groundsel and tutsan

I’m worried.

I don’t try not to be worried because I don’t really know what to do when it descends like it does. Ride it out?

Or perhaps I need to consider groundsel, creeping buttercups, tutsan.
I was out in the garden today trying to restore order. I have been struggling with what to plant and when to plant it. I am trying to practice crop rotation. The pieces don’t fit harmoniously, there are gaps that should have vegetables. Where there are gaps there are weeds eager to fill space. It seems chaotic.

Except what is a weed?
What is order?

There is one corner that is a complete mess if you think of an orderly garden that gets mowed at least once a week.
I went to cut it a few weeks ago but stopped short. I stopped short because I’ve noticed that goldfinches like to eat the seeds of the weeds. If I sorted out those ‘weeds’ and had a lawn there I wouldn’t have goldfinches to surprise me when washing the dishes on dreary Monday mornings.

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I was hanging washing out today and heard an unfamiliar whistling noise coming from the tree. It was a female bullfinch. She took off, her partner joined her and landed on my spade. Then they both jumped on to the weed in the corner that the goldfinch liked and munched a few seeds.

I’ve not paid enough attention to flowers over the years which is a bit of a sin I suppose. I’m not sure what the weed is.
Looking for its name on a website  I stumbled across the names of a few other plants I noticed in the garden today and which I am going to try to remember:- tutsan and groundsel.
And I’m going to learn more names. I am going to consider the lilies of the fields and the weeds of the garden and look at finches feeding on the weeds and read these words again.

“…what’s the use of worrying? What good does it do? Will it add a single day to your life? Of course not! 26 And if worry can’t even do such little things as that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27 “Look at the lilies! They don’t toil and spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not robed as well as they are. 28 And if God provides clothing for the flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, don’t you suppose that he will provide clothing for you, you doubters? 29 And don’t worry about food—what to eat and drink; don’t worry at all that God will provide it for you. 30 All mankind scratches for its daily bread, but your heavenly Father knows your needs. 31 He will always give you all you need from day to day if you will make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.’

flying snow

There is sleet sliding down the living room window, wind blowing down the chimney, silence in the house. My thoughts are grim.

There is so much broken around me,broken in me.

Someone called to the house last week, a single parent . Watching him drive off with the kids I thought how black and heart-breaking to loose someone you love but have to carry on, carry on, carry on picking up the pieces carrying on for the kids.

Thinking about it some more there are many single parents in ‘our place’. Then there are those who are currently separated from children not through choice, but because of having to flee persecution in their native land.
Imagine not seeing your children for many years ? Then imagine not being able to afford bring them over when free?
Then you keep picking up other bits of sadness  from an infinite sea and adding them together. Imagine that happening? What if that happened?
Spotting some report about the threat of bird flu on the corner of a website or wondering how we will cope whenever death comes makes me feel ill. Basically it’s scary out there. Basically I wonder how we’ll cope.

I appreciated reading this  Wendell Berry poem the other night in bed and for moment thought about the seeds I plan to plant in the garden come spring.
I’m not sure why the sight of garlic appearing through the water logged soil or imagining the smell of broad beans  calms me a little, but it does.

February 2, 1968

In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

Wendell Berry

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autocomplete anxiety

anxiety

anxiety is a living hell, all in your head, a gift, affecting my work
anxiety is back, bullshit, bad, bad for your health
anxiety is coming back, controlling my life, crippling me, considered disordered
anxiety is destroying my life, destroying my relationship, destroying me
anxiety is exhausting, eating me alive, easy to treat? excitement
anxiety is freedom, fake, fear, fear of the future
anxiety is getting worse, getting out of control, getting the best of me, good
anxiety is holding me back, harmless, horrible, hereditary
anxiety is it a mental illness? is it real? is it hereditary? is it genetic?
anxiety is just a feeling, just a state of mind, just fear? just a bad habit?
anxiety is killing me, keeping me awake at night, keeping me from working, keeping me from school
anxiety is love’s greatest killer, like a rocking chair, living in the future
anxiety is making me ill, making me feel sick, making me suicidal, making me depressed
anxiety is not real, normal, not a sign of weakness, not a mental illness
anxiety is on the rise, OK, often treated with___, out of control
anxiety is pointless, paralyzing me, painful, paralyzing
anxiety is quotes, freedom quote, quiz,questionnaire
anxiety is ruining my life, ruining my life yahoo, ruining my relationship, ruining my health
anxiety is stopping me sleeping, scaring me, stopping me from working, stupid
anxiety is taking over my life, the dizziness of freedom, the handmaiden of creativity, the only real emotion
anxiety is unbearable, uncontrollable, untreatable, unhealthy
anxiety is a vicious cycle, vs depression, vitamins, vomiting
anxiety is worse in the morning, wrecking my life, worse than depression
anxiety is xanax
anxiety is your friend, in your head, yoga, yawning
anxiety is zoloft

the pleasure of being sad

A good friend got us an interesting and appreciated Christmas present, ‘A Field Guide to Melancholy‘ by Jacky Bowring which I have been reflecting on and reading the past few days.


At one point on New Years Day I found myself alone drinking tea and reading this book, looking at a big lonely Christmas tree in a hotel lobby thinking that everything fitted together very nicely. It looked sad, purposeless, days numbered yet also beautiful in the first gloomy day of 2014.

At another point in Sligo I found myself trying to draw the hotel and getting really down that it just didn’t look right, that the lines where wrong and my colouring pencils didn’t match the colours, that I can’t capture things properly when drawing while simultaneously enjoying the whole process.

And yesterday in Cookstown I was getting sad about how the once thriving Saturday market in my home town has all but disappeared now thanks to M&S, LIDL, Asda, Tesco,Argos, Homebase etc while also taking delight in the nostalgia of what it used to be like (or what I imagined it used to be like).

In fact the more I’ve thought about it the past few days, the more I realised that I’m maybe just a sad guy at heart and maybe that is OK. Not all the time, but maybe as a sort of default setting that is part of who I am.  And perhaps 2014 is the year to accept that and even see the value in it instead of wondering ‘What is wrong with me?’ Maybe it’s just time to value the paradox of it all.

Although I found the book to be a bit dense sometimes I am grateful that someone has written a book casting sadness and melancholy as something that can be good, positive and even beautiful as it makes me feel like less of a freak.

So much of modern society seems to be about pursuing happiness or eradicating sadness which makes me feel out of place. It’s not that I don’t want to be happy more that I’m not so sure if I want to get rid of the dark, sad bits in me sometimes and that makes me wonder if I’m OK in the head as who wants sad, dark bits in them?.

There is one bit of the book that I keep thinking about:-

‘[However], psychiatric concerns cast the Field Guide’s advocacy of melancholy as a rich dimension of human existence into tricky territory, with global worries over the increase in mental illness – of an escalation of melancholy as madness. Writers such as Peter D Kramer are emphatic that depression as a medical illness should be eradicated, just as diseases like smallpox have been’

It’s something that I think about. Would I change my natural inclination towards melancholia if I could?

I don’t think I would.
One of the things that brings me joy in life is experimenting, creating and I although it also drives me crazy lots of the time I often feel at my most creative when I am down in the dumps, maybe even in some place beyond ‘down in the dumps’. As the book suggests perhaps that is the trade off.

It’s the paradox that although something might make me sad I can also feel extreme joy towards it.
I might feel alive and like I’m flourishing with creativity or appreciate the beauty in some sad work of art.
As the book suggest the lines seem blurry with many of these definitions, and I can only speak from my experience but I am not sure I would want the sad bits in me to be eradicated like smallpox as I am not sure how parts of me I enjoy and help me to love my neighbour wouldn’t also be eradicated in the process. Those bits seem linked.

There is a quote from Victor Hugo at the start of the book. Some part of me likes the idea of sombre joy.

‘Melancholy is a twilight state; suffering melts into it and becomes a sombre joy. Melancholy is the pleasure of being sad.

don’t be scared

There is a piece of graffiti along the canal in the city that just says ‘Don’t be Scared‘. Don’t be scared is advice that I’ve always found hard to take heed of.
I’m scared of multiple things.

Men seem to either not get scared or else seem reluctant to vocalize the fact that they are fearful of things. Perhaps to admit that we are scared is to say that we don’t have a clue what to do and it puts us in a place where we have to admit that we need a miracle and that we’re not really in control of anything. We’re not sovereign, we’re not God. We don’t really like that.

Yet so many men seem to not stumble at the things that make me stumble that I sometimes wonder if  I’m a faulty model in that I don’t seem to work as reliably as the others. They don’t choke at the vital moments or go missing when needed. Or so it seems.


Perhaps that it why I’ve had this tune by Bell X1 in my head. It seems to vocalize some of the fear of living that I feel.

Will it be a fireball from the sky?
Or will we all take to the bed
Laid low by a new pox?
Or will the wrong guy get the codes?

Whose arms will I seek?
Whose eyes would I meet in the final throws
And say it was good to be human?
To be a human with you here

The world is a scary place and then end will be nigh some time. We can’t keep on running from it. Whose arms will I seek? Whose eyes would I meet in the final throws?

300 onions all over again

Sometimes while sorting out the study I’ll find a notebook of some doodles I made on New Years Eve 2008, a time of uncertainty in our lives. We didn’t know if we would be moving back to Belfast or Northern Ireland from Dublin, whether we where coming or going.

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Well to cut a long story short we did move and now 4 and a bit years later, I’m starting to feel the same again, except probably worse.
We might be moving on, or will be moving but we don’t really know when or where we’re moving too. Things are uncertain. I know that things are always uncertain for everyone, we never really know what is coming around the corner so in a way we should just take each day as it comes. But it’s not that easy. This whole church business seems to add extra angles that other people mightn’t have to worry about. Is that right?

So I’m feeling really unsettled. How long have we left here? Where will we be? Some probably think it an exciting thing but to be honest that wouldn’t be the thought that first comes to mind. It’s a bit scary. Maybe I should embrace the change or enjoy the ride. If only things were that easy!