Alexander Averin

Monday, 9 August 2010


Top of the Hill

Henry, Grace

Grace Henry (1868-1953) was born Emily Grace Mitchell in Aberdeen . She studied in Brussels and Paris , where she met the Irish painter, Paul Henry. They married in London in 1903, and after some years in England, moved to Achill Island in 1912. 

Grace Henry’s Top of the Hill, injected with reds and yellows, demonstrates a different interpretation to Paul Henry’s depictions of Achill life. In contrast to The Old Woman, the women in this painting appear less burdened. For a few moments, business is suspended as they enjoy the happy coincidence that finds all three assembled on the top of the hill at the same time – a chance to gossip in peace.

Dear Diary,

 How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were

Satchel Paige

There is no such thing as a coincidence, only synchronicity.  So I will start with a new discovery, hot off the press, only just unearthed (thank you dear Internet).  I had intended to put up a pic of Paul Henry's The Old Woman. I never knew Paul Henry's wife Grace was also a painter.  Can you see the similarity in style?  I am excited by this and shall be off later to seek out more such delights as the one above.  Ironically the subject is women gossiping and my post today is on a similar theme.  Not exactly gossiping but definitely three women and a man having a middle of the night chat,

I woke to a bit of a grey day and have to keep telling myself it is only August.  Still it isn’t raining so I may be able to potter in the garden this afternoon.  There is not enough colour there though, never is at this time of year so I may call at a garden centre this week to pick up some autumny flowering specimens - I was getting a few ideas in the Guardian at the weekend.

I have a poem-in-progress which I am going to post today purely to tell you how it came about.  Most poems I write just develop from a line, a word, a seed of an idea or they come to me from who knows where.  This one developed/is developing from a four-way online conversation in the wee small hours recently when I was suffering a bout of insomnia.  The chat was between two people in the UK (one was me obviously) and two in the USA.  I am in a social networking site - I hate that phrase, much prefer group of like-minded friends and no it is not Facebook,  Facebook and I don’t really gel, I don’t know why.

I digress.

We were discussing a 92 year old woman known to the other UK person, I won’t go into details as it is private stuff but it got me thinking and  a dear online friend in the USA used a word which also got me thinking. I returned to bed after an hour of chatting and sipping blueberry tea to relax me - both worked and I was soon asleep.  The next morning, while still in bed I wrote a draft of a poem.


A child again, in plaits again,
her ringlet-curls have turned to silver-white.
She’s ninety-two and nearly blind of eye,
can hardly see to read or even write.
But she has seen so many  moons
and ridden far too many storms
but settled now with much-loved cat,
a crossword, cocoa and a comfy chair
still nurtures poems in her mind.
She eats and drinks too little, sleeps a lot,
her life has reached the winter Sunday time.
Now everything is fading day by day:
her body’s clock, her strength, her sight, her memory,
her hearing and her hope sometimes
but never does her love or strength of will.
Not done it all but seen it all
she’s fairly snug and safe and (mostly) free of pain.
The hearth contains her world now and the fire her memories,
a wealth therein of earthly dreams, some lost and unfulfilled
but only precious joyous ones are dancing in its flames.
Though many friends have passed her by, gone on ahead,
she sees no sense in being sad or drifting in their wake
but wonders far too often which season’s solstice is to be her very last.
Along with recollections of her past and thoughts of future family,
she feels within her own dried-up and long-forgotten womb
the sudden quickening of death, a line break in a life,
But she is poised, rehearsed and well-prepared for casting-off;
she knows that death, like birth, is just one process leading to the next.
Eternity is beckoning and here is just a stopping-place along the way.

Cait O’Connor

That’s all for now,
Life beckons,

PS How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?


toady said...

Hi Cait
Lovely poem.
I think I have mentioned before that I found a great similarity between Paul Henry and my favourite Breton painter Ernest Guerin. Now I find Mrs Henry does the samr especially a painting called Pardon Bigoudin

Frances said...

Cait, many thanks for the introduction to Mrs Henry, and for the quote from Satchel P. Another of his quotes is, "Don't look over your shoulder, someone might be gaining on you."

Your poem is beautiful, presenting a contemplation of what knowlege and understanding a person just might accumulate from 92 years of living.

I find it difficult to answer your question, though. I do know my own age and am confortable knowing it, and consider myself so fortunate to have pretty decent health adding to that comfort! xo

Fennie said...

A great poem, Cait. Slipping away, 92 down and three to go. I don't feel 92. but I'm not sure I feel 29 either.
I feel sort of ageless, timeless. Still as by grandfather was wont to say (allegedly for he died before I knew him) 'never say you haven't enough time, for time is all we have: it hangs in centuries around us.'

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm here from Nora's. I found your poem extraordinary. We should all live to 92 with our poetry safe inside.
What age? Now. I'd say. Each year gets better and more unfettered.

Fire Byrd said...

What a wonderful tribute for a lady of a certain age!
Lovely poem.
If you want to be included on my new blog then you need to email me Cait, so google can send you an invitation.
I'll look forward to seeing you there.

elizabethm said...

I like your poem very much. I would be 38, or perhaps 70. I am also very happy at 55 but I know which way I am heading.

Nora said...

I would like to be eternally 39 of body, but have the wisdom that I have of mind now and keep growing wiser. That is a benefit of growing older.

ds said...

Thank you for the introduction to both Henrys. I had not heard of them before. And the poem is lovely. Quite a tribute! Thank you.

Friko said...

In enjoyed this post very much.
A picture of contented and fulfilled old age. I wish this were my lot, at whatever it will be my time to leave this life.

Now, I feel no age at all, my body is telling me that youth has gone for good and old age is just around the corner.


Grace Henry works have an Austin Moseley similarity about them - sheer beauty, just like your poem Cait. :)

Tattie Weasle said...

The poem was wonderful and thought provoking especially to one who has issues about mortality. It made me look at it more hopefully so to speak.
As for how old if I didn't know? About 7, I always did want to grow down!!

Susan said...

If I didn't know how old I was, I would guess way older than I am! My recent trip to Scotland was wonderful but sustained assorted injuries.
I like those colorful ladies finding a place to chat in peace :)

CAMILLA said...

Dear Cait,

I thought your Poem was so beautifully written, you write so well Cait. Hoping that you may include this Poem along with all your others in a book some day.

I know of my age but somewhere within this body there is still a child with an eagerness and curiosity to enjoy life's dreams.

Thank you for the info on the artists Paul Henry and Mrs Henry.


Marcheline said...


I have been to Achill Island and I can completely concur with anyone's desire to move there - even from Scotland, which is my heaven on earth.

Great poem - my favorite bits were about the cat and the fire, and the ending.

If i did not know how old I was, I would be 27. Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway.