Morning, Excellent and Fair

Clontarf - Copy
Clontarf, Dublin, 10am Sat 9 January 2016

Happy New Year to everyone.

These past few months there’s been a quiet revolution going on in my head. I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic a little while ago (a wonderful, kind, positive book for writers and artists) and one passage resonated with me. She mentioned a botanist saying that many people were saddened at the degradation of the planet at man’s hands, yet had little to no relationship with nature at all. This was brought home to me when I was talking to somebody and despaired about the damage we were doing to our stripped, exhausted Earth and its non-human inhabitants. In response to my despair, that evening they gave me a plant, a small, unremarkable winter cherry picked up in a petrol station on the way home from work. I should take a picture for readers of this blog, but it is too dark at present. I can tell you that the shrub’s berries are fine and orange (and poisonous) while its leaves are a bit subdued, some dying off. I might repot it soon. But it’s still hanging on in there in the window in bright southern light.

For me, that plant is hope. A tiny bit of hope in humanity and in nature.

I did not intend to spend so much of this blog post talking about a plant. But it’s a reminder that progress can only be measured in concrete and tiny steps. That’s how novels get written. That’s how books get publicity and things take off.

I’ve had a pretty good year. White Feathers got shortlisted for a major award in the UK. I had radio interviews with Dublin South FM and the Sean O’Rourke Show on RTE and with Brenda Drumm Tobin on Artyfacts on Kildare FM. I visited the North West Writers up in Donegal in February and was treated with such warmth and hospitality by Maureen Curran, Denise Blake and the other members that I would truly recommend a visit to this beautiful and geographically isolated part of the country. I was also in Carlow with the Museum Association and open-micced at the Listowel Writers Week Festival with my friend Helena Mulkerns. There have also been many lovely reviews which I’ve linked to on the main page. On Goodreads, a steady stream of people continue to add the book, which is very pleasing to see and hopefully my publisher is also happy.

But it’s by no means been easy. I think there is something about WWI novels that triggers oddness in some, perhaps an unfulfilled wish to write one? Anyway I suppose if I had had an easy ride from the start, I might have grown complacent. Might have let the plant wither and die, or not keep it in the light. I am grateful for being jerked out of my passivity. For really having to fight, and fight hard.

My mental health did not hold up last year. Remarks were made at an event that I was not equipped to handle. I was tired and my defences were already overworked from fighting for my book. I know (well I keep being reminded when I relapse, as I did in September) that since I have a chemical imbalance I need to be more vigilant than regular folks, particularly with food, sleep and literary engagements with people I don’t know. I’ve decided to pull out of most of the latter, unless they are workshops or altruistic work, and make sure I get enough of the two former.

I do believe that all this was written in the Book of Life and that was how it was designed to be, and that it will be passed through. I feel a comforting peace and certainty that destiny is being fulfilled. I’ve also learned that any door closed to me, it’s bad karma of me not to keep open for someone else who might wish to pass through later. I must remember that too.

But anyway – at heart I am an introvert and need to feel safe and conserve my energy, especially as I work full time and I’m working on another novel at the moment as well as workshops. If the cherry branches are books, then the author is the root and must also be nourished. I also feel a long-forgotten need for a spiritual practice. It is hard to know where to start with that, though, without feeling fraudulent. There is so much baggage, and so much injustice and cruelty in the world. I will just start from a place of openness, keep writing, withdraw from the world, and see.

So. For 2016 I lean to the east and towards morning, excellent and fair.

Please note that I will be monitoring comments on this blog entry. Thank you.



  1. Nothing like nurturing a plant through the winter as a flag for hope and tikkun. The tiny flowers of winter cherries become pods that look like filigreed reddish-orange lanterns — to light and guide us during Samhain, when doors between worlds are ajar.

  2. It feels odd to say that there’s a real sense of hope about this entry, when you’ve been talking about difficult and terrible things. Nevertheless, it’s palpable. I wish the very best for you and your cherry plant.

  3. Comforting peace and certainty are two very beautiful things which any of us would be glad to have in our lives, Susan, no matter how active the on/off switch. I hope yours behave themselves and stay on throughout any long night they’re needed in 2016 and beyond.

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