begin and begin and begin once again

Sweet Sparks and Darling Dear Ones: You are the blessings I hold closest to my heart, the greatest wonders in all of my enchanted life. Be safe, be well, be full of joy and delirious celebration this night, and let the year ahead be one that grows you and astounds you with new hopes and dreams.

I came home from Dublin reminded of my need to surrender to music and dancing and fairy tales. 2013 will be a year of falling into all of these things and more; tumbling hopeful headlong again and knowing all is well. There are arms to catch me and arms to hold me and maybe even arms that will keep me some day. It’s not such a scary thought anymore. I think.

In the meantime, so many dreams to fill my future with! I have a chartered herbalist program to begin and a birth companion program to complete. Continuing on at Carleton with Applied Linguistics, and scheming up ways to tie it all together into one beautiful messy life full of tea and laughter.

honey and whiskey and wanting

4:30AM. My wakeful, weary body is still on Dublin time. Rather than fight it, a steamy mug of tea and a plate of buttery toast with heather honey beside me. The honey I will have to eat in teeny, tiny portions. I only brought back one jar and I knew in the first creamy, silken drizzle on my tongue that I should have brought a case.

If the whiskey marmalade is just as good I will be working on my extended travel visa by this time next week. And it wouldn’t have anything at all to do with a pair of strong arms that nestled me perfectly against a warm broad chest in a too small bed on Christmas night, or the stories and teasing that kept me giggling and blushing and delighted from the moment I laid eyes on the man they belong to. Nothing at all to do with his smile or his voice or the way he brings life to a room, making each person in it feel especially welcome. Nooo. Nothing to do with him. Honest.

Okay. Maybe … just a little bit.

I’m caught between my desire to weave the story for you, sharing every bit of my enchantment, and the feeling that it’s not so sensible to be thinking this much about a man who lives a million miles away, with a great big life of his own, an ocean and a continent between us.

The second night we met, on the sidewalk in front of the pub, he threw his arm around me when the session musician arrived to set up, pulled me in close and asked the man if he’d come to our wedding. Sweet, charming, silliness. He made me feel lovely and wanted and worth chasing after.

romance and reason

He gave me his umbrella, the night that we met. He said I couldn’t be wandering around Dublin without one, and if I had his I would have to see him again. So I carried it with me each day and each day I saw him and each day I left, again, with his umbrella. On my very last day in Dublin, we had plans to meet in the afternoon, but we weren’t exactly sure when. He had things that needed to be done, and I didn’t want to presume on his time; he’d given me so much already, and I thought it would be closer to evening before I heard from him. So I set out, umbrella in hand, for one last time to say goodbye to the streets and the pubs and the river.

The wind was high, sending me stumbling and tumbling, hair in my face and as I came to a corner on Merrion St., next to a bright yellow door red ribboned and wreathed for the holidays, one great gust almost tore the umbrella from my hands. It flipped inside out and ripped the fabric from the frame, and except for a mad dash half-way into the street I almost lost it entirely. My heart tore along with it; clutching the ruined umbrella, I realized with an ache out of nowhere that I wasn’t going to see him that day.

A message, when I got back to the hotel; he’d already been, and waited, but when he couldn’t find me and couldn’t reach me, he’d gone and it was too late to come back. I put my heart away in a suitcase and started packing the rest of my things so I wouldn’t cry. Wandering restless ’round the room, picking things up and putting them down, jamming clothes and books and jars of honey and a bottle of whiskey all haphazard and without care into my overstuffed luggage.

Looking at the bits and pieces scattered here and there, the things I brought with me and the treasures accumulated on my visit, I realized I’d left my necklace behind, the necklace I’d been wearing the entire trip, with its heart shaped key, when I left his home that morning. I still have the tattered remains of his umbrella. And he has my key.

The night that we met, he put his hand on my knee and he told the poor hapless lad eating his dinner at the table next to us that I was already taken. I looked up at him, his strong face, brilliant grin and serious eyes, and I realized that it was really kind of true, even though it didn’t make any sense at all.

And then I went home with his umbrella.

whirlwind

Dizzy tired delicious sleepless; Christmas. Shona Nollaig duit.

7 days. 7 days, and I don’t know what I think about anything anymore and I might never see him again, but my heart is blown wide open speechless with new things to consider. I really don’t know where to start or where to finish or what I want to share of it all or which secrets I want to keep only for myself.

7 days is not a lot, but it’s enough to turn you inside out with unexpectedness.

giddyperplexedandfloating

Yes. All of that. All at once. All smooshed together, just so. giddyperplexedandfloating.

Floating on the storybook loveliness of this place, the dearness of bridges and cobblestones, trees whispering secrets and buildings that lean out to embrace you, lanes that twist and turn and open out into vast promenades full of cheer and charm. Stone arches bidding welcome to fairy tale parks and everywhere unexpected wonders. Floating in and out of the history of this land, harsh and struggling, not at all storybook, but still full of heroes and tales that should be known and remembered.

Giddy, full of butterflies and confusion at attention being lavished upon me by the sort of man I would never expect to take note of my round, rosy cheeked, dumpling self. He is strong and handsome, with watchful blue eyes taking everything in, and a ready smile for all who pass by. A little bit rough, but warm and easy, full of stories and welcome.

He reminds me of my Grandfather, which some might not see as a compliment, but he makes me think of the young man I imagine my Grandfather to have been. A charmer, a flirt, and a scoundrel. Endlessly creative and capable. I adored and admired my Grandfather; first, most, and best among men.

And like an echo, he carries my Grandfather’s name, well worn, channeling the strangest familiarity into things unknown.

sparkle and magic

Everywhere in Dublin, Christmas trees, and never mind what I do or don’t believe, I love it. I’m glad I chose to come at this time of year, even with the ache of leaving my children behind. Through the windows of all the grand hotels, proud and bright they stand in welcome. In our own cheery little bed and breakfast, a tree wound with ribbons and gifts piled beneath presides over our comings and goings. On every major street corner, in all the public spaces, tall and twinkling, colourful, beckoning and joyous.

I know. I know we live in a multi-cultural world and the traditions and faiths are many. But questions of inclusion and political correctness aside, I am remembering a wonder I’d long since forgotten. There is kindness and hope in the air, a setting aside of cynicism. Dublin believes in Christmas, and I’m pleased to surrender to the innocent delight of it, the vivid pleasure of nostalgia and the delicious wishful anticipation. Wide eyed, nose pressed, sweetness of sugar plum imaginings swirl me along streets full of dreaming shoppers with arms full of thoughtfulness, on into the warmth of pubs where I sit next to fires that crackle and watch the coming together of friends. I listen to their laughter and remember.

welcome to dublin

It is a lovely freeing feeling, to go walking in places where the ghosts are not mine.

Dublin is so much bigger than I imagined. So much more. Expansive, reaching, grand and high spirited. We arrived in a downpour, fat raindrops splattering suitcases as we ducked into a cab. Our driver warned us off the sketchy parts of town as we passed through them. ‘You’ll not be going back that way, now, girls. Stay downtown, it’s safer. There are the prisons, the men’s, down the way, and the women’s right on the corner there. Stay away from here and you’ll be all right.’ I laughed and told him if they couldn’t find us when our return plane was boarding, I knew where we’d be found.

The tea is hot. The sky is grey, until it’s not, and then the sun sparks brilliance, unexpected glinting everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like O’Connell Street. It’s immense, a divided roadway with generous sidewalks at each edge and even in between. It’s airy and easy, and sometimes I get lost in my head just taking it all in and I wander from the brick paved sidewalks to the brick paved roads without noticing right away. The drivers are easygoing and so far I’ve not been run over.

On Henry Street there are vendors, calling to eachother and laughing as they set up for the day. Everywhere Christmas lights, trimmings, and trees, the crimson of holly berries and everything sparkling. Christmas greetings lit up in Gaelic, Shonna Nollaig Duit. Grafton is posh, with high end department stores, gracious and patient in their old stone buildings, and pricey little shops with their precious wares. But on Henry Street you can find cheap treasures and rows of potted hyacinths, waiting to offer their burst of cheer just when you need it, after the twinkling holidays have ended and the last string of lights has come down.

Here and there off the wide open streets are long, tiny, cobbled lanes, winding and wending and you never quite know where you might end up when you take one, but always there is something to charmed or bewitch.

and for my next trick, a characteristic moment of total panic

So, yeah.

I did a thing. And then I didn’t think about it much, because that’s what I do. I launch my schemes and then I put them out of my mind until they need attending to. Because otherwise I would spend every moment of every day of every single year of my whole entire life Freaking Out About All The Things. So instead I try to restrict my freaking out to the immediately relevant. It’s a mostly successful strategy.

Yup. Anyhow. On my current list of Very Nearly Immediately Relevant Things is a plane ticket. To Ireland. For the last two weeks of December.

It seemed like a great idea at the time. Probably it will seem like a great idea once I’m there. Y’know, because part of being a successful Broken Family is letting your ex-husband spend the holidays with your children once in a while. But the only way I could deal with the prospect of not having my children at arms reach for … y’know, the days, with the family traditions marking the turning of the seasons and stuff, was by not being present in my space to note their absence. If you pick your way carefully through the cookie crumbs of my thought processes, it all makes perfect sense. I swear.

Anyway. Leaving the country was the most perfect answer, when I thought it up.

Right this second it’s a giant wall of frozen terror. Because Ireland is far away and my children are here and planes are mechanical things possibly prone to mechanical issues that might possibly result in unexpectedness which leads to unintended outcomes of a potentially undesirable sort. AND NO ONE WANTS THAT.

… see what I did there? Because we don’t actually say the real actual words of the thing we fear could maybe happen because if you say it out loud IT MIGHT COME TRUE! So if you try to reassure me on that point using specific terms referring to the possibility that concerns me, I will slap my hands over my ears and banish you from my presence. Most likely singing 80s pop songs at top volume. And … no one wants that.

‘kay. I told you. Now I’m gonna go clean the kitchen. Panic cleaning. All the cool kids are doing it.