The last day of 2016 is here and I, for one, am ready to bid it farewell. It’s been a year of fantastic highs and some hard-hitting lows – a true rollercoaster. However, there is one thing I achieved this year that I had dreamed of doing all my life and that is publishing my first full length novel – Someone To Come Back To.
I’m a great believer in marking special occasions – as life is simply too short not to – and celebrated the launch of the ebook online with a wonderful party. A few months later the paperback version was released and the first copies arrived in Brisbane and how wonderful it was to finally hold my baby in my hands! I decided another party was needed but this time I needed to pop some real corks! Below are a few photos of the event back in August. I’d like to thank all those who have supported me on my writing journey so far – from all over the world! It means so much to me that you love my stories. I’d like to wish you all the very, very best for 2017 – much love, Roisin.
The washed out wintry light of the early morning sun was just starting to peep over the hedgerows. The road was still damp from the rain that had fallen soft and slow throughout the night. I looked over at my husband, his face deep in concentration as he wrangled our recently acquired left-hand drive camper van around the twists and turns of the Irish country roads. I looked back to check on the dogs and I smiled as I spotted Billie peeping out at me from underneath the table and Zara sitting up on the seat, her head resting on the tiny lip of the window – determined not to miss a thing.
I looked back out onto the road and I smiled some more, this smile warming me from the outside in. We were doing it. We were finally calling time on all the shit luck that had plagued us in recent years. We had already covered the first few miles on an adventure we had planned for months.
We had no idea where we were going. We had no idea what we were doing. We had no clue as to what the future held for us but we were throwing caution to the wind and just going for it anyway. The presenter on the radio announced it was Thanksgiving Day in America and wished everyone a happy thanksgiving day. I smiled again, somehow it seemed appropriate that we were setting off on our journey into the unknown on a day when people celebrate that which they are thankful for. At that point in time I was intensely grateful to be physically putting some distance between me and so much that had happened in the years before.
A few months previously we had sold up everything – our beautiful home, our cars and anything else of value we’d had. We’d paid off the tax man and our debtors, glad to finally be free of crippling debt that had arisen from a business deal that had gone horribly wrong.
However, it wasn’t just our business that we lost in those few years but also the dream of being parents. Our tiny babies lay dead and cold in a grave on a hillside in the west of Ireland. We were emotionally battered and our souls were weary. We needed to step off the merry-go-round of life for a while and take some much needed time out.
And that’s exactly what we did. For the next nine months we trundled along the highways and byways of Europe. We ate all manner of wonderful food and we washed it down with cold beers and fine wines. We walked for miles on golden sands – I don’t think there is an inch of European coastline we missed. We hiked through sun dappled forests and swam in lakes the colour of earth and sky. We gloried in freshly fallen snow and we skied and fell in love with the granite peaks at the heart of Europe which we’d never visited before and at night we warmed ourselves with the heat of a log fire and the local firewater.
We got lost, gloriously lost and yet somehow managed to find our way. We met great characters that enriched our journey beyond measure. Bit by bit we healed and started to feel the joy of life flowing in our veins again. We dared to believe in dreams once more and we even dared to dream.
A year later we found ourselves back in Ireland patiently awaiting the birth of the child we were told we’d never have. From one thanksgiving day to another our lives had changed beyond belief and we had so much to be thankful for. A few weeks later I gave birth to our beautiful baby girl – a precious gift that I will spend the rest of my days being thankful for.
However, on Thanksgiving Day I always remember that wintry morning in Ireland as myself and my husband bumped our way along to the early morning ferry that was to deliver us to Europe and from there to God only knows where. I remember and give thanks for the small bud of hope that still remained somewhere deep within me. Sometimes you’ve got to let go of all you think you know and just go – go with your heart and feed your soul. You’ll be thankful for it more than you can ever know.
I was in a stadium at first, surrounded by concrete and not really sure where I was. Then, I heard music, quickly accompanied by a chorus of voices. Soon the voices swelled to that of thousands and almost drowned out the music. The music changed and I recognised the Italian national anthem, then the French one and finally the Irish. I turned a corner and there before me were people from all over the world, in various colours signifying their countries and all of them were singing the different national anthems.
I was delighted to hear the Irish national anthem and happily joined in. Then the music started to fade and, as is the way in dreams, a door appeared before me.
It seemed to beckon to me so I opened it and walked through.
I found myself in a beautiful riverside setting. The landscape was verdant and lush. My feet sank into moss-like grass as I walked along the bank of the gently flowing river. The water was clear as glass and ran over earthen coloured stones. Here and there it darkened to the point where I couldn’t see into its depths. I was mesmerised by its constant flow. However, something drew my attention away from it, a noise, a movement.
I looked up and a beautiful apple tree had sprung up on the far bank, it’s branches laden down with bright red orbs of goodness reaching out and dipping into the water. Then I noticed a figure. She almost seemed part of the landscape at first but as she moved the cloths on her aged form became clearer and more defined.
She moved towards the bank of the river. Another movement caught my attention upstream. I looked and saw that a bridge had formed. I knew instinctively I should cross over the river via the bridge and make my way to the old woman.
I followed my instinct and soon I was only a few feet away from her. From this distance I could see her ancient clothes were made from some type of sackcloth and yet they moulded to the shape of her body like velvet.
I moved closer and could see she had something in her hands. It was a primitive style basket woven from reeds. It was wet and it was obvious she had taken it from the river.
The feeling of overwhelming sadness emanated from her in waves. She continued to look down at the basket as if it had contained a great treasure and she had lost it.
I was concerned for her and moved closer.
“Are you okay?” I enquired, “have you lost something? Is there anything I can help you with?”
She lifted her eyes and looked at me and it seemed that her face stayed the same but was constantly changing. One second she was old, the next she was youthful, the next a little girl, the next a middle aged woman. Her eyes constantly changed colour – so fast that I only had a sense of them changing – all the while they looked grey, like that of a wolf.
“No,” her voice sounded inside my head, “there’s nothing you can do.”
She returned her gaze to the basket and her feeling of profound sadness permeated through me.
“If you need food or sustenance of any type, I can get it for you,” I assured her.
She looked at me again and half smiled.
“There was a time,” she told me, in a voice that seemed to wax and wane, “a time when these baskets were full of gifts from those who had more than me – food, clothing, books, even little treats such as sweets and perfumed soaps. And at one time, for much of my life, I had a great need of these things and I was deeply grateful for the kindness of strangers who would send these baskets of kindness upon the river to a poor wretch like me. Thankfully I no longer have a need for the items in the baskets. Life is better now.”
I noticed her clothes started to change. The sackcloth was now intertwined with silver and soon her clothes started to shimmer.
“But you are so sad,” I said to her.
She looked at me, her eyes, the eyes of millennia, sad and resigned.
“My child,” she responded, “I am not sad because I miss the gifts. I no longer have a need for them. I am sad because the kindness behind the gifts is dwindling, it’s almost gone. There are others as I once was and all they can hope for is an empty basket.”
With that she conjured up a kind smile, turned and walked in the direction of the tree. A shimmer now surrounded her and I blinked and she was gone.
I followed in her footsteps and sat underneath the tree and contemplated her words. I thought about all the times I had benefited from the incredible kindness of strangers – crucial times in my life, times of great hardship and loss. The kindness itself couldn’t change what I was going through but it was the difference between me making it and not.
I thought about the state of the world and all the sad events in recent times and how much just a little kindness could bring about change. I resolved to try and open my kindness valve some more and try and be part of the change.
I can still see that beautiful river in my mind, flowing constantly, like life itself. I hope some day I meet the old lady again and this time she is happy because once again the river is abundant with baskets of kindness.
It’s been a while since I’ve been here and I’ve missed this space. A lot has been happening in the past seven weeks. I got to reconnect and spend time with dear friends. I finished my first full-length novel. I somehow managed to keep the balls of mother, wife and writer in the air. I watched my darling Billie, my little four-legged soul sister, come down with cancer and I had to make the impossible decision and let her go.
All in all, it’s been something of an emotional roller-coaster since I last connected with this space and to be honest I’m feeling a little wrung out. As regular followers of this blog will know, one of the things I most like to turn to when I’m not feeling the best is poetry. And as luck would have it, I came across the perfect poem to lift my mood this evening and I’d like to share it with you this Christmas Eve.
The Poem Of Snow
In the loud snowing space as I am waiting for my turn
I can see…
So much snow! Which way to go?
Skate on ice? I don’t know!
I can feel…
I am so cold even with my woolly hat
No-one can get this cold… but
I have my doubts
I can hear…
The last hot chocolate calling my name!
Outside I can hear kids laughing and giggling
I can smell…
The fresh new smell of the old barked trees
That smell is the best, when it comes with a breeze!
I can taste…
The sweet chocolatey taste of the hot chocolate as I drink
But as I come outside again I start to sink!
ALL THE SNOW HAS RISEN!
Oh, no! Oh, Yes!
This poem was written for me by my daughter last year and she presented it to me as a present on Christmas morning. It’s very much her and I love it! I hope you enjoy it too.
Here’s wishing you a joyful and peaceful Christmas.
There are times in life when everything comes together in one perfect moment. These moments are rare and sometimes we can be so distracted, we only realise they happened after they have passed. To be aware of one of these moments whilst it is happening and to have a camera on you at the same time, to capture the magic and preserve it for all eternity is an incredible stroke of luck. Thankfully I had one of these such incidences of luck last year when on holidays in Ireland and took the photo below.
The photo is of my daughter as she runs along the beach, the water splashing at her heels and the sun warming her bones. Now, the west of Ireland is a beautiful place to be on any day of the week but on a day when the sun shines it is sensational. We were blessed with weeks of uninterrupted sunshine, long lazy days of summer with ice cream afternoons, beach days and breath-taking sunsets. To get a summer like this in Ireland is too rare for words, to get a summer like this the only time you have been home for two years is incredibly special.
This photo was taken at about 4:30 pm in the afternoon on a day when the heat from the sun enveloped us like an invisible blanket that never seemed to end. The kids were pottering around the beach, building sandcastles, making stone sculptures and just being. I was relaxed in a way I can only be when I am in the west of Ireland – at one with body and soul.
My daughter decided to go in for a dip and I watched and listened as she lit up the beach with her smile and squeals of delight. As the cold water connected with her little body, she ran unfettered and free, a perfect study of joy in flight and I knew….. I knew I was witnessing one of those childhood moments that precious memories are made from. I reached for my phone, activated the camera and clicked and clicked.
A year later I’m sitting at my desk in Australia, yearning for an Irish summer in the west of Ireland and not knowing when I’ll be there again but I have a precious memory, a moment of pure joy captured on canvas, hanging on my wall. For the minute that will have to do but I feel so lucky to have grabbed that moment and preserved it. Looking at the photo brings me back to that day and an indescribable moment of happiness shared by me and my girl.