Hardly a book report: H is for Hawk

There’s a red-tailed hawk in the ravine, she built a nest midway up the radio tower on a platform climbing workers might pause to rest. And she sits there surveying the ravine below, the wide path where the rabbits gather at dusk, and the wetlands lower down. The red-wing blackbirds are in a state because of her and they heckle her when she flies the swath of ravine.

I know she’s a red-tailed hawk because there’s a sign in lower part of the ravine saying you might see a red-tailed hawk hereabouts. It’s a sign about the flora and fauna of the wetlands and it has pictures too. It’s possible that my hawk is a different kind of bird because the sign is of course not specifically about her, of course. But she’s the only hawk I’ve seen and it’s the only sign, so I think they must connect.

I brought out my camera one night to try and see her up close through the zoom lens, but she stayed in her nest and I only saw a wing stretch out. Still, I delighted in that stretch and the next morning when I woke and stretched my arm out of the bed, I thought of her.

At the foot of the radio tower, there’s a massing pile of fur. It must be from her kills. I see fewer rabbits and know she’s probably the reason. But I don’t blame her. She’s got a thing to do.

I think about what she sees and knows and how we could look at the same thing and see and know different things. I think about the hawk book I read this spring and try to imagine a hawk that could suck me away from life and grief and then I would snap back, changed and alright.

But my hawk isn't this. She's only something to look up for when I walk, and to anchor my season to.

Like a bad penny

I think I was wishing for something that doesn’t exist when I quit here - an idea of self that pre-dated blogging and social media, where I didn’t feel the presence of anonymous others. Not that its a bad feeling - happily, readers here have always been benevolent. But the idea of “others” infiltrated me in ways beyond blog readership. I sometimes felt I was doing things for you. I sometimes felt I wasn’t doing things because of you too. I projected an audience watching me and then felt strangely beholden to it.

I blame the feeling watched feelings on my Catholic upbringing. It was supposed to be comforting, of course. You’re being watched from heaven and all that. And in some ways it was. In other ways, it struck judgement into the very heart of every move.

My favourite saying is that you have to climb the ladder to kick it away. I think I love it because it represents two very contrary things. Careful study and abandonment. But it’s not something I excel at. I tend to be a reckless student, a bit too eager to form my own opinion too soon. But then when it comes to abandonment I never quite feel that freedom to fully go my own way. Sometimes, I daydream things and even find myself baking into the daydreams the reactions of others; parents, friends, teachers, coworkers, even people I despise.

I guess I’m describing insecurity. Sure, I throw shapes that look a lot like confidence. Emigrating was probably the biggest - most people think emigrating must be terribly hard. But it wasn’t really. Actually that’s a lie, it was hard as hell - just not for the reasons people imagine. I didn’t even understand the ways it was hard as I was living it, the strange sort of falsity you encounter when as an adult you have to construct an identity in a place you don’t belong.

Emigrating was a superficial and dramatic way of kicking away the ladder - using distance to manufacture freedom I couldn’t have summoned living in Ireland in close proximity to family and history and things like that that can weigh heavily.

But then I got here and it wasn’t so much kicking away the ladder as beginning to climb a different one. And because it felt so new and arbitrary, I clung to each rung even harder. And eventually I found myself feeling stuck by things I didn't even necessarily feel a connection with.

I’m at an age that makes me question everything. I’ve run away from all the default decisions so there are no foregone conclusions. I’ve kept the blank slate. And yet I don’t know what to do with it. And I think because blogging felt like one of those rungs, I let it go. I hoped that some domino-effect of freedom would follow. But blogging was never really the broken thing in my world. In fact, blogging was one of the good things, even though it is a silly sort of activity.

I’ve always been interested in what we structure our lives upon because I seem to be great at deconstructing my own. Emigration blasted away familiar faces and landscapes, the physical and social underpinnings of my world. Not having connections left me without obligation. And yet it’s easy to wonder if this is precisely why it’s so hard for me to know what I want sometimes — if I’m missing a sort of cornerstone. I'm not talking about regret. But I am trying to understand what's still holding me back.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Just popping in quickly to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

I suspect I won't really be here much in 2015. Blogging has changed. I've changed. I need something new and hopeful. Captial-B 'Blogger' has become a label I fight against rather than buy into. It's wonderful and admirable that there are many out there still fighting the good fight. But I need to move onto something not as fighty over what it is and whether it has sold itself out or can still be meaningful and interesting. To be frank, I spend enough of my day-job in this mode and I want to build something from a positive place, not a negative or contrary one.

But blogging has been an extraordinary experience. I've met so many wonderful people and I've been able to push my writing in very personal, and sometimes difficult, directions away from scrutiny or affiliation with media. The people who've read and who've cared to respond have been supportive and intelligent and at times challenging, but in ways that were kind and made me reflect and learn. None of us is perfect and that's always especially evident online. And I've seen my own imperfections painfully magnified here at times but people have always been generous. I think that's really reading and writing at its best; each person straining to be understood, to find meaning and truth in each other.

I'll miss blogging too. And I'll miss the connection with people, though it too has waned and migrated to other social media. Although I haven't been doing it much of late, the muscle memory to blog still there. It's been eight years (!) after all. But I know the difference between doing something from habit and it being right and having forward momentum.

If you care to follow me, I'm very active on Twitter and Instagram and, if I have new writing anywhere, I'll share links there (and likely update my Portfolio too).

Other than that: Just thank you. And much love for 2015.



Robert Spellman

I can't recall where I first saw the work of Robert Spellman, but I remember immediately recognizing these watercolours as pictures of home. It's funny how little can trigger recognition in that way.

People talk about the way places get under your skin, especially their places of birth, but they seldom explain where that feeling sits. One day, I'll have lived in Canada as long as I ever lived in Ireland. But unless I also leave Canada, I'll never know if it's etched under my skin the same ways that Ireland is. I suppose this feeling is something so magnified it needs to be viewed from a distance — in the way so many writers see a place more clearly when they write about it from afar.

But I wonder too if certain places just possess us more than others. Ireland does seem especially haunting for its diminutive size. Perhaps it's the way the Irish wrap their language around certain scenes and feelings that captures the resonance of the place long after you've left it. Or maybe it's something inherent in the very land itself, in rain on flinted rock, glancing light through hurried skies, the call of the wild green sea.

All images from the portfolio of Robert Spellman.

Just nice things

I'm guessing that we all suffer the proliferation of gift guides in similar ways: So much product being thrust at us; a mix of fatigue and occasional delight, the dreadful feeling that this season is already too expensive and it's going to get more expensive yet.

Still, I would be lying if I said I don't like looking at nice things. And these are some of the nice things I've liked looking at lately - whether considered in a gift or non-gift or self-gift context.

Products: Lavender Quartz Lamp from Score & Solder | Equinox Ring by Immortalia by ManiaMania | Dark Side Moon Phase from ABJ Glassworks | Moon Coasters from Karen Kimmel | Beauty Dust & Good Night Dust from Moon Juice Shop | Clay Chambray Facet Cushion from Susan Connor

Discovered lately...

Remember when we used to blog, not for anybody was reading, not because we had created a machine that needed to be fed, but simply to remember? Lately I've been recalling the early pleasure of having a place to record the seemingly disparate things I encountered and latched onto fleetingly. I've been remembering too what it was like when a certain coherence began to emerge between those things and I became aware of having an actual style of my own.

A little time away from blogging and that space opens up again, where it's not about seeking but about recording, and where a little assembly of lovely things can be just a simple pleasure. These are things that have caught my eye of late.

Product information: Corriedale Wool Knit Stitch Blanket from The Line | Cliff Murale from Lambert et Fils | Candles from Maison Louis Marie | Skincare and bodycare from Grown Alchemist | Strata Study Wallpaper form Zak and Fox & Apparatus | Andrianna Shamaris Resin Cube from The Line | Pearl Earring by Yvonne Leon