Writer, Textile Artist, Plantswoman

Year: 2021

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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