Becoming a mother ‘forced’ me into considering holidays, something that had never really featured much before then. I suspect that I had feared them a little, struggling at their end with the inevitable return to a working life that I enjoyed less and less.

Now, a change of career later, I no longer dread Monday mornings or post holiday blues. However, a recent one week break – and it was my first for a year – disconcerted me, and I have found it difficult to re-establish an equilibrium since.

The location of the holiday probably explains much. Living in the very busy and wonderful London, a week on a small island off the west coast of Ireland whose inhabitants (Irish speaking) number less than 150, was a complete contrast. Getting there was a 12-hour adventure in itself, but served a useful function in the transition from here to there.

Once we arrived, to a little cottage surrounded by hens and glorious views, there was little to do, except walk, swim, and just be. I have never before felt so rooted in the present. The island itself is quixotic. I am not sure whether it lives in its own present, or past, or a combination of the two. No matter. I was seduced (as was my 15 year old daughter) by its ability to ignore much of what dictates our lives elsewhere, and to carry on in a world where issues are immediate, people-centred and non-materialistic (at least to a current Londoner).

Inevitably, there is a tendency on my part to romanticise it all. I was immediately struck by the acute contrast between my city existence and that of the islanders, but I can also appreciate the harshness of their environment, and their desperate need to eke enough out of the summer months to last their winter isolation.

Yet I remain discombobulated. This partly results from a sense of belonging that I felt there, speaking Irish and being in a place and a time that is not reproducible in London, a city where it can be difficult to stop and to just be.

I came across a piece on mindfulness today, a topic about which I know little. As various stresses and sources of unhappiness creep back into my London life, I liked what I read, for example considering unhappiness as a black cloud that one observes with friendly curiosity as it drifts by. Much of what it proposes is based on building a capacity to catch negative thoughts before they spiral out of control.

My Irish background and upbringing served me well in terms of the notion that fear can spiral into something hugely dangerous and uncontrollable.

Which brings me to poetry. Poetry always seems to finds the words and a way of expressing when I cannot.

Michael Gorman, from his poem The People I Grew Up With Were Afraid:

‘The people I grew up with were afraid,

They were alone too long in waiting-rooms,

in dispensaries and in offices whose functions

they did not understand.’

‘Our mother’s factory pay-packet

is sitting in the kitchen press

and our father, without

humour or relief, is

waiting for the sky to fall.’

The poet Wendell Berry, in the poem The Peace of Wild Things, helps to connect my currently disparate worlds, and concludes with an optimism that I will attempt to bring to my tomorrow:

‘When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.’

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