The Dragon

It’s extraordinary how much a city can change in a short period of time. Take Dublin. In 2013 when I last lived here full time, Dublin was a vibrant city in the midst of change, just pulling out of the last vestiges of a huge economic slump. There was a sense of hope, of expectation, of burgeoning change. People were angry and yet hopeful. Now the economy has taken off and a type of lonely impersonal self-absorption has set in.

The city is bustling with busyness and smartphones and businesses and commuters. I see traffic and armed police officers, huge shopping queues, coffee shops with laptop wielding nerds and professional couples, people with baby strollers decompressing during lunchtime, solitary folk texting during break-time, stone faced professionals performing at breakfast meetings wielding busy clipboards and watching their tone and body language, restaurants filled brimful on weekday evenings when they should be half empty, and hordes of daily commuters trudging to work in obligatory reflective gear while I walk my dog at seven AM.

I am stuck in Dublin. But only for a short time. I am trapped in the city while I await the sale of my house to go through. It’s a frustrating depressing time. I have no job. I am recently unemployed having worked in a school in Karpacz, Southern Silesia in Poland. I loved my job. I loved teaching, and Poland was beautiful, if not a country grimly drifting so far rightward to becoming autocratic and living in a forbidding past. Some reports since my own departing seem to validate my choice to get out. Friends who live there right now are planning their departure in the forseeable future. However I had to come back to see through my house sale. Most of all, I had to come back because Ireland is my home, and I love Ireland.

The house I live in is empty. And, as I said, I have nothing to do. Moreover, its Christmas – ugh. And I just don’t do Christmas. From my early teens Christmas has always been a meaningless time for me. So as I pen this, I am aware how my own emotional filters colour these impressions and word pictures. Yet despite this caveat, the things I pen here have that gut feeling of a deep truth.

Its morning. I am still in Fairview Park. It’s dark and frosty and a huge half-moon hangs in the morning sky.  Workers whizz past along bicycle tracks in generic helmets and reflective gear and it all seems so correct and legal and safe and, well, boring. I just couldn’t do it. Not now…

Truly I say to myself (as my dog drags me round the park chasing pigeons), the life of a writer is incomprehensible to someone who does not write, who has never experienced its thrill, its seduction, its consciousness altering potential, the sheer rush of producing something good (though as Bob Dylan says you have to write ten bad songs to write one good one).

Once one enters into the dragon’s cave of being a writer, once one discovers the gold the Dragon sleeps under, nothing else in life is as beautiful or as enthralling. One has to befriend this Dragon. Not tame it, but befriend it. Accept its awesome power and beauty, and never be tempted by the gold.

There’s a lot of gold in the city now. Maybe its a different gold to the one that I am tempted by. And people are chasing it. I wonder if they know there is  usually a Dragon guarding it down there. Dragons take no prisoners. They look busy, these people. Focused. They are travelling as though they have a purpose. They are clean. Rested. Drinking coffee from one of those cappuccino stands that dot thoroughfares. The sun is coming up. Others have swung out on their bikes onto the main roads. Traffic is obscenely busy into the city centre. These people have got about twenty minutes to be at their computers. Or desks. Or meetings. Clients are waiting. I am going home. Have to make a sandwich. Or something. I haven’t decided yet. Yes, I guess I am hungry. Definitely a sandwich.

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Annus Horribilis

ANNUS HORRIBLIS

sarahlundberg2014 is a year I will very gladly put behind me. It was without question the worst year of my life. Sarah Lundberg (1968-2014) died under the most tragic and awful circumstances and I and so many others are still reeling from the shock of her death which was so unexpected and so traumatic. There is a strong argument that this is the kind of experience that one does not so much recover from, but is something one learns to live with. I think there are arguments on both sides for and against someone recovering from a trauma like this, but for the most part, right now, it is simply too early to say. I think its very much down to the individual. Right now I still hear her voice and her comments and her jokes in my mind. Sarah had a rather dry sense of humour, a kind of understated wit that could be devastatingly funny. I still see her sometimes in crowds, or think I see her, which is a common experience of the bereaved known as ‘completion’ in which the mind ‘completes’ a picture or an image from residua from the memory in order to fulfill a desire. I hear music she liked or loved and remember concerts we attended. I find it hard to watch television shows we both liked. I have a library of thousands of her books and equally thousands of pages of her writing are on hard disks, folders and pages all over the house. I also have a formidable selection of cuddly teddy bears, each of whom have a name, a specific personality and a lengthy back story. What a child’s author she would have made! These, and countless notebooks, still unread, are in our house. I still think of the many conversations we had over our two decades together. I wish, like so many others, that she was still here with us, still doing all the things she used do, still filled with the idealisms that were so uniquely hers and that she pursued with so much passion and so much love. She left much undone, and one wonders what else she might have achieved were she still with us. I miss her terribly. I know how many others miss her too and loved her so much. Thanks to everyone who helped at a time I was simply too shattered to do anything, who helped with re housing pets, who made arrangements, and more than anything were friends and support during the aforementioned annus horribilis. Now that Christmas approaches we should take gentle care of ourselves and each other. Sarah was above all a very loving and forgiving person. She was, despite her highly logical argumentative personality, was devoid of bitterness and never knew how to hate. I think it was because of her utter straightforwardness. It meant one always knew where one stood with her. I for the most part loathe Christmas as a dull time of meaningless excess. I on the other hand do like how this is a time of peace, healing and renewal. Sarah would have wanted that. I am sure of it.

(Image by Antonio Joachim)