Two Memories of my Mother

It was around 1980 or 1981 that my mother changed her life.  Having raised seven children she was seeing light at the end of the tunnel from the constant routines of motherhood.  I was studying for my leaving certificate and the youngest in our family, Cormac, was studying for his inter cert.

Maura had worked all her life.  Up to this point mostly teaching dressmaking in evening classes.  From time to time pitching for sewing contracts.  I recall one memorable commission to repair state flags.  For weeks we had these enormous official banners occupying every inch of floor space in the house as my mother and a coterie of recruits gave them a makeover.

The 1980’s saw her embark on an entirely new career.  She always had an  interest in drama from her teen years and at one time entertained ambitions to tread the boards herself, unrealized due to marriage and the wonders of Catholic family planning.  She studied for her ALCM and LLCM, earning herself a diploma in Speech and Drama.  She went on to become a teacher of both children and adults.

My particular memory is of my mother practicing her recited poetry pieces.  Cormac and I would come home from school at lunchtime, expecting dinner on the table, to find Maura immersed in recitation.  Panic would ensue and her specialty was the ability to create a hot meal out of thin air in an instant.  We never starved for food, and certainly not for culture.  These two poems in particular are engrained on my soul.

-o0o-

Sonnet XVIII ; by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

-o0o-

Stony grey soil:  by Patrick Kavanagh

O stony grey soil of Monaghan
The laugh from my love you thieved;
You took the gay child of my passion
And gave me your clod-conceived.

You clogged the feet of my boyhood
And I believed that my stumble
Had the poise and stride of Apollo
And his voice my thick tongued mumble.

You told me the plough was immortal!
O green-life conquering plough!
The mandril stained, your coulter blunted
In the smooth lea-field of my brow.

You sang on steaming dunghills
A song of cowards’ brood,
You perfumed my clothes with weasel itch,
You fed me on swinish food

You flung a ditch on my vision
Of beauty, love and truth.
O stony grey soil of Monaghan
You burgled my bank of youth!

Lost the long hours of pleasure
All the women that love young men.
O can I stilll stroke the monster’s back
Or write with unpoisoned pen.

His name in these lonely verses
Or mention the dark fields where
The first gay flight of my lyric
Got caught in a peasant’s prayer.

Mullahinsa, Drummeril, Black Shanco-
Wherever I turn I see
In the stony grey soil of Monaghan
Dead loves that were born for me.

 

Maura Clancy R.I.P.

maurame

My mother passed away quietly today attended by four of her seven children.  She joins her husband Paddy who passed away ten years ago, much to her annoyance.  She felt that she should have gone first.

She was 89 years old in October and lived what can only be called a full life.  She leaves behind on the planet seven children, 20 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren so far.

A lot will be said about Maura by others in the days and weeks to come.  I want to take this opportunity to share some words from Maura directly.  Back in 1998 when I was researching my masters degree I was developing an interview system and used members of my family for practice until I had it road tested for full roll out.  Sometimes the stream of speech may seem a little random and disjointed, but these are real words as spoken.  People often do not speak in a linear manner so there are some strange seeming jumps from topic to topic.

I asked Maura a question about how she behaves in an environmental manner and she replied as follows:

What do I do?   Well, I suppose my big thing is I don’t waste…..since I learned about compost I….you know I don’t waste vegetables.  I try to return to the earth what it, em, what belongs to it.  I have a guilt complex about plastic bags.  I don’t know what to do about it, they’re just dished out everywhere.  I really think if we were all made to pay for the plastic bags, or if we were made to bring our own baskets it would save an awful lot of pollution.  We have this thing [green box recycling pickup] where they come once a week and there’s things that go into it.  But if there are any old  clothes there is a woman up the road now that will take anything; old bags, old clothes, and they are ground down into making mats for somebody out in the missions in Africa.  So that’s another thing I’m hoping to do.  But I suppose, the environment, I em, I hope I haven’t done anything consciously to destroy it.  But then of course maybe I have.  Maybe we should all be looking at washing powders going into the water…..

Maura got her wish on the Plastic Bag issue when the Irish Government introduced a levy on plastic bags in 2002.  Now we all bring our shopping bags or baskets to the shops as she wanted.

Later I asked a question about the things that define people and this is Maura’s answer:

Cycling I suppose.  I started off thinking I’d love to act because I was interested in drama but I know from my years of experience now that I would have made a damn good teacher.  But people didn’t go back to work [in Ireland women had to give up their jobs when they married].  But I think through my interest in drama and through my ability to teach, I think I can be proud of the family I brought up.  I think they would be my….identity.  But as against that there is me.  I mean, I don’t want to be a slave thing.  I always wanted to do things, get around.  I wouldn’t have had so much opportunity I suppose, I loved going off to Kilkee and I loved the oul’ holiday because it was a break in routine.  I did enjoy all the sewing, it was creative.  I suppose I’m….I like the creativity.

I think I like, I like somebody to say they’d like to come for a meal [One of her sons] there last week said can I come for a meal and I was just going to do the ordinary, a run of the mill dinner, throw on the chops.  Ah, it’s nice to do something a little different, which is creativity.  I suppose in that way, and that’s why I’m not doing as much painting [Art] as I should.  I suppose I should get more and more absorbed in the painting.  I spend a lot of time reading and thinking I’ll do it, and I will, because I am learning all the time.  But I see me as getting a buzz standing in a spot that I’ve walked or cycled to, and looking at a lovely scene.  I know that music is beautiful and I know that drama… and I don’t think anything can match a God given scene, a landscape with the glisten on the water maybe, or the colours on a mountain and especially if you’ve had to achive something to get there.

Glengarriff.jpg

The road home

footprints

For all those who are travelling home for Christmas here is a song from Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit.  Christian or not may you have a merry Christmas:

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

 

The Theory of Everything

science

I keep hearing a formula of words emanating from those who deny.

“It’s only one theory” they say.
Creationists who deny evolution state that evolution is only a theory.
Anti -climate change people hopped on the bandwagon and say that the measured rise in global temperatures being driven by human actions is “only a theory”.
Anti-vaxxeers followed suit dismissing decades of medical research as just another theory.

Well they are right; because that is how science works.
Science never proves a single thing.  Science holds up the current best case theory.
Other scientists come along and try to knock it down.  When one succeeds something else becomes the best case theory.

Science has no sacred cows.  All theories, and even lemmas and theorems, are open to attack.  If you can prove science is wrong the scientists will not wail and moan.
They will drop the disproven theory and move on.  There is no science career in flogging a dead horse.

But here is the thing; you have to come up with proof.

Our creationist friends, those who deny climate change and the anti-vaxxers love to quote science as a theory.  Ask them to disprove current scientific theory with actual studies and they avoid the question.  Truth is they don’t even know what the null hypothesis is.  Or rather their null hypothesis is “God wills it”.

So here is Religious Right Science 101.
If science provides data that undermines your position label it as “just another theory”.
Support your claim with multiple incidences of non-specific ‘anecdotal evidence’.
Carry enough of these to fill any TV or radio interview.
Then fall back on positions of faith.

-o0o-
Science; by Robert Kelly

Science explains nothing
but holds all together as
many things as it can count

science is a basket
not a religion he said
a cat as big as a cat

the moon the size of the moon
science is the same as poetry
only it uses the wrong words

Education Definition

carl-marks

Education is important because it gives you the tools to evaluate what you are being told and to decide for yourself what is true and what is manure.

Ignorance is the lack of education to equip you to make these decisions.

Gullibility is the lack of ability to make the decisions despite being equipped with  education.

I have more time for the Ignorant than I have for the Gullible.  For the latter there is no excuse.

 

Tnargime

John Montague was that most unusual of Irish people, someone who was born in Brooklyn, New York and “Emigrated” backwards to the home country.  John was born in the USA in February 1929, eight months before the Wall Street crash.  By 1933 the family were in dire straits and sent the boys home to the family place in Northern Ireland.

A celebrated and award winning poet, Montague is well known in Ireland as a regular on the Leaving Certificate.  For that reason alone he is probably better known and less loved.  Considered by many to be Ireland’s first Poet Laureate as holder of the Chair of Poetry.

He passed away in Nice in the south of France on Dec 10th.

 

Adam’s Apple; by John Montague

Her skin is smooth
as peach or appleblossom
-or a snakeskin.

The snake’s fangs gleam,
the fruit glistens
as warmly in her palm

as ever it shone
on the holy tree.
He savours it

so slowly
it sticks in
our throat forever.

Dec 8th

This is the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  In the Irish School calendar it was a holy day which deserved a day off school.  As a result it became the traditional day for mothers to bring the kids to town to buy them their Christmas clothes.

In rural Ireland it is often known as the day you went up to Dublin (or nearest large town or city) to do the Christmas shopping.

In these days of online shopping it has lost some of its relevance.  The date retains its position in the Irish calendar as marking the start of Christmas activity.  For many people it is the day on which you buy your tree or put up your Christmas decorations.  Certainly most of the trees and all of the good ones will be gone by next Saturday.

What always confused me was the reason for the day off school.  If the “immaculate conception” only happened on Dec 8th then how in holy Halloween was Jesus born on Dec 25th.  Of course it is not Jesus who was immaculately conceived on Dec 8th, but rather his mother.

It is a really interesting facet of the Catholic Church that the Messiah could not be born into any old womb.  The Christian and subsequently the Catholic church is pretty much a men only club.  Anything that smacks of “women stuff” is tainted.  Wombs with their nasty habit of sloughing off their linings every month are especially filthy things.  Which presented a real difficulty given that Jesus had to be born of a woman.

They solved this problem by creating a magical mystical shield around the womb of Anne, mother of Mary.  Although she was conceived from regular dirty old physical sex Mary was nurtured in this sanctified magical mystery womb that was dreamed up by the dirty old gang of geezers who sat on whatever ecumenical council that cobbled together this particular fairy story.

This enabled Mary to become the pure vessel which could carry the birth of Jesus, who was magically implanted into her womb directly by God with no intervention by Joseph who happened to be married to Mary.

It took a lot of hard thought and debate by generations of dirty old geezers to effectively remove any trace of real woman stuff from involvement with the birth of Jesus.  You kind of have to ask……what were they so afraid of?

mary