(It’s raining today…)

I think that’s due to my cousin Charlie. He was the one who had the idea for a gathering and so we made him the president (chairman was too ordinary.) He was exceedingly good at his job and exceedingly good at delegating. He’d say “Now, I want you to do that, but only if it’s okay with you, now tell me if it’s a problem, but you’d be great, you’re exactly the right person for it.” Apart from not being able to get a word in edgeways, who could refuse him? None of us did. It wasn’t until the Sunday morning at breakfast that I found out his wife, and not he, had been answering all the numerous emails from the other members of the committee over the past few months.


(…so I’m looking out at the pretty raindrops… )

Charlie got an idea into his head all those months ago and he did what was necessary to make it happen. He didn’t do everything. He did what he was good at and he asked for help with the rest. It worked. We sat around tables in the hotel in Glendalough and reminisced about our childhoods, about parents and grandparents who were not there, about cousins who could not attend. We had a great time. We said “This was a great idea.” I’m glad Charlie had an idea in his head and I’m really glad he shared his idea with the rest of us. I think it takes courage to share your ideas.


(…and working away inside)

The sun has come out now so I’m off to sit in the garden, Mairead.

Free trip to the barracks.

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(Decorative Arts and History Museum, Collins Barracks, Dublin 7)

We went to visit Collins’ Barracks in Dublin yesterday. I had never been. It’s just twenty minutes walk from O’Connell Street and right beside Heuston Train Station. It has free parking and free admission. We were there because I was searching for some button history and I heard the museum had a permanent exhibition of Irish clothes, jewellery and accessories. There wasn’t much on buttons but there was lots of other stuff.

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(Quote from Eileen Gray)

There was a huge area dedicated to the  life and work of Eileen Gray. She was “an Irish woman who became one of the most influential designers and architects of the 20th century.” (from the brochure.) She was still designing and working on a project when she died at 98. She had a design shop in Paris in 1922, where she sold her furniture.

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(This little book is about four inches high)

But the exhibit that had the biggest impact on me was in a glass case with no description or explanation. It seemed to be from a mother to her now dead son, Will, telling him how much she loved him and how much she misses him. He died on the 22nd of August 1776, he was almost a year old. It is sometimes difficult to connect with the characters of history, with their odd clothes and unfamiliar lifestyle, but I have no difficulty connecting with Will’s mother.

We’ll be back, Mairead.

Getting forgetful?

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(Morning! Or afternoon?)

As I sit here at 8.30am on Monday morning I wonder why I don’t sit here at 3.30pm on a Sunday afternoon. Why wait until the last minute? Why set up a habit that doesn’t support the good and the healthy? Why not set up a habit that makes life and the living of it easier? Why indeed?

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(One of my buttons on my art project)

It’s something I’ve considered previously, with some success too. There was the walking for twenty minutes a day habit, the drinking three pints of water a day habit, the blogging at 3pm every day habit, the photography every day habit, even the drawing every day habit. But for some reason it’s much easier to let those kinds of habits go and forget that they were even a consideration.

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(Focus on the important things….)

Now I’m considering…. and it seems like this might be the perfect time to reinstate some useful habits. I’ll have to be ruthless when I’m deciding which ones to reinstate. Probably best if I ask myself what I want to be doing in six months time (when my habits have taken hold.)

This could take a little time, Mairead.

Watch La Luna by Pixar!


(Butterfly on lavender at Powerscourt Estate)

I watched a beautiful short movie on Sunday… here’s the blurb about it. There’s a little boy, his father and his grandfather and they are out in their boat. In the beginning of the movie the father gives his son a hat, the same kind of hat as the father’s, the same kind of hat as the grandfather’s. The father places this hat on the son, in a particular way – just like his own hat is placed on his head. The grandfather huffs and puffs, grabs the hat and then places it on his grandson’s head in a different particular way – just like his own hat is placed on his head.

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(Gothic doorway)

There’s a bit of a scuffle and the father’s way of placing the hat on the little boy’s head finally wins and the story continues.

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(Raindrops on flowers… requested by Grahame…..;-/)

By the end of the story the little boy places his hat in a completely different particular way on his own head as he teaches his father and grandfather something new. Our children learn all they can from us and then there comes a time for us to learn from our children. Probably sooner than we think…..

What’s the lesson for today? Mairead.

Fear and Hand Holding in Swansea…..


(Butterfly enjoying the sun)

The last stop on our Round the United Kingdom, Short Motorbike Tour was Swansea. We went there to attend our daughter’s end of year exhibition. Twelve movies in one evening… don’t worry they were short, about five minutes each. Ciara wrote and directed her movie and she also had an acting role. She played a lesbian. The evening before one of her friends asked her if she was afraid that people would think she was gay. She said she had worried about that for the previous six months…. it was too late now. It was more important to get her message out there, afraid or not, other people’s judgements or not.


(Butterfly enjoying some lavender)

When you want to follow your dream, and live your life with purpose, there are sometimes scary things you’ll need to do. And you’ll wonder if this is a good idea…. this sharing of your dream, your wishes, your message, your contribution to healing the world. What will people think? What will they say? How will they treat you? Will they be different? Will they ever speak to you again? Will they understand? Will their judgement resonate with your own judgement of yourself… and make it impossible for you to continue….. when they think you’re not good enough?


(Mosaic butterfly in garden at Bloom)

I will include a link so you can watch Ciara’s movie, if you choose. If you do watch you may hear her message. You may understand her message. Or you may miss her message. You may think she is brave. You may think she’s foolhardy.  You may get stuck in wondering if she’s gay or not.  Whatever you get from the watching, one thing I have learned from my judgement of others is that my thoughts and words say more about me than they do about the one I judge. That’s what I got from watching movies on a warm Friday night in Swansea.

What are you saying about yourself? Mairead.

Love Letters, a movie by Ciara Hennessy.