Tag Archives: the curragh

Foreign feeling familiar

After 11 days abroad and one epic night in Dublin, I had lots of things to get done. Instead, I took myself for a long walk in the Curragh drizzle. As I walked past tall purple and white thistles and gently yodeling sheep, I felt as much gratitude, peace and awe as I had in the Biarritz waves or in the chic Frenchness of St Jean de Luz or as I’d sat on a Bilbao mountain listening to The Cure. I was 10 minutes from home and these Kildare plains felt as foreign to me as Singapore or Guatemala and as familiar as the smells of hill walking in Donegal or childhood caravaning in Kerry.

Tiny globes of water perched upon each blade of grass like translucent peas of promise. They were perfect yet fragile as a whisper. From a distance, they looked like candyfloss or clusters of fairies. I turned my face up to the mist and it felt like I was walking into soft ocean spray. My feet became wetter and wetter as I swung them into those miniscule aquatic spheres.

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What A Difference A Day Makes

Today, I woke with a sore, swollen left eye. It always amazes me how emotions affect the physical. But I didn’t immediately whip out the concealer. Instead, I got into the car and travelled towards the Curragh. I switched off the radio and drove into the January sun. This was a morning of healing.

As I wandered across the frost-spattered grass, a lone sheep turned its head and looked right at me. I smiled, then closed my eyes and lifted my face to the sun. I took in deep breaths and released them.

Adele came on the iPod. She really is the queen of heartache. But I’d gone beyond sadness. I was tired and battered but I felt strong and at peace. The sun warmed my back like the confident, reassuring palm of a grandparent.

When I had almost reached my car, I turned around and walked straight back into the blinding, halo-topped sun. I walked out the emotions as birds swooped and squawked overhead. Something had changed, ever so slightly, in my attitude and perspective on life.

I sat back in the car and my phone rang. It was a man I know, who was calling to say sorry for something he’d done. I thanked him, good humour and surprise in my voice. I’d never expected this man to apologise to anyone.

On the way home, I stopped to purchase some makeup. The cashier decided to give me €7.50 off the mascara I was buying because of the wait (the till had been left unattended for, like, a minute!) Yesterday, a stranger had given me road rage. Today, a stranger gave me a present. Something’s changed all right!

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The unexpected: balding eyeballs and sheep poo

This was taken before...

Everything finally seems to be in order. You’re feeling great, you’ve discovered your passions, and found your niche in life. You’re enjoying yourself and living in the now. You’re perfectly content with your partner or your single status, and you’re more at ease with life and they way you live it.

You’re moving along at a steady, comfortable pace when suddenly, some unforeseen circumstance throws a pothole in your path and gives you a serious jolt. And everything you’ve learned and implemented whooshes out the door. You instantly morph back into that stressed out, negative, completely un-zen like creature you’d been trying so desperately to shake off.

The unexpected can surprise you in any form- a death, a job loss, a life-threatening illness. Even the less serious but equally unexpected things can shake you to your core.

I was finally feeling good about myself. I had let go of control and was starting to enjoy life and love myself. Until one day recently, as I cleaned my flat, I managed to get bleach in my eye (I never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed). And just like that, half my eye lashes vanished. I felt as though I’d lost my femininity and charm. I might as well give up on finding a man, I thought dismally. I’d pass by the mirror and burst into tears at the sight of my freakishly bald eye.

“I can hardly notice when you wear eye liner,”  a close friend tried to mollify me.

“But I can’t wear eye liner all the time. What if I want to have a shower with someone?” I blubbered.

“You don’t even have a boyfriend.”

Yeah, thanks for that. After a couple of days of feeling sorry for myself, I decided that this must have happened to teach me a lesson. There was still clearly a certain amount of shallowness lurking within me. I still had a terrible time allowing others to see my imperfections. I still believed I had to look good to be liked, loved, and wanted. I thought I had become more enlightened but I still had a way to go. I promised to never again complain about my short, straight lashes. I thanked my disappearing lashes for teaching me more about myself. And I felt grateful for what I had and also for what I didn’t have (alopecia or cancer, for example).

With every lesson learned, the universe will test you. Which brings me to today. I had a couple of hours off before work, so I borrowed my aunt’s car and drove out to the plains of the Curragh. I felt good about how I was dealing with things and interacting with life. I marvelled at the blue blue sky, lifted my face to the sun, observed the grazing sheep, photographed the trees, and lost myself in the music pounding from my iPod. Until I realised I’d lost the key to my aunt’s car.

I flew straight from the present moment into a tornado of panic, worry, self-flagellation, and an endless string of curse words. I was propelled into a near future where I was walking the streets, freezing and starving and in desperate need of a shower. I no longer noticed the sun, sky, trees or sheep. And my music annoyed me so much that I had to switch it off.

All I had on me was a camera, an iPod, and a hankie. And the Curragh was unusually devoid of people. My options were to wave my hankie in the air, while taking multiple photographs with the flash on, and blasting The Beatles’ “Help” on full volume. Or I could retrace my steps as best as I could remember.

Unfortunately, I was searching for a single black key that happened to look very much like the sheep droppings that carpeted the vast plains of the Curragh. I eventually came across a chap in army attire, who told me he wasn’t allowed carry a mobile phone. I just had to laugh.

So, armed with my sense of humour, the seeds of a lesson that had to be watered, and the makings of a relatively humorous and thought-provoking blog post, I made my way back to Newbridge town. My aunt wasn’t at home so I called into her neighbour, a woman I had done a course with about a year ago. What was it her name was? Maureen? Unexpectedly, a strange man answered the door. He looked red-faced and hostile. I was thrown.

“Is Maureen there?”

“Maureen who?”

“That might not even be her name. I took the car. It’s not mine. The key’s in the Curragh. There’s so much sheep poo…” I babbled.

“Who are you looking for?” Silence. “Do you have her name? What’s her number?” Eh… “What do you want?” Oh God! “Do you want to use my phone to call this Maureen character?”

“Yes!” I finally managed to splutter.

“Okay, come in. My wife Pauline will be down in a minute.”

“Pauline!” I shrieked. “That’s her name! I’m Sharon,” I muttered, relieved that something was starting to make sense.

With that, Pauline sauntered in.

“Siobhán!” she called me. And her husband snorted.

And so, after telling my aunt the embarrassing news, I sat back with a cup of tea and a choccie biccie and listened to this couple’s tales of travel in South America. When my aunt returned and we rescued her car with the spare key, I enjoyed a long, hot shower.

The car key is still missing but I’ve gained some insight as to how I function. I’m happy with myself and with life so long as it’s running smoothly. It’s easy to be fully aware and appreciative of the present moment when everything is going the way you want. But when life happens, when you come across an unexpected fork in your journey, it is then that you need to take a moment to be still before deciding which route to take. The unexpected is what we call life. According to John Lennon:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

So, the next time a  volcanic ash cloud or snow storm disrupts your travel plans, a shocking event occurs, or you receive some bad news, you miss the bus, your friend cancels on you last-minute, your eye lashes fall out, or you lose your aunt’s car key in a sea of sheep poo, here’s what to do:

  1. Release control
  2. Go with the flow
  3. Believe that everything happens for a reason
  4. Observe what unfolds instead
  5. Unleash your sense of humour
  6. Accept the situation
  7. Check out what lesson you’ve been sent
  8. Learn from it
  9. Move on