We are nearing the end of year that nobody will miss, although there have been sterling efforts to find the silver linings in it. I have endless admiration for those who managed to clear their head of all the chaos and panic and distractions engendered by the pandemic, and who were able to plough on with their creative projects, or even dream up new ones.

I regret that I wasn’t one of that body. From the first news update, I’ve been lost in a perpetual cycle of checking feeds, counting numbers, becoming obsessed with world events that I have no personal interest in, or control over. I tried to write – but found inspiration hard to come by. It became even harder to come by when I was awarded a small grant by the Arts Council to respond to the pandemic, and after an initial spasm of creativity, my ideas dried up to a small knee jerk. I changed tack and tried to restart my  novel – surely in the downtime afforded by lock-down, I’d be able to do that at least. But that well was dry too.

The one time I felt the remotest connection with my creative self was during a two week holiday in Co. Kerry in August, where I was able to sit and watch the mountains and sea and felt safe. The daily rhythms of walks and eating and sitting and watching were all that was required, apparently. But once I returned to the cell of four walls, little sky and concrete pavements, the paralysis resumed.

So I’m hoping that 2021 will be a better one for this writer, anyway. That the anxiety will reduce as the good news spreads and people feel safer. And I hope that the bookshops can stay open, and that publishers can resume their launches and that all the writers whose books came out this year will get lots of attention and airspace next year. I hope that 2021 will be a better one for my loved ones and for those friends who I’d love to have a casual coffee with some time again. I hope that my courage will return, and with it, the glimpses of pattern and shape that I’ve missed so much.

Things for which there is no longer purpose

It takes time to get your eye in, when beach combing.
Stones merge, little distinguishes itself from shingle,
pell-mell debris of tides on the channel
between this side and the next.
You need to keep your glance down,
let the slow rhythm of step after step,
pebble after rock after pebble,
give distinction, let shapes emerge
and form into sea-glass, shells,
gaping crabs, innards violet.
The urge grows to find patterns beyond
the Fibonacci cockles.
Why this search for meaning?
What can this nibbled lid of a ceramic coffee pot
tell me of accident, of transience?
Or this, a knuckle of sandstone:
sea-tossed, hand-crafted, who knows?
Or, most mysterious, the metal-encased,
rust-imbued pipe. Ship’s screw, gas line,
fifty years, two centuries, tossed by waves,
then dumped without ceremony?
Who says its purpose was to be found,
to be understood?
Earlier, we turned hair-pin bends
in search of beauty.
There was a time when I could navigate,
feel the grip of wheel, trust my steering,
my courage.
Now I leave that to you,
knowing that more than coins flip,
that every breath has two outcomes.


Valentia Island, August 2020