Wednesday Morning Coffee

I’m still not back to my writing routine and all my art supplies are en route. The shipping container hasn’t yet arrived, though the ship has docked in Rotterdam so it will be here soon, I hope. Everything I own except for what went into my suitcases is in this box:

It’s not much… just books, winter clothes, artwork and some kitchen gear. And of course, Nana’s hope chest and my easel. Even so, I’m having a hard time remembering what I have coming. That’s a sure sign that you can get along without a lot of stuff. It will be nice to have familiar things around me, though. The house feels generic without our personal touch.

This is definitely a country of storytellers. Most everyone you meet, takes the time to talk. And when they ask, “How are you?” [actually it’s “how are ye?”] they really want to know. When you ask, be prepared to get a lengthy reply. And in entertaining detail. It’s really lovely. I imagine this is the thing that will get me writing again –the listening to everyone’s stories. That and the abundance of history and scenery. We writers are observers of life. And life here promises to be interesting!

This is the Ross Errilly Friary, built in the 1200’s. It’s just 3 km from my house.

From Bucks County to County Galway

I’m finally settling into my new home in Ireland after spending nearly two weeks in a hotel. The sale of the home in Pennsylvania was complicated and as a result delayed the transfer of funds for us to complete the purchase of our house in County Galway. Now that it’s done, I’m putting things slowly in order. As you can imagine, things work a little bit differently here and I’m finding my way by trial and error and by not being too embarrassed to admit when I haven’t a clue. Since I haven’t had either time or inclination to write (thank you stress and worry) I thought I’d try to get back in the routine by sharing some of my experiences in settling into life in a foreign country.

Everything takes 7-10 days. Patience is the word of the day. Americans, let me tell you, we are spoiled with instant gratification. We are so used to getting immediate results that waiting a full week for satisfaction feels like an eternity. But that’s just the way it goes over here and no amount of complaining will change anything. (Not that I’m complaining, I find it rather refreshing actually.) Except for being without internet and TV for that long. And while being disconnected and quiet has an appeal, it’s difficult when you’re trying to take care of business that, these days can only be handled online! Finally we got connected yesterday.

The country is far more ecologically/environmentally responsible than I’m accustomed to. I cannot believe the stuff we are able to recycle, for instance. In the ‘traditional’ recycling bin they will take not just the numbers 1 and 2 plastic that I was restricted to in Pennsylvania, but ALL plastics including plastic bags and shrink wrap! In this bin goes all glass and metal cans, cardboard, chip board and paper, too. I get another bin for COMPOST! All food and kitchen waste goes in here along with paper towels and napkins. Then finally there is a third bin for regular trash that can’t be recycled. I can barely think of what I might throw in it.

Another way the Irish (and possibly all of Europe, I imagine) are conservation-minded is the way the household power is managed. My water heater has an off-switch. No one leaves the water heater on full time. Many homes have them on timers so that they don’t run during hours when hot water isn’t needed. The oil burner is also on a timer so that the heat shuts off over night when you can keep warm under the covers. All the appliances are super energy efficient, most cars are small and hybrids are very popular. They tax fuel very steeply to encourage efficiency and public transportation is readily accessible even out in the hinterland where I live. Thanks to that, we are going to try to get by with one car for now.

Speaking of cars, our car is a Skoda and it’s not only right-hand drive, it’s a manual transmission. Thank goodness I learned on a stick shift and drove one for several decades. I picked up the feel for it again right away.

GMO foods are banned, pesticide use is restricted and many suspicious ingredients like preservatives and dyes are not allowed in foods. The produce is beautiful and plentiful. I feel healthier already. And get this: eggs don’t need to be refrigerated. Naturally, eggs have a coating on the shell which protects against spoilage. In America, chickens are raised in such abhorrent conditions that eggs need to be pasteurized, thus destroying that protective coating and requiring them to be refrigerated for storing. My eggs are sitting on the kitchen counter. Good thing, too. Refrigerators are small!

Stores don’t stay open late. Thinking about shopping in the evening? Forget about it. Grocery and convenience stores might stay open till 11:00 pm but every other store closes at 6:00 or 7:00. I guess having a life trumps getting the extra sales. I find that really refreshing, too. Lot’s of places are closed on Sunday as well. Vacation, weekends and time to spend with family and friends are valued here, not just by workers but by the employers as well. That’s pretty cool.

And finally, my daily walk now takes me along a narrow lane that skirts the old walls of Headford Castle. My view across the road is a farm with sheep and cows. The bank, the supermarket and the pub are all within walking distance. So far everyone has been friendly, kind and helpful. The weather has been lovely but we’re prepared for the inevitable rain and chill. I will build a little peat fire in the fireplace and curl up with a book and a cup of tea. Made with my electric kettle!

For the love of beautiful language…

[edited from a post I wrote in 2016]

My writer friends, do you ever find yourself using the same or similar words and phrases over and over again? It’s inevitable. We tend to write the way we talk. Most of us use a characteristic phraseology that makes up our everyday language. Our speech may be reflective of the region we live in, our ethnic origins or even our age. While these peculiarities lend color and flavor to our writing, even they can get repetitive after a while. It will be especially evident if we write longer fiction pieces or novels. What can we do to add variations to the words we pen?

Some of my earliest writing was in the form of poetry. That is not a coincidence. Poetry is introduced to us in the cradle by means of nursery rhymes and bedtime lullabies. As we grow and mature into our teen years and beyond, often music becomes a huge influence. Thus the lyrics of songs speak to us the way nothing else can. Many musicians like Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Patty Smith, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Springsteen are considered to be not just song writers but poets as well.

Anthropologically, poetry in the form of song or saga has been used to help the balladeer or the skald keep the oral history of a people alive through story telling. It is some of the earliest writing ever discovered. The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, dates back to 2000 BCE. Another Sumerian text, The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, may be even older than that.

What am I getting at, you ask? Poetry composition can be a delightful way to hone our skills in using creative vocabulary and illustative terminology. “But, I don’t want to be a poet,” you say. Shut up, yes you do. Here’s why…

I do enjoy writing poetry, but it is not my main avenue of expression. I am primarily a fiction writer. However, composing poetry demands that we paint a picture with our words, if you will. Putting things into verse, even if the verse doesn’t rhyme, pushes you to use descriptive and colorful terms that you wouldn’t use in day-to-day speech.

In describing my front lawn, for example, you could simply state, “the lawn was full of dead dandelions,” and that would be true! Before you write that ask, “What do those dandelions remind me of?” “What idea do they conjure?” They are dead, so how about headstones in a graveyard? They are skinny, so how about emaciated refugees fleeing a disaster or famine? They have tufts of thin, white spores… does that remind you of hair or clouds or even foam at the crest of a wave? Now write it like this, “Like a wave of fleeing refugees, the dandelions marched across the expanse of grass.”

I didn’t write a poem, but I wrote a poetic sentence. Obviously, a little of that can go a long way, too. Every sentence does not have to be metaphorical in nature. But in the right place, it can transform ordinary writing into extraordinary writing. I encourage you, if you have not attempted to write poetry before now, give it a try. Follow other poets here on WordPress; there are a multitude of talented poets to choose from. Learn the different styles and structures. Perhaps you will find you want to be a poet, after all!