A WALK, A READ AND A WISH.

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First Published in The Inishowen Independent March 2013

The weather is not exactly encouraging me to keep up my morning walk lately but once I’ve talked myself into my coat and walking boots, and pull the front door after me the weather becomes irrelevant. Besides, I have something else to entice me since the Free Wee Libraries popped up in Swan Park and surrounding areas, my love for reading with a dollop of curiosity on the side.

The little libraries are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and hard to pass by.  It’s always interesting to see the different books left in the wee library I’m challenging myself to read different types of books at the moment so what better way than to find a random book on my morning walk and share one of my own. So I was vexed to learn that the harsh weather had no mercy on a couple of the wee libraries that now need a little make over.

The Free Wee Library in Inishowen is the brain child of Geraldine Timlin, award winning artist and lifelong book lover.Geraldine learned about the simple concept that has gained momentum in different parts of America and Europe and wanted to share it with the community. Her love for books and culture compelled her to establish free book nooks in our corner of the world to cultivate community and boost literacy in the great outdoors. These itty-bitty libraries bring readers to books and books to readers making reading accessible and fun!

Five of these tiny wooden libraries, built by volunteers and placed along County Donegal’s coast, are the start of something new to promote literacy for adults and children. The brilliant book-sharing scheme runs on an honesty policy … Take a book. Return a book. A tiny but mighty community builder. How charming is that?

Obviously, Geraldine cannot do enough to share her love of books and the urgent need for a growth in literacy. It’s no secret; we live in a digital age. Our reliance on computers and smart phones has changed the way we interact with the world. Yet a little wooden box full of books has captured the imagination of young and old alike and is creating a sense of community and also a desire to be part of something positive.

The tiny libraries are monitored by volunteers and each library will change its collection several times a month. Geraldine’s wish is that it continues to grow and develop with people who value literacy and community. It’s certainly a great way to declutter your shelves and recycle books!

In late March FWL is organising a poetry competition for children and adults, in Irish and English. The winner will have their poem distributed throughout the Free Wee Libraries. The FWL project has been highly successful to date and plans are under way to expand the project throughout Inishowen. Geraldine is happy to hear from anyone who can donate books, particularly children’s books or help in volunteering in any way to keep the Free Wee Library project inspiring people to read and to share a love for walking and reading in the great outdoors! I hope the Free Wee Libraries that got battered by the storm are up and running again soon and open 365 days a year. It’s hard to beat a walk and a read in the many beautiful spots in Inishowen.

For further details contact freeweelibrary@gmail.com Follow at Free Wee Library Project on Facebook.

Details on the Free Wee Libraries Poetry Competition to follow…

 

 

 

 

 

I’M NOT A BUILDING. I’M AUTISTIC. LIGHT ME UP INSTEAD.

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FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE INISHOWEN INDEPENDENT

Hello World! I’m autistic. Perhaps you know someone like me. In April you will notice buildings lighting up blue on Autism Awareness Day. Awareness is good but acceptance is better. Allow me to explain why and how you can help.

When I am out and about with my family or carer, life can turn stressful. Autism affects all my senses, attention and perception. This means my behaviour is unpredictable. It helps if you are aware of my condition but it helps more if you:

Try not to stare when I’m having a tough time.
Please give me time, give me space, stay calm and carry on. My carer is often my Mum/Dad/brother/sister. She/he needs a break too!

Give up your place in the line.
I have problems standing quietly in a queue. Waiting is an enormous challenge for me. I become agitated and overwhelmed. I can’t help or stop the sensations I feel in my body. Please, if you notice me in a queue, allow me to go in front of you. My family will really appreciate it.

Watch my body language. It’s how I communicate.
When I’m excited I behave like most folk in Inishowen when Donegal wins a match. I run up and down, scream, shake my hands in the air and clap but I can also behave this way if I am hungry, frustrated, frightened, agitated, confused etc. I may have difficulty with words but if you observe me really closely you might work out how I’m feeling or what I need.

Keep me safe.
If you see me wandering around on my own, if you see me in my pyjamas or with no shoes, if I look lost, anxious and crossing streets aimlessly on my own, chances are I have wandered/ran off and my carer is looking for me. Please watch out for me until you find my carer or my carer finds me. Thank you.

Now, a word of thanks from Mum…

Thanks for giving my autistic child the thumbs up…the way you smile knowingly…the way you offer to watch him for a minute until I do what I need to do…the way you say hello to him even though he never says hello back…the way you ignore him when he helps himself to his favourite sweets in your shop…the way you wave my money away…the way you give him a drink and some goodies in the cinema when he gets fed up sitting….the way you open up your shop even though you had just closed it to let him check it out…the way you allow him to sneak behind the bar and serve himself a coke, the way you watch over him when he runs into your premises…the way you didn’t object when he went for a good snoop around, the way you offer to fetch our car when he has a melt-down in the middle of the multi-story car park…the way you didn’t react when he poked through your bag…the way you stopped and asked me if there was anything you could do for me…the way you made our visits to the clinic easier…the way you offer him a treat…the way you make us feel welcome in your restaurant. You will see us again and again and again because we are loyal to those that make every day life possible for us.

When you do that, you light us up, not only in April but every day of the year. Thank you for accepting, for understanding and making allowances for all families with Autism.

 

 

 

BE STILL AND KNOW

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It’s quiet round here. The road is stretching out in front of me for miles, a silky black ribbon weaving its way through Coolcross and Binnon. In their purple navy attire they roll down towards me as I surmise their stature across the lakes on the mountain road.

I turn towards a quiet country lane and head up the hill. The trees, naked and spindly, are waiting patiently for their new Spring coats. It won’t be long. Before I left I noticed a few new shoots  in my battered back garden. Heedless of the recent storms, they must have slipped up some time last week through the  darkness unnoticed…until today. Sunday. Even the birds are quiet this morning.  Are they contemplating too?

Over short heather and grass I ramp on as the ground rises steeply towards the top of Coolcross. It is well worth it. The view is breath-taking. I find them all standing tall and resting in their Sunday morning splendour, Malin head and Glashedy island to the north, Slieve snacht to the south, Slievekeeragh, Raghtin More and Mamore Head to the south-west, Culdaff and Scotland to the north-east. 

Sunday.  It’s a good day for a hike to feed the soul.

The fruit of silence is prayer,
The fruit of prayer is faith,
The fruit of faith is love, and
The fruit of love is silence.

—Mother Teresa

REMEMBERING THE POET AND THE POETRY OF SEAMUS HEANEY.

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Seamus Heaney has died. The news reader made his announcement across the airwaves causing me to stall the car at a junction in Derry. The driver to the left of me looked like he was flapping a wasp away. Gripping the key I started the car again. Chugging off to the right I gestured an apology to the agitated driver who obviously wasn’t listening to the news. If he had of been, and even if he never read a poem in his life, he would have at least recognised the name and learnt of the untimely death of one of Ireland’s finest poets. My stalling was an overreaction surly, but the sheer familiarity of Heaney’s name left me feeling as though a close friend of mine had died.

I have the school curriculum to thank for introducing me to Heaney’s work and his simple rural upbringing that resonated so vibrantly with my own as I dilly dallied home from school through quiet country lanes picking blackberries and peering over hedgerows separating me from cows and freshly ploughed fields. For long enough Digging gave me a deep appreciation of my own father’s passion for working the land and farm routines.  Somehow I took his words to heart. 

Is that why I started reciting Mid-Term Break at the kitchen sink while preparing for dinner around the time the Nobel Laureate poet was being buried in his beloved Derry soil? The last line stuck in my throat as it had done before, over and over, when I was sixteen.

Little Missy wanted to know why I was sad so I told her about the poet, Seamus Heaney, who had a brother called Christopher. “Just like me?” she said. “Just like you,” I smiled back. “But why are your eyes wet Mummy?” she said as she leaned in to help me pick out a few potatoes for peeling. “Because he wrote a poem once about losing his brother and today they are together again.” “But that’s a happy story.” she said. “So it is,” I said, “…and did you know he also wrote a poem about peeling spuds with his mother?” Missy lifted an eyebrow, her eyes full of suspicion. “He did! I’ll find it for you later,” I said turning on the tap and reaching for a knife. She laughed then and ran out to the garden as tears ran down my face remembering Clearances, the poem Heaney wrote in memory of his mother and the gaping emptiness that it had conveyed.

I stood for a moment watching Missy join her other brother on the trampoline and marvelled all over again at Heaney’s ability to pluck a moment of time out of his world or the world of northern politics, or the underworld and record it in such an organic state that it would be relived and felt and understood again and again, time after time.

Those thoughts and reflections he dug with his pen will never die and a name like Seamus Heaney will never die either. Perhaps it was a natural reaction for me to be taken by surprise at the moment I learnt of his death because, as Paul Muldoon said at Heaney’s funeral, “he had the ability to sweep us all up in his arms,” and so a friend in kind did die but the poet Seamus Heaney and all his works will forever live on in the hearts and minds of men and women all over the world but for now the world is feeling his lost aptly described in Heaney’s own words…

The door was open and the house was dark

Wherefore I called his name, although I knew

The answer this time would be silence.

Seamus Heaney 1939-2013 RIP

Dalai Lama in Derry-Cultivating Compassion

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Be kind where possible and it’s always possible. Dalai Lama

The rain was spitting and the wind was messing with the umbrellas while tight security sifted through handbags and confiscated water bottles from old and young yesterday as 2500 people filed into the Embrington Plaza, Derry-Londonderry to hear Richard Moore and His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak on “The Culture of Compassion.”

The event was organised by the Children in Crossfire charity that helps children in war zones across the world. As serendipity would have it, I was one of the 2500. The mood inside the blackened arena was upbeat, celebrity and moving as we watched, via video link, 300 local primary school children form a guard of honour on the Peace Bridge for His Holiness, Richard Moore, Bishop Ken Good and Monsignor Eamon Martin leading the Peace Walk as a splash of sunshine escaped from the rain-filled threatening sky. The Dalai Lama hugged the children and urged them to go in front, spoiling the photographer’s view of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. “We need a sense of concern for others,” he was to say later. “That IS compassion.”

When everyone was safe inside, the heavens did open but as the rained drummed on the roof, his Holiness smiled and his gentle way filled the arena with warmth and humour.

“I am very happy to be here with my hero Richard Moore. Those of us who believe in peace and non-violence have a responsibility to show support and solidarity. It’s a great honour for me to come here. Today has turned out to be a special day for me. I’ve known Richard for some time, and he’s has come to see me in Dharamsala with Charles the soldier who shot the plastic bullet that blinded him. Despite that tragedy, he showed how as human beings we have a capacity to forgive and be reconciled. But today, I met my hero’s 93 year old mother, which has made it a great, great day.”

His Holiness stressed that developing a culture of peace is ultimately related to developing compassion for others. “We need to analyse whether anger and hatred have any value,” he said and gave three reasons for developing compassion. “First, it is based on our common experience; everyone responds positively to kindness. Secondly, it is common sense, because it’s obvious that people who are open-hearted are happier. And thirdly, scientific findings show that negative emotions like anger, hatred and fear eat into our immune system, whereas there is evidence that open-heartedness and compassion are good for our overall health.”

He made reference to the love he received from his own mother and the role of education to develop compassion in our communities to ultimately create peace and peace of mind.

“Peace must be part of our lives and part of our culture. Non-violence doesn’t mean we should be passive, because, for example, it takes will-power to restrain yourself from violence. When we have a problem, we need to look at it from many angles with a calm mind in order to understand the reality of the situation.”

He concluded, “Please think. It’s not enough to pray and to hope, we have to work hard to create and maintain compassion and peace.

He then presented the Youth Compassion award to a young medical student, Oisin Duddy, who spends his free time volunteering in Altnagalvin hospital. Oisin also gave a short but moving speech and when he finished he said, “If I ever come across your path may I be of service to you.” Let’s hope his compassion, like the Dalai Lama’s and Richard Moore’s is contagious with no known cure.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama in Derry-Londonderry

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I’m back and I will write about Bologna soon but I am still living and storing up all my experiences to write. At the moment I am in The Venue, Derry waiting for Children in Crossfire/Culture of Compassion WITH HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA in association with Bright Brand New Day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if compassion was contagious? No doubt we are all going to catch some today. There’s the bell. Time to look for my seat. I’m in the second row and feel so privileged and blessed to be here…later.