Roxanne O'Connell

Writer, Textile Artist, Plantswoman

Match the Picture with its name

This is for our Clashmore Tidy Towns Foróige team.

All the plants we are going to plant in the grotto are in this photo gallery. See if you can match the plant to its name on the handout! You can click on the picture to see a bigger image. Treats if you can get them all matched and if you can tell me if they like SUN or SHADE… or a little of BOTH. You can absolutely use Google or Wikipedia 🙂

Latin Name Common Name Variety
Camellia japonica Camellia Buttermint
Cornus Sanguinea Dogwood Anny’s Winter Orange
Diosma Hirsuta Sunset Gold
Edgeworthia chrysantha Oriental Paperbush Grandiflora
Hydrangea quercifolia Oak leaf Hydrangea
Pennisetum Fountain Grass
Rhododendron Green Gift
Rosemarinus officinalis Rosemary ‘Pyramid’
Spiraea japonica Shirobana

Family ties and mystery faces

In the post Christmas clean-up, I tackled the trunk we use as a coffee table in the loft room that is Robbie’s “office”. I thought it was full of home movie reels and 35 mm slides on carousels—and, yes, there were those, but there were also a couple of shoe boxes crammed with photos and letters and a crate of photo albums from my grandmother Marie-Rose. A wave of despair came over me. I thought I had found and scanned ALL of the old photos already!

There were 12 albums altogether. Eleven were the kind where the photos were stuck to a backing with a cellophane film over them. Very 1990s. I think putting these albums together was what kept my grandmother busy when she moved to a little apartment in Marlboro to be closer to my mom and dad. There was one other with just the plastic pockets, each filled with a negative and multiple prints. I think she intended to make an album for each of us and perhaps I will sort these out and send them in packets to each of my sisters. She was living right in the center of Marlboro then and very near a CVS pharmacy and the camera shop. Nearly all of them are of me and my sisters when we were very small.

The sticky back albums posed a problem. I could not scan the photos while they were stuck to the backing. But removing them was a delicate operation. After a few mishaps, I decided I needed to get out the iron to warm up the glue. For each page, I pulled back the cellophane protection, covered it with a manilla file, opened to its full size, and gently pressed the page with my iron set very low, just slowly swirling the iron over the file paper. Sometimes it took two passes. Eventually, I was able to get all the photos out of the albums and could start scanning.

Some of these photos seem to be very old, from the 1920s and ’30s. But the clarity of those black and white photos is remarkable—much better than the color photos taken 50 years later.

A few have names or dates on them, but not many. I can recognize my grandparents and my great-grandparents, Damase and Clarina Breton. I recognize some of my mother’s aunts and uncles, especially those like Alfred and Juliette and Phillipe and Germaine who lived, as did my grandparents, in Connecticut. The other aunts and uncles are familiar but I get their names mixed up. I would have met them, repeatedly, at large family gatherings, the language barrier complicating things. And some names have just gone out of my head completely, only to pop back in hours later… but still disembodied.

I do remember going around towns and villages in Québec and Lewiston, Maine, with my grandparents, staying with one relation or another, meeting my mother’s cousins and their children. “On faire la visit”—”We make the visit”, a pilgrimage to the heart of family and family ties.

In the rambling farmhouse of one of my aunts or uncles, my sister and I would be put to bed in the room just above the kitchen, the warmest bedroom. Set in the floor there was usually a grill that allowed the heat from the kitchen to rise, a natural “central” heating. I remember lying down near the grill to listen to the grownups’ conversation. My “baby French” didn’t get me far—their Québecois French was so fast and truncated—but I would sometimes get the gist of bits and pieces—especially if I heard a name I knew. I remember there was a lot of laughing. My Pépère, Odias, and his brothers-in-law were great ones for earthy jokes.

It amazes me that there are so many group photos in this collection of close to 1000 photos spanning 70 years. I often wonder, who was the person with the camera? Clearly, every time they got together was an occasion for recording their family ties.

January has arrived… today!

After weeks of very mild weather—mostly wet—we woke to a blue sky, bright sun and a magical frosted landscape. The sun is still so low in the sky that much of the garden white with frost will stay that way all day, while other parts are rapidly returning to green. It is oddly cheering after so much fog, mist and rain—the three forms of wet we’ve been having for the past few months. Oh, we get the odd sunny spell thrown in. Just enough to draw us out for a walk, only to catch us with some windy rain halfway home. But we DO NOT complain! Because our kids—even those in Seattle—have been shoveling snow. We are grateful that we don’t face waking up to THAT.

Here’s what we did wake up to:

It’s strange to think that in less than three weeks, we will celebrate the Irish first day of spring, Bríd’s (or St. Brigid’s) Day. Six weeks after that we will (hopefully) have our potatoes in. Our favorite variety, Yukon Gold, is not available this year but I saved some from last year’s crop so maybe we’ll still have enough for a couple of weeks. The rest will be British Queens. We live in the middle of carrot and potato territory so getting lovely organically grown produce is not difficult. However, there is nothing quite like digging up a few spuds for you dinner, rinsing them off and steaming  them until they are smiling up at you. That’s definitely something we can look forward to on these chilly nights and frosty mornings.

Poem from the Archives

I’ve been ploughing through boxes and boxes of paper collected over the past 40 years, shredding most of it (old bank statements, the kids applications to college/university) and using the shredded paper to put the dahlias to bed for the winter. Waste not, want not.

Today I found a typed (yes… Courier on paper) poem written by Paul (son #1) as a book report for Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. It delighted me then and delights me still.

THE MRS. WHO, MRS. WHATSIT, MRS. WHICH SWITCH

by Paul Sean O’Connell

Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which
Did a switch
That changed the children’s material graph
So they could transport in a flash.
They transported to Uriel
In order to make their father get well.
(He had been captured by IT
And didn’t like it one bit!)
After, they went to Camazotz
Where they saw a man with eyes like red dots.
They found their father after all
And that is it, that is all.

Almost a Poem

I didn’t think I was a poet… it wasn’t until I went to the Molly Keane summer Writer’s Retreat in 2018 that I found a poet’s rhythm in my writing. But it was there before. Maybe it comes from being a singer—who knows. But I was thinking that I’d like to put what little pieces I have in this blog because trying to find them in emails or old journals is just too time consuming and frustrating.

This really came about today when I thought of a poem I wrote back in 2016 when I was traveling around the west of Ireland planning and designing the TravelBlogging Ireland student trip that my colleague June and I did in 2017 and 2018. On the rainy days when driving around back roads was just too daunting, I started doing the writing exercises in Ursula LeGuin’s Steering the Craft—a way to turn a day full of lemons into written lemonade. More than a year later I came across it again and sent it to Renée Soto, a dear friend and colleague who also suffered migraines and was… a poet.

Reading it over now, having exposed myself to much more poetry in the years since I first jotted this down, I realize that it’s really “pros-etry”—but it could be pared down to essentials and turned into something better.

Excerpted from an email, November 30, 2017:

Subject: Because I know you understand…

I did this as a SHORT AND LONG exercise from Ursula LeGuin’s book Steering the Craft… The sentences are short enough to almost create poetry… what do you think? 😉

It starts with a stiff neck.
Slowly, a shadow spreads over my cheek.
A hot spot takes root over my eye.
It begins to throb.
And then it’s there—migraine.
Words are lost.
Time is an endless vortex.
I want to come to the end of it.
Once it’s rooted, my only hope is sleep.
But that’s not always possible.
Sometimes I work.
I burrow into a spreadsheet.
Pushing the pain away.
If I get outside myself it gets better.
And then, suddenly, it’s gone.
The pill did its work.
I am whole again.
But the day is lost.

 

If there’s one thing I love about my iPad it’s the Featured Photo that shows up on my home screen first thing in the morning. Today, I got a trip in a wayback machine all the way to Elkins, West Virginia for an unforgettable week at the Augusta Heritage Irish Week. I’ve decided to post the videos, despite the slightly off key harmony of the camera person (me!) in the big singalong. To be fair, it was a noisy night, full of high spirits and, it being the Ice House, alcohol had been taken 🙂

This first is from the Teacher/Student (?) soccer match. If you’ve ever been to West Virginia in July, you’ll appreciate the stamina this required!

These five videos are from the big session in the Ice House on the last night of Irish Week.

 

Just click on the link — I suppose I could upload these to YouTube, but I’m not sure I want to put this out to the world. The only folks who can see this are those who come to my blog — family and friends. And that’s just fine.

I don’t know if Irish Week will come back to Augusta but for those that have experienced it, Irish Week was something incredibly special and I treasure the memories of the music and the craic.

Here’s a shoutout to VisComm!

VisComm 35 happened this past week. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to attend in person, largely due to our move to Ireland and COVID. However, thanks to my iPad’s tendency to bring up photos of people I love but haven’t seen in a while, I am reminded of the wonderful times over many, many years—my first VisComm was 2005 in Banff—when I got to travel to places I’d never been and meet with people who had the same passion for visual communication and teaching that I felt.

These photos come from Midway, Utah and feature my four academic godmothers—Sandy Moriarty, Sue Barnes, Ginny Kidd and Gretchen Barbatsis. Every year they would sit me down and ask me how my tenure portfolio was going — what was I doing, where was I putting my energy. They included me in projects and Sue pulled me into my first publication. Throughout my entire time at Roger Williams, I included Sandy’s Iconic Photo survey in all my Visual Culture, Visual Rhetoric classes. And the person who teaches it now does as well. Who could forget Gretchen’s inevitable “So what?!” that kept us on our toes when we presented. And Ginny’s warmth and inclusive presence helped me see VisComm as my “home” conference. Here’s to the ladies that helped make VisComm the rich and moving experience that it was and is.

OMG! Where did the time go??

I haven’t posted in MONTHS… I don’t know why. Except that hours and days don’t seem to be measured the same way in the time of COVID. Day follows day and time gets measured in terms of occasional important events (vaccination appointments) or what gets done in the garden. Even then, the winter/spring weather extended well into what is normally considered “summer” here in Ireland. It seems as if we’ve gone from early April to July… and then back to late May — and that’s just the way it’s been in these few weeks of June. Everything feels at least two weeks late in terms of what should go in the ground or be sown outside.

But now I am sitting at the table while the Euro 2021 is playing in the background, a glass of fizzy mint infused elderflower cordial—a significantly JUNE drink here—and feeling that maybe summer has finally arrived. This is a recipe from Happy Pear, twin brothers that created a wholefoods company here in Ireland. They combine their cordial with blueberries but we have a lovely mint growing in a pot outside our kitchen door. So I dug out the muddle my son-in-law got us for Christmas way back when, picked a couple of mint leaves, added the cordial and some soda water and VOILÁ! It is exceedingly refreshing. The elderflowers came from our own tree and the cordial will keep for up to a month in the fridge — if it lasts that long.

Yesterday, I foostered around (an Irish term) in the garden and came in with a bunch of small harvests—some kale for a smoothie (yum!), some amazingly huge but juicy radishes, 12 new potatoes and our first crop of spring chard. The potatoes (a first early called “Orla”) and chard we ate with some fresh hake for our midday meal. There is NOTHING quite as satisfying as picking something fresh from the garden and then sitting out in that garden to eat it with the sounds of the little waterfall and the birds all around you, feeding little bits of fish to the cat, who then bounces off in pursuit of a bee or butterfly. It’s definitely a “life is good” moment—a precious one in times like these.

Here’s hoping you get some of these moments yourself.

9-Patch COVID quilt update!

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost a year since we started this project — April 2020, to be exact. Today, I finished putting in the final stitches binding the edges of the quilt. The original plan, when we thought we’d be done with COVID after the first lockdown, was to get us together in the Heritage Centre for an old fashioned quilting bee. But that possibility never became a reality. As we entered into Lockdown 3+, I decided to assemble the quilt top, set it up on my big frame and hand quilt it . The nights were long, the days wet and dreary, and I found the peace of quietly stitching away while listening to the radio (Lyric) or a book on Audible created a “happy place” that even the failure of the Trump Impeachment could not invade. I’m posting this for my patchwork buddies — the women who put together the 25 Nine Patch blocks from scrap fabrics that make up this quilt.

The 9-Patch COVID sampler scrap quilt 2020

 

Draft 9-patch COVID quilt

 

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