Saturday 27 June 2009

Nightswimming (deserves a quiet night)

I spent two or so hours today gathering hay with a pike, making 'wines', with my parents and grandfather, harking back to before the introduction of baling machines. A very old-fashioned, rural activity. It felt quaint. We do, each summer, go to the bog a few times, but this was the first time I've done this. Taking the photographs, my grandfather said I could be looking at them when he was dead - some "posterity" - he's obsessed with his own death.

(As am I obsess with my own, but we shan't go there...)

I went, last night, to a free concert (The Coronas) with some friends (Clare, Shane, Fiona, Maura and Leanne was there too). The concert was surprisingly good. I only knew one of their songs, but I do like their sound. And they were very nice guys. Down to earth. We, afterwards, went to a bar, followed by a nightclub and, though there were some underlying tensions brewing and bubbling, I had a relatively good time. Not wonderful - I fear my times in nightclubs will never be wonderful - but as enjoyable as it could have been.
The best part of the night came next. It was about 2 or 3 in the morning and Clare, Shane, Fiona and I went down to the beach, stripped down and went nightswimming. The stars were out and the water was cold and there was a vast expanse of beach - the tide was so far out. I feel that looking back at my youth in my old age, I will see that scene. I felt so alive.

I need more of that.
I almost wasn't going to go. I'm glad I did.
I need to take more chances and do more things in life.

I couldn't fall asleep last night though.
Too preoccupied with my own mortality... Oh Michael...

Monday 22 June 2009

A written description of a library of sorts in a house outside Listowel in County Kerry, Ireland

I sit hunched over a table laden with books, two selfsame cups (large, white, cartooned with gardening instruments - a bamboo stick on the handle is labeled "citizen cane"), my computer, a few magazine cuttings and this, my writing notepad. Painted butterflies and flowers dance across the tabletop. My chair, too, is awash with flowers, but these are black silhouettes, stylised. Cream bookshelves line the walls, the books have been organised tastefully (and, perhaps, by topic, though loosely) and are interspersed with numerous candles, a marble chess set whose pieces lie in a jumble, an accordian my mother played as a child, many framed photographs (family mostly, one of dad with his boss and their prestigious Ernst & Young award) and, finally, taking a central position on a shelf it has entirly unto itself is a large clock with a gold face and, as a base, a naked woman lying prone (serene, smiling, hand raised) bathed in folds or waves - a billowing darkness - with a winged cherub of sorts flying towards her from the other side of the clock's face, its waist wrapped, too, in these curious flames of darkness. A newspaper cutting lies half-exposed atop a pile of books (Madame Bovary, Mrs. Dalloway and a collection of modern French short fiction compiled by one of my lecturers and an old colleague of his). Boran's book on creative writing conceals half the cutting, revealing only the top quarter of a reddish-orange wing and a headline, several parts of which have been cut out, leaving only:

"____ Nest Is Empty_ Enjoy Each ____ "

The ticking of the clock (whose hands indicate that it is seventeen minutes past eight, while my watch tells a time nine minutes ahead of this) and the faraway noise of my father and my sister making the dinner punctuates the languid silence of the room.

'Why are things so?' asks the tiring boy of nobody in particular.

Tonight, I, not for the first time, am filled with this urge to write, to read, to learn, to translate - to be majorly productive. Anything feels possible. But I know this feeling. Though it feels real and lasting now, it will, by morn, have faded - only its vestiges will remain, or, perhaps, the memory of it will convince me it lingers still but, on testing, I will find I am as disinclined to dedicate myself to any one thing as ever.

It truly is a curse.
I need to learn to dedicate myself to and finish things, one at a time (and not my typical jumping from one thing to another, leaving many things unfinished, forgetting them or jumping back to them to find they no longer inspire me).

My eyes tire. They are sore and I must blink more than usual.
I wish so to be better - to better myself.
I read something a friend had written and was immediately moved to jealousy. Why, I ask, does everyone seem ahead of me? Why (or am I merely expecting too much of myself?) am I behind?
Why does nothing I do seem good enough to me in comparison to anything else?
Why must I so obsessively compare?
Why can't I measure myself not against others but against myself?

Why, oh why, I ask about everything and anything and nothing... Why are things so?
I do not know.

Some poetry. There is respite in poetry. I offer these to you:

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

- Raymond Carter


Clear moments are so short.
There is much more darkness. More
ocean than firm land. More
shadow than form.

- Adam Zagajewski
(translated from the Polish by Renata Gorczynski)

Monday 15 June 2009

In which there is a Rothko sketch, an explanation, some appreciation of family and, to close, a short story I would very much like you to criticise

(untitled sketch by Mark Rothko)

How I wish I could stay firm, just once, in my resolve. I feel the concrete resolves I see so often in others are completely foreign to me. I vacillate horribly, as though it were going out of fashion or something. I question, now, the wisdom of deleting my archive. I am rather too rash and do, too often, make very unwise decisions. I feel I should just state my reason for deleting the archive once and let it be done with: I wrote Q. a letter which I included with the going-away gift I had bought him in which, along with many rememberings of the good times the flat had witness, I told him I liked him more, perhaps, than I ought to. I got an email later that night which was, essentially, a rejection. Very gentle of course, but a rejection nonetheless. Thus, I felt ashamed that any of my feelings were readily available in print on the interweb, so I deleted them.
I do hope you understand.

Let us take that as the closing of that rather quixotic, unwise chapter and hope that the Michael of this new chapter is the wiser for it.

I am, at present, in my family home in Kerry, sitting in our small library space at a small circular table, with the rain-stained window in front of me revealing a view of blurred greens, the grey of our drive's stones and the occasional brushstroke of blue or silver as a car drives by out on the road.
It is good to be home.
I feel that, if nothing else, I learnt the importance of family. They, unlike everyone else, will always stick by you. Or at least mine will always stick by me. No matter what. And that is a blessing indeed...


As it is my plan for this summer to write a story of at least fifty pages in length, I have already begun writing, starting yesterday the simple tale of an elderly lady living alone who wakes up to a typical day in her life, living, thinking, observing, remembering. I completed yesterday a mere page and a half, but that is quite good for me (I have the unfortunate habit of writing slowly and editing as I go, but tend not to need to edit much at the end as a result), but I worry it is too slow, too riddled with stasis. Is not, though, a story to be whatever the author so desires it to be? Am I writing for myself or for my readers? I would think for myself and, so, is it okay to write a very slow-moving story?
Despite liking it so far, I am almost hesitant to spend any more time on it because I worry it would only be me who would like and appreciate it, but is that not all that matters I wonder?

I'm going to paste it below, but feel not obliged to read it. Do so only if you so desire. But if you do, please be brutal in your criticism. I would really like to know how it reads for s/he who is not the author. (Also note, of course, that it is not finished and the end of the below text is merely as far as I've gotten and not as far as it goes.)

(Working Title:) "Rose"

A ringing.

Entering her dream, it drilled through the layers of her dormancy, shattering cruelly the bubble of unconsciousness woven about her where, moments before, she could recall there had been children, faces and the silhouette of a tree, now broken, whatever story or event tied them together lost. She recalled only the piercing, high-pitched screaming of the alarm causing all that to freeze. Now, though, she turned over in her bed and reached out an arm, cautiously, feeling about on the bedside locker until her fingers touched upon the hard plastic temple of her tortoiseshell glasses, now six years old. She was proud of having kept them so long. She unfolded them gently and put them on. From a blur of colour, her room was born.

The clock, now, had stopped ringing. An old-fashioned thing, it had to be wound each night, the length of its ring dependent on the previous night's winding. Rose had perfected the winding of the clock over the years, knowing now instinctively that twelve twists of the tarnished silver dial on the back was quite enough to wake her. Fourteen, perhaps, if she was particularly tired or needed to be up earlier than usual. The clock stood squatly by her bedside lamp, its face showing a long, thin arm a few millimetres past twelve and a short, altogether more portly arm that sat at nine, a stark black against the yellowed white of the face.

As she sat up in bed, labouring to push herself into a comfortable sitting position, she felt the vestiges of her dream slip away from her, eddy one final time in her head – a tree, some vague faces, swarming hands and had there been a bird? – before slipping from her mind for good, being replaced by the swirling pattern of her wallpaper (voluptuous pink peonies swaying on a white background), the hard verticals of the book spines on that shelf she had put up all those years ago and the dresser with its array of medicines, perfumes, necklaces and scraps of paper, for, though she had stopped keeping a record of her dreams (and was, thus, content to let this morning's vague rememberings evaporate from her mind), she had never quite shaken the habit of jotting things down on paper.

She heaved her feet – white now and riddled with purpling veins – off the the side of the bed and set them down upon the worn carpet. Her blue nightdress hitched up above her knees revealing her swollen, ankleless legs. They had seen better days, she thought, and smiled sadly at what had become of her, once so young. But so it was for everyone, she reasoned, hoisting herself out of bed. We must all grow, flower and wither and so she withered, content in the knowledge that she hadn't always been so. She had photographs in a box under the bed to prove it, photographs of a younger self, a self whose skin did not hang loosely from her body, as hers now did; a self whose hair grew not in weak, transparent wisps but in a healthy thickness of brown curls; a self who could have done anything, as she was so often told. Anything - she could have done it. But that was all over now. She had had time enough to do anything. This was the epilogue of her life, the final sentences.

Standing now, she slipped her misshapen feet into her black slippers and shuffled over to the window, cautiously, her legs feeling heavy and awkward. Upon the inner sill was a cactus she had seen once in the local shop and bought on a whim, finding it ironic. It was a dark green one with a thick layer of coarse white hair covering it. She hardly ever watered it and yet it was fine. Always just fine, never seeming to wilt or grow any more, or, if it did, she didn't notice. Beside it lay a funeral card of an old friend. Margaret. Odd to think of her as gone for good, as dead. She hadn't gone to the funeral, knowing how funerals evoked that irrational contempt in her. She hated how people sobbed and cried and made a show of themselves, as though the death were about them. She could not stand how self-centred they seemed. Though, she knew, this was not fair of her. Not fair in the least. And so she would, perhaps a few hours later or perhaps the next day, attend the grave of the deceased alone, in her own time, would stand stoically – for her tears had dried up years ago – by the graveside for perhaps a half an hour, barely moving, just thinking and remembering and wondering. Then she would hasten back to her little cottage on the edge of town and sit in her kitchen's quietude, sometimes for hours, lost in a sea of inarticulable half-thoughts and almost-understandings, full comprehension always seeming to elude her. She could never quite get her permed head around death.

The funeral card was insufficient, she thought. It gave away nothing of Margaret: a bad photograph; the dates of her birth and death; her full name – “Margaret Anne Devereux (née Connolly)”, though Rose had only known her as a Devereux. There should be more. Sighing, she fumbled with the funeral card, trying to get it to stand, but it had been badly folded and fell repeatedly until Rose gave up and looked, instead, through her white net blinds, out onto the back garden, an eternal source of disappointment for her. She had intended always on doing up the garden – planting a cherry blossom tree, perhaps, and maybe some honeysuckle to cover up the bare concrete of the walls – but had never gotten around to it, finding always an excuse or simply allowing herself to spend those summer days suitable to gardening not out in the garden but, rather, sitting in the cool shade of her library (a converted sitting room) reading or re-reading some book or other. Her garden held only a bench of peeling blue paint, an unruly lawn and a few potted plants which dotted the wall or stood by the back door, here a weak-looking lily of the Nile, there an overcrowded pot of lilac pansies.

She had bought the lily, but, she remembered proudly, the pansies had been grown from seeds. One day a few months ago in a surge of industriousness she had gone about planting the packet of pansy seeds that had been sitting in her cutlery drawer for over two years. They had grown. She would water them whenever she thought of it, making her way outside slowly, a full cup of water in hand, careful not to let it spill, giving it her full concentration. She would sometimes water the other plants; she might make a second trip and maybe come back with a saucepan half-full of water for the lily with its white flute of a flower, with that thin, yellow protrusion emerging from the centre – though, she had read somewhere that it was not in fact a lily and that its naming it as such was a common misconception. But such was the way of things.

She was, these days, less inclined to water it though, not seeing the point now that the some of the flower had been eaten away by insects. Its perfection ruined, she was disinclined to waste her time looking after it, reasoning pessimistically that she may not live to see it flower again. She smiled. Her daughter always hated such talk and would visibly wince when Rose spoke so fatalistically. Rose did it now almost purely to amuse herself, to rise her daughter, to spark some reaction other than the incessant questions about her health - Had she taken her tablets? Yes, she had taken her tablets. She always did. What they were for, Rose couldn't tell you - there were too many now - but she always took them.

A New Beginning

Where, you may ask, is my archive?
Where are all those entries penned from my desk in 83.03.01, Trinity Hall, Dublin 6?

They are, alas, gone.
I wanted a new start, but did not want to start a new blog. I wanted to erase all record of my quixotic ramblings and was not willing to sift through all past blogs, finding it altogether easier to delete them all.

Also, by a happy coincidence, my last day of college coincided with the end of my journal. I have bought a new one (a nice red Moleskine journal) for my new start and this, my summer.

I have not much to say tonight.

I will leave you with some random postsecrets from my ever-growing file of them, with the promise that I shall blog more lengthily soon.