Top of the Hill
Grace Henry (1868-1953) was born Emily Grace Mitchell in
. She studied in Aberdeen Brussels and , where she met the Irish painter, Paul Henry. They married in Paris London in 1903, and after some years in England, moved to in 1912. Achill Island
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.
How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?
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.
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.
That’s all for now,
PS How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?