I am trying not to spend so much time clock watching. I still have a wall clock that has a tick and a tock. TICK TOCK TICK TOCK. Similarly to our small summer stream that morphs into a river in winter time, it seems to be more noticeable present aurally, after the house has bedded down at night and I’m alone at the kitchen table, eschewed in some piece of writing, or mindless internet browsing or darning a sock. Ok, I am only having you on about the sock.
I’m not quite sure when I fell into what has become a rather embedded habit of thinking ahead, thinking of the next thing to be done before I have even completed what I’m doing. Looking at the clock wondering where the day has gone to and already allocating in advance the minutes of my tomorrow. This clock watching, keeping an eye on the time leads me to inhabit my time and space in a way that is the polar opposite of mindful travelling through my day. It is separate and in addition to the required planning (though I am questioning, what level of planning and indeed activity is actually necessary ) for having a functioning life. This tendency grimly occupies much needed head space and removes me from the beauty of now. I don’t like it and find myself increasingly trying to resist.
My now has moved on from then, the ‘then’ when I first started this post being I think in early August. I have some hazy recollection of sitting down to type the above words but I can’t for the life of me remember the context. All that remains is only a note of remembrance that something had struck me that evening about my absence of presence. Anyway, with my hands on my head, my feet in my sliders I stayed away from the computer. I have been busy living the summer, away from our garden in the mountains and spending as much time as possible with some view of the sea on my horizon. Dipping my body in and out of swathes of the sea’s coloured water of various hues, from deep Mediterranean blue to a more familiar Irish aquamarine greeny grey. The water this summer has more often than not been crystal clear and dazzling with refracted sunlight. Drinking coffee and eating sausage *blaas featured strongly too.
One of the catalysts for my increased awareness of my carrying a full head load of unnecessary and constant forward planning was what I have fondly referred to as the big summer melt away in July which lasted for about for two weeks; a truly hot Irish summer spell, which is quite a rare thing. People living outside of Ireland probably just use the term “summer”. What is seldom is wonderful. I took a break from my head and parked it and it’s clock watching tendencies along the many seascapes of Copper Coast of Waterford and baked myself into mindful relaxation, with not a tick or a tock to be heard. I made thinking real thoughts (as opposed to list thoughts) and writing become the mainstay of my brain activity, in between the sun worship and the sea swims. On occasion, I managed to leave the house early morning and not return until nigh on thirteen hours had passed, I cherish those kind of days. Some days, I travelled solo and some days in delightful company. The kind of days where the sun warms you to your bones, the sea becomes a much needed cooling vessel and the sights, sounds and smells of summer gather you in.
Outside of my sea swimming, which just tethers me to all of my self, I have found a mindfulness of sorts to be captured behind the lens of my camera. Grounding can happen as soon as I step outside my front door, into our wilderness nestled under the shadows and shape of the Comeragh Mountains. With my phone in my back pocket, I enjoy having short explorations of my garden in a go slow strolling mode of movement. There are such daily delicate intricacies of nature to be found; from magnificently spun spider webs to tiny wild flowers defying the stature of the mountains and owning their own space with such self assuredness and proper aplomb. Trees, ferns, rocks, mosses and wildflowers parading their seasonal colours along with my own minor contribution of roses and lupins. I cannot help but be absorbed in my observations and in the photographing of them with my fairly old cheap mobile phone with its’ fractured screen. Time again passes without a tick or a tock. I allow myself the pleasure of my mind being full of what is in front of me, ‘the here and now’ rather than ‘the then and later.’ There is such peace in being present. Given that I can’t spend all my time either in the sea or in my garden, I am trying to slow my train of thoughts, to capture and recreate that inner stillness by focusing on what is and more importantly who is in front of me.
Time fractures and splinters in unimaginable ways after the death of someone you love. It stays surreally splintered for a very long time and I believe it never quite reassembles in the same way. It seems to configure and present itself differently. It becomes relative. The big clock of my life has naturally rearranged itself around John’s death and his ongoing obvious absence. Variable sized particles of grief piggy back on both the joyous moments, the worrisome ones and the many moments of daily living that exist in between. Everyday places take on more meaning. Everything takes on more meaning. I have found that all connections with my brother John, however tenuous or however familiar have taken on a love charged depth of significance. There are places and things that connect me to John and places that John was connected with and I feel drawn to them, to give them, both my physical presence and my thought space.
It is the growing realisation of the importance of apparently insignificant mundane moments of life and the being present with people in those moments that has created a growing resistance to the yawning pressure to mentally run through some arbitrary to do list. Enough of my time is given to the actual doing of the list without having multiple dress rehearsals. I want to give more of my attention to the day to day life that scuttles around me. There is a gift in the humdrum for the taking. My possession of a brain that I allow to be governed and indeed swamped by a tick and a tock leads me miss out on so many segments of my day. It is akin to focusing only on the font style and size and not paying any heed to the quality, colour or shape of the paper that the text of my life is written on.
The page that my life story gets written on demands more conscious awareness. None of us get back time and our time is a finite resource whether we live the longest of lives or not. So I’m trying to actually keep my head where my body is, with the people and in the interaction or activity of the moment or the hour. I’m trying to be kind to myself in the trying too.
*Blaa – a floury white bread product specific to Waterford that was awarded Protected Geographical Indication Status in 2013.
Sisters On A Beach. ( The abandonment of to do lists) Snippets of life stories shelter behind wind breaks and in the creaks of sunchairs. The moving parts of love and loss are hidden with the application of sun cream on shoulder tips and those hard to reach places. Heart wounds find exposure under the sun's gauze. Day trippers with stuffed oversized shopping bags of half eaten sandwiches the crusts cut off for roaming children. Young, lithe teenagers standing on the sea shelled cusp's of just about everything reject the pretence of patience and dive right in. More sun cream, with sweat oozing from feeling pores usually cloistered but now open to a sun-dialled beating heat. Salt laden towels form draping changing rooms around bodies that try to decipher middle age. Top knots on women who are like living breathing grey haired mermaids, washed ashore at birth in a golden wordless world that always mistimed the surge of their needs and the ebb of their flow. Reclaiming a spot on ocean sieved sands their broad beamed bad asses in loose fitting bikini bottoms make no pretence of effort to camouflage the folds of their bellies. Inhaling the tide riding the wave. Soaking up, a fair share of the July sun. Reading their books and readying themselves for the next full tide as they have done for most of their lives. Now blissfully aware of just this moment with all it has to offer. J.Quinn - July 2021 Kilmurrin Beach