Alexander Averin

Tuesday 29 November 2011

David Whyte

Burren Area Looking North Along The Coastline

Dear Diary,

You look and look and look,beyond all looking
David Whyte

The world of blogging is an amazing thing. Foxglove Lane recommended a poet to me by the name of David Whyte. I am ashamed to say I had  never heard of him but I immediately looked him up (isn't the Internet a wonderful thing?). What should I discover but that he had been a friend of the late John O'Donohue, someone I very much admire and have written about many times. Not only had  he been a friend, he had also written a beautiful poem in his memory which I am happy to be able to share with you.  Before the poem there is some wonderful prose.


In Memoriam
John O’Donohue

A drive into the setting sun of a summer evening, west of Ballyvaughan would take you along the limestone coast of North Clare, with the salt ocean on the right and a rising, almost over bearing, mountain of white stone on your left.  The road grips the cliff edge for a good while and then opens into dunes. From there you would see a long curve of beach and a far, inviting prospect of the Aran Islands silhouetted in the low sunlight. As you drive, your gaze is so naturally pulled forward into this horizon of fire and shadow that you would most likely, and thankfully, miss the narrow lane to the left that disappears very quickly into the recesses of the mountain. You would have passed the entrance to the valley without knowing, much to the relief of the people who live beyond its entrance and who have enjoyed its solitude for centuries.

That quiet lane disappears into a sanctuary, one of the most hidden and silent enclosures in the whole north Burren. The geological architecture of the valley speaks of shelter, the human history of fortitude and the view out to sea from the surrounding hills, of all the possible and imminent futures about to blow in from the west.

Out of that private, beautiful enclosed valley there came into the world a very private but very unenclosed man, one who knew the need in every human heart for that sense of sanctuary, and for that silence but equally for the high and necessary walk which brings the horizon and the future alive again and again in the home-bound human imagination. John O’Donohue grew up in that valley and eventually entered our world through that narrow pass down to the sea.  He took us with him as he journeyed to those beckoning horizons and generously brought us, as we listened to him or read him, to marvel, to wonder, and to return home transformed. He was a rare form of human possibility, a razor sharp intellect married to a far-travelling, Irish articulation and a bird-of-paradise vocabulary that made the listener realize that until then they had never listened at all. Like the valley from which he emerged, all the geological and imaginative layers of human experience were present in his speech at once; he could bring recesses and contours in the listener alive that quickened their senses, broke their enclosed imprisoning notions of self and lead them on, up high into that clear western air, listening to the lark calls, letting the wind blow them clean of worry, and returning them to their shadowed, home valley with a strange sense of intention, of courage, and a brave, laughing almost flamboyant, sense of celebration.

I was privileged to have a close friendship with John, to witness him work and play, to eat and drink with him and to participate in that moveable, laughing, bull-fighting, swish-of-the-cloak drama that accompanied and enlivened everything and everyone around him. I also knew, behind the mesmerizing cloak, the serious philosopher, the critical take-no-prisoners thinker, the responsible head of a close, extended family, and the courageous, almost sacrificial activist, who with a group of North Burren allies, took on the might of the Irish establishment and won a victory that changed Irish law at a foundational level. This is a man who could hold the broad spectrum of human experience together in a fierce, intimate and compassionate way, leavened with a humour that defies easy description and that enlivened everyone around him.

John leaves behind an enormous circle of bereft readers and listeners, a great crowd of mourning friends, and most especially, a shocked and grieving family in his loving mother Josie, his loyal brothers PJ and Pat, his good sister Mary; his extended family, Dympna, Eilish, Shane, Kate, Triona and Peter and more recently, but equally poignant, the woman to whom he had just committed his future and who had brought him a happiness he had sought all his life: Kristine Fleck.

John was a love-letter to humanity from some address in the firmament we have yet to find and locate, though we may wander many a year looking or listening for it. He has gone home to that original address and cannot be spoken with except in the quiet cradle of the imagination that he dared to visit so often himself. As a way of sending a love letter in return, I wrote this poem for him a good few years ago. I hope it can still reach him now, wherever he is to be found and that he finds it as good a representation as he did when he lived and breathed. I remember the bright, surprised and amused intelligence in his eyes when I first read it to him, sitting by his fire in Connemara.  It brings him back to me even as I read it now, as I hope it does for you.

Looking Out From Clare

For John Donohue

There’s a great spring in you
all bud and blossom
and March laughter
I’ve always loved.
Your face framed
against the bay
and the whisper
of some arriving joke
playing at the mouth,
your lightening raid
on the eternal
melting the serious line
to absurdity.
I look around and see
the last days of winter
broken away
for all those
listening or watching,
all come to life now
with the first pale sun on their face
for many a month,
remembering how to laugh.
But most of all I love
the heft and weight
and swing of that sea
behind it all, some other tide
racing toward the shore,
or receding to the calmness
where no light or laughter
lives for long.
The way you surface
from those atmospheres
again and again,
your emergence seems to make
you a lover of horizons
but your visitation
of darkness shows.
Then away from you
I can see you only alone
on the strand
walking to the sea
on the north coast of Clare
toward the end
of an unendurable winter
taking your first swim
of the year.
The March scald
of cold ocean
even in May about to tighten
and bud you into spring.
You look across
to the mountains in Connemara
framing, only for now,
your horizon.
You look and look, and look,
beyond all looking.

David Whyte
January 2008

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Sunday 27 November 2011

Last night my dreams found me

Last night my dreams found me

Last night my dreams found me
and sent me on horseback, solitary but safe.
Two Connemara ponies carried me across Irish mountains,
one horse was the purest grey, one black,
one for my baggage, one for my glad heart alone.

(No swimming for me in deep rivers, not waving but drowning in seas).

I wonder how in your dreams will you travel, on the wings of which bird will you fly?
(Or will you develop your own?).

Will you perch in the pocket of a fairy or travel tucked behind an angel’s wing?
Will you be cwched warmly in the trap of a pony
or, like Mary, will you sit on the back of a donkey
with one special brave knight leading the way?

Will you play, will you sing, will you dance there with music?
Or will you ride in a vardo with Romance and just a poem to brighten each day?
Will you venture by footfall by day or will you stroll in the dead of a night
under the spell of a bright Harvest Moon?

Or will you meander your way at your leisure
in the shade of a sun, in an autumn
which spreads out your smile with its gold?

I just pray you are not over-burdened;
greed, hatred and envy can carry a toll.

Only love truly lightens your journey,
helps all your dreams  find you,
lift you and bring you safe home.

Cait O’Connor

Wednesday 23 November 2011



Nearing nine decades, you were

weak of heart, frailer than frail,

thinner than thin, paler than pale,

never one to give in, your soul had lost its body’s–fight.

Your mind, still strong, your voice was weak,

only your eyes could tell of its defeat;

(those eyes, intelligent and wise).

Fading fast about us, the only will remaining, was the will to live,

its strength of purpose hung about the bed

courting your spirit, preparing for its flight.

I could almost taste the ward, so white,

the sterile coldness seeping deep inside your ag`ed bones.

The Earth became a stranger to you then;

you’d little left to learn, nought to fear, it was clearly time to leave,

without one tiny tear or ounce of fuss, right to the end,

(no softly-spoken angels in your wake),

just a final straightening-up, one quick soft look, an outstretched hand

so all seemed strangely right and fitting for the day.

For me, a sadness and a pain

that lies down low, so deep within my heart,

a grief that I must bear, soothed only by your strength.

I felt that as you quietly passed; your spirit rose

to stillness and to certain Paradise,

away from all the darkness and the sadness in this world,

the world you bade farewell to on that stark November day.

Cait O’Connor

The Road Not Taken

Woodland Faery by Robin Pushe’e


This faery pic reminds me of my youngest granddaughter.

This video below is for Tracy Golightly-Garcia (whose blog is a lovely place to visit by the way); it is the poem that she would choose to take to her Desert Island.  (see previous posts).

 I love the name Golightly by the way...... and it's also a great way to travel...down any road. 

 I have posted this poem before; it is much-loved by so many.


TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Monday 21 November 2011


This poem is for Foxglove Lane on her Desert Island  (Foxglove Lane has to be my favourite blog title and it's a wonderful place to visit too which lives up to its name).

I have posted this one before as the poem is one of my much-loved, in fact I chose it as my all time favourite many, many moons ago when I worked in a different library and we each had to choose one for National Poetry Day.

The story goes that while walking down Fleet Street in London one day, Yeats was trying to cross a road, wishing for seclusion and this poem was the result.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, 
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; 
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee, 
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

W B Yeats

Sunday 20 November 2011

Poem in October

This poem is for Mark as he chose it for his Desert Island. (see previous post).

My favourite lines?

   And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
     Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
             Through the parables
                Of sunlight
        And the legends of the green chapels

 A great choice. I shall post others' favorites soon.


        It was my thirtieth year to heaven
     Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
        And the mussel pooled and the heron
                Priested shore
           The morning beckon
     With water praying and call of seagull and rook
     And the knock of sailing boats on the webbed wall
           Myself to set foot
                That second
        In the still sleeping town and set forth.

        My birthday began with the water-
     Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
        Above the farms and the white horses
                And I rose
            In a rainy autumn
     And walked abroad in shower of all my days
     High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
            Over the border
                And the gates
        Of the town closed as the town awoke.

        A springful of larks in a rolling
     Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
        Blackbirds and the sun of October
            On the hill's shoulder,
     Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
     Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
            To the rain wringing
                Wind blow cold
        In the wood faraway under me.

        Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
     And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
        With its horns through mist and the castle
                Brown as owls
             But all the gardens
     Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
     Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
             There could I marvel
                My birthday
        Away but the weather turned around.

        It turned away from the blithe country
     And down the other air and the blue altered sky
        Streamed again a wonder of summer
                With apples
             Pears and red currants
     And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
     Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
             Through the parables
                Of sunlight
        And the legends of the green chapels

        And the twice told fields of infancy
     That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
        These were the woods the river and the sea
                Where a boy
             In the listening
     Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
     To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
             And the mystery
                Sang alive
        Still in the water and singing birds.

        And there could I marvel my birthday
     Away but the weather turned around. And the true
        Joy of the long dead child sang burning
                In the sun.
             It was my thirtieth
        Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
        Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
             O may my heart's truth
                Still be sung
        On this high hill in a year's turning.

Dylan Thomas 

Let me know your choice and I will try and post it for you.

Friday 18 November 2011

When You Are Old

Dear Diary,

I listened to one of my favourite BBC Radio 4 repeats this morning, the perennial programme that is Desert Island Discs (may it never end or be taken off the airways). The subject was the Irishwoman, Anna Scher and she chose one or two 'musical' records which brought back memories. But best of all was this poem she chose which I would also pick as a poem to keep if I was ever cast away. The BBC played a recording of it by T P McKenna which brought tears to my eyes;I had never heard it before. I couldn't find a copy of that version to share with you but I found this recording on YouTube which I hope you like.

Is there a poem you would take to your Desert Island?
One of your own or one written by another?
Or both?

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Wednesday 16 November 2011



Where thou art, that is home
Emily Dickinson


Stop. Along this path, in phrases of light

trees sing their leaves.  No Midas touch

has turned the wood to gold this year

when you pass by, suddenly sad, straining

to remember something you're sure you knew

Listening.  The words you have for things die

in your heart, but grasses are plainsong

patiently chanting the circles you cannot repeat

or understand.  This is your homeland,

Lost One, Stranger who speaks with tears.

It is almost impossible to be here and yet

you kneel, no-one's child, absolved by the sun

through the branches of a wood, distantly

the evening bell reminding you, Home, Home

Home, and the stone in your palm telling the time.

Carol Anne Duffy

Monday 14 November 2011


Whisper of the Muse -  Julia Margaret Cameron

A photograph is a secret about a secret.  The more it tells you the less you know.
Diane Arbus


Away from human noise, the cough, the sniff, the clearing of the throat.
The ticking of the ever-present clock.
Depart from the mind, a sometimes lifeless place, where all is brash,
bereft and Belsen-like, where no birds sing at all.
Seek out the spell, or speak a heartfelt prayer for long-forgotten love.
Until then, listen less, relax and go towards the far and distant place called home,
to the heartbeat of the womb, to past times, rhythmical and raw,
to a land where birdsong resonated with the silver bells of angels.
Now at last all is quiet.
Peace.  Like a cathedral.

Cait O’Connor

Saturday 12 November 2011

Family Silver

Dear Diary,

A quick blog today, it is Saturday and as I am off sick from work I am enjoying being home and having a normal weekend which is quite novel for me.  The weather is fine, quite warm and dry but the soil is still too wet to plant bulbs. I bought tulips, daffodils and alliums ages ago but since then the soil has been either frozen or over-wet. Never mind, I am not up to gardening at the moment and M will have to do the work, hopefully tomorrow when the soil may be that bit drier; if the weather forecasters are right we are in for a dry spell.

I have just enjoyed a wee stroll outside in the field with the dogs, the colours all around  are still achingly beautiful ; I love autumn so and especially on days like this.  It is a complete contrast to yesterday which was grey, extremely so and wet with it.

Today I am posting some pics of photos by the wonderful photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. I caught a bit of the TV programme ‘Flog it’ yesterday and saw that a Berkshire grammar school had sold off one of her photos.  The photograph (a gift to the school) sold at auction for £8,000.

The photograph is one of Sir John Herschel, a German-born British astronomer, technical expert, and a composer. Herschel became most famous for the discovery of Uranus in addition to two of its major moons.

In a recent recording of the ever popular BBC series of 'Flog It!' at Henley Town Hall, the stand-out item of the day was a photograph of scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel taken by Julia Margaret Cameron, one of the preeminent photographers of the 19th century.  Researchers are to investigate the history of the photograph, which could fetch thousands when it is flogged off at Cameo Auctioneers, near Reading.

Apparently the photo had been on the school office wall for years. This angered me, firstly because it had been a gift to the school and if it was in the office it was depriving the school children of the gift of seeing it,   And selling it in the current climate any money they make is soon to be worth less with inflation but worst of all, should one really sell something that was a gift to the school?  It smacks of selling off the family silver to me and resounds with the current crime that is closing public libraries.

Paul Martin the rather nice antique expert on Flog It admitted that Julia Margaret Cameron was his favourite photographer, I have always loved her work too.  Surely our schools are not that hard up that they have to stoop to these measures to raise funds and if they are there is indeed something very wrong with our society.
I am sure it would never happen in Ireland. 
Rant over.
I hope you enjoy the photos.

Bye for now,
Enjoy the weekend!
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Thursday 10 November 2011

A Winter Walk Has Warmed my Heart

Something that has moved me today.

Has anything moved you

or left you cold?

Monday 7 November 2011


Modern capitalism needs men who cooperate smoothly and in large numbers; who want to consume more and more; and whose tastes are standardized and can be easily influenced and anticipated ... what is the outcome? Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow man and from nature.

Erich Fromm

Wisdom for the Soul

Autumn’s recession

Multitudes of leaves today are drifting overhead,
as atmospheric pressure rises in its wicked worldlike way
En masse they hover, swirling, helpless, carried on the wind
and too soon reach the highway, so alive with all its busyness.
The strong survive, the others chance to fate
and play a game of Russian Roulette as they cross
as the slowest  in their weaker currency of air
soon trip, with many bound to fall.
These scrape across the tarmac noisily and become too quickly crushed,
while the others, high flyers in the land of leafdom,
still soar with ease and they can only laugh,
as they coolly reach the other side
to land upon a listening bank of green that wears a welcome smile.
Secure, untouchable, as they always were
when fixed so high upon the branches in their tree;
those lucky leaves whose hue is painted  precious gold,
will live entirely free of penalty or pain of death
or such an  undeserv`ed poverty.

Cait O’Connor

Saturday 5 November 2011


Dear Diary,

I'll start with one of my favourite quotations on the subject of success and which has nothing to do with the acquisition of money.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been enjoying listening to Irish radio a lot recently and it is great to get a feel of what is going on in my spiritual home even though I can't actually live there. Living in the wild hills of Wales as I do, I find that I can get a better reception for Irish radio than for British and it is very easy just to switch over the wavelengths from Radio 4 so that it will go straight onto RTE.  I love Radio 4 of course, couldn't live without it to be honest -  but if I fancy a change or there is a programme I don't enjoy I switch over.  I do enjoy the laid back Irish way of broadcasting. Nothing and no-one is rushed, conversations seem to go on for ever but are never boring, there is no sense of urgency or clock-watching, all is intelligent and covered in depth and there is of course much attention to all things literary, political, local, personal, sporting etc.  As a broadcaster on Radio 4 said recently (she also admitted listening to Irish radio at home! - people always sound as if they have just wandered into a pub or something and it is all so relaxed.  I listen to the Today programme on Radio 4 every morning but lately it is driving me mad the way everything is so much more 'rushed' (especially the weather!)  and the way the interviewers interrupt so much (not John Humphreys but Sara someoneorother does this a lot. 

Continuing the Irish theme here is a poem from the wonderful Irish poetry publisher Salmon, the book is A Journey in Poetry 1981-2007 and the poem is about a border collie (the poet is American).  

There is a photo of my border collie above; her name is Kitty not Kilty Sue but I have to admit that when she was young she did have a very slight  tendency to behave a bit like Kilty Sue.  She is a reformed character now though and perfectly well-behaved though I sometimes think she too has the look of of a slightly retarded devil-dog (or as I say probably an inbred one!).

Kilty Sue

Instincts jammed by lack of sheep
in this region, she attends to babies, ducklings-
anything small and in need of care.
A border collie whose eyes, opposite
shades of brown, offer the look
of a slightly retarded devil-dog.  And
if you must know, she bites people:
my brother presumably because he was mean
to me at a younger age; the UPS man
because he carried a package too quickly towards
my pregnant sister; my mother-in-law, I suppose,
to keep in shape.  And various relatives
and strangers – Kilty Sue reminds them
of the precise location of the Achilles tendon.
Mind you, she never actually rips it out,
but merely offers a sharp touch.  Like a pin-prick,
only deeper, her bites spring out
from a sudden vortex of silence.  When Kilty Sue howls –
in a voice high and piercing as a drunken soprano,
and you wish your ears would just drop off and die –
you are safe.  She is  protecting you.

Marck L Beggs

Bye for now,

Go mbeannai Dia duit,


Thursday 3 November 2011

Butterflies and Hibernation

Nothing changes until you do.


Dear Diary,

I love this painting.

Blue Morpho butterfly
Martin Johnson

I read an interesting blog post about butterflies here and it coincided with me already having decided to write today about two Red Admirals that are hibernating in my bedroom of all places. We lived in an old Welsh farmhouse before we lived here in our little riverside cottage and the odd Red Admiral would often appear flying around inside that home during the winter. The first time one appeared coincided with a family bereavement and I was convinced it was their spirit – they are reputed to be spirits of the dead if they are indoors – perhaps they are, who knows?

As I lay in bed the other morning I looked up to the beams in the corner of my little bedroom and saw an unusual sight, not one but two butterflies cwched up closely on the beam together (Welsh word meaning snuggled). The following morning one had moved a little bit lower down (had they fallen out?) but lo and behold by the evening the other one had moved down to join the other and they were close again. Could they wake up and go back to sleep? I have no idea how hibernation works but it often appeals to me in the depth of Winter, usually in December around Christmas time……..(bah Humbug)….

I researched online what I should do if I find a butterfly hibernating in the house and it seemed to say that I should move it outside to somewhere ‘safe’ where birds can’t find it, not too cold, not too warm, it all sounded rather impossible to me so for now I am leaving them. One site suggested making up some nectar (?) and feeding them before I put them outside to sustain them through the cold weather. And apparently when they do wake they will be hungry and there will be no food for them in the cottage. I think when they wake I will put them outside then; I hope I am doing the best thing.

I grew up in South London and don’t remember seeing many butterflies to be honest but I always had the impression that butterflies only lived for two days, where that came from I don’t know but it stayed with me nearly all my life until I found out it was not true - just another childhood illusion shattered.

I shall leave you with a poem by the late John O’Donoghue. Its title is November and the theme is the coldness and melancholy of the season and I feel a need for ‘hibernation’ within it.

However it may be November but today it is so warm that I have no heating on at all so the poem does not really fit the day or my mood. They tell me colder weather is on its way but I am making the most of these balmy, happy days for even the sun is shining now…..the rain showers have passed away from us. I very much hope all is fine with you too, in every way.


November’s hunger strips the fields, its thin light

rifles the web and warmth of every nest

allows the cold day to invade each secret,

absolves the ghosts of leaf that outlast autumn.

Now I can depend less and less on the grace

of spontaneity, talk quickly tires,

words become contrived, as they eyes of others

notice my mind unravel in this sallow light.

Intense with silence my room waits for me,

the paintings and open books grown distant,

its window one huge eye on the tree outside;

in the mirror the glimpse of my face draws tears.

John O’Donoghue

Bye for now,


Tuesday 1 November 2011

The Touchstone

The Lady
John William Waterhouse

You are not enclosed within your bodies nor confined to houses or fields. That which is you dwells above the mountain and roves with the winds.
Kahlil Gibran

The Touchstone

On Samhain’s night by a waxing moon

the veil was thin, the spirits drew near,

their music was heard in rocks, deep as a drum

beating hard and true against my heart.

I felt them in the Irish mountain rains

whose clouds I follow keenly, like a nun.

I saw them too in the embers of my hearth

and in the candle’s flame.

Today, I scry in my crystal ball

on an Indian summer’s morn,

my tiny cottage windows are open wide.

and sylphs rush in on the breeze.

I pass my dreams to them,

attaching a prayer of hope

that Truth will always prevail,

far and wide, way above treetops.

My dreams can fly with joy

but should they ever fall in pain

I know they will reform

by magic and by alchemy

to form a sacred touchstone for my soul.

Cait O’Connor