Magic in the Mundane

Being grateful for the robin

In the longest January that anyone can remember, at a time when horrific news assails us from all sides, I’ve taken to starting my day by reflecting on three things for which to be grateful. And this isn’t an exercise in ‘mustn’t grumble’ or ‘could be worse’ or pretending that everything is alright when it isn’t; more, it’s a reminder of the eternal truth that things change, seasons move on, oceans ebb and flow, the sun is now rising higher in the sky every day. Our fortunes ebb and flow, too, but it’s hard to keep reminding ourselves of that, when the darkness seems at its most intense and never ending.

The Hawthorn and The Swift: You Have to Smile

It’s a summer Sunday morning and you’re on the road in South-East Limerick. From your passenger seat you watch the blossoming hawthorn ribbon the countryside. There’s a cycling charity event on the road and the going is slow, so you have time to enjoy the undulating view. Hawthorn enfolding fields all shapes and sizes – good land, middling land, fallow and scrub. Draping the livestock in the promise of a summer of plenty, a promise older even than the old promise of hurling’s plenty.

All The Old Feelings

I’m sitting in a Costa in Douglas on Sunday morning waiting for Cummins Sports to open and it hits me. The match approaches with all its baggage: anxiety, stress, the need to win, to be validated again by sport. All the old feelings. I can hardly drink my Cortado, my knee starts hopping. Fuck’s sake, calm down, it’s only the bloody first-round. The sunshine is harsh and bitter when I step outside, I forgot my sunglasses.

What I Feel when I’m on The Pilgrim Path to Croke Park

All of the 71,000 souls who took the pilgrim path to Croke Park yesterday to live the moment in Limerick’s exquisite win over Cork experienced a scatter of emotions. Not just those who travelled, either – but hundreds of thousands of others who watched or listened in. Here are some of mine before the game. A sense of intention, of purpose, when I wake in the holiday home five minutes before 6am. Up and at ‘em. Here we go, here we go, here we go, and all that. Mount Brandon is stretching itself up into clouds, as it usually does. The gate leaves a creaky grumble when I free the latch. The water on Smerwick Harbour is a slate grey, waves flecking the surface.

To Win Just Once – The Game Is On

So, anyway, I wrote this book. I got down off the ditch and into the game. Great view from the ditch, you can hold forth in high judgement and you can hide there, in the crowd. Not easy being inside the white lines, against tough opposition, making a show of yourself with everybody looking at you. Nowhere to hide. But I did it, anyway.

Margo and the Snakes

Margo, our innkeeper, wanted to talk about snakes. This was at breakfast, in Galax, North Carolina. In fairness, the Canadian woman, Lori, brought them up. She and her husband, Glen had a close encounter the previous day when cycling on a trail. At the inn, you have breakfast with other residents. 8am. Breakfast on the table.

Strange and Wonderful Sights in the US of A

A young man walking down Haywood Street in Asheville, NC, with a snake wrapped around his arm. He looked pleased with himself, to be shocking passers by – the man, not the snake. The snake was maybe five or six feet long and hung its head out from his hand, sniffing. I wondered what it was thinking. Mind you, the snake looked better than some of the tattoos we’ve seen on people here. Ó, mo léir.

Sporting Moments Number 2304, Johnny Sexton Drop Goal or Why We Watch Sport

We watch sport, and we participate in sport, because of emotions. Because we want to feel and to show emotions and sport facilitates that – it permits that. Which is no mean feat, especially when it comes to men showing their emotions. Where else do you see people gasp and shout and scream and laugh and cry themselves hoarse and not a person around them bats an eyelid?

Listen to the robin

As I write this, the robin is singing outside. The sun is slanting up over the hedge. I can hear a rook on the roof. I heard a lot of robins in Dublin too last weekend. It’s time. The days are lengthening. We have daffodils and snowdrops and crocuses. It’ll be Lá Fhéile Bríde in a few days. Listen to the robin. It’s worth your while.

The Winter of The Blackbird

This has been the winter of the blackbird. I haven’t been out and about much for one reason or another but I seem to be seeing and hearing blackbirds wherever I go. I haven’t seen a redwing or a fieldfare yet, maybe they’re not around, or maybe I need to get out more. Well, that’s definitely true, I do need that.