Every small encounter has changed the course of the path that has led me here. Some newer ones, funny and light, have added color to my crazy rambling adventure. Others from years ago still tug at my heart with a melancholy wish for just a few more days…
I have a Patreon page! Please check it out. If you make a small pledge you’ll get to see photos and clips from my journals and hear a bit more about some of the stories. This is a fun way that I can share visuals with you.
Check it out HERE. Or at patreon.com/dianathebard
If you want to hear more on any particular subject, or if you want to ask a question or simply connect, you can find me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/dianathebard — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app
Hello, good morning. Good afternoon from a gray day in Dublin. I am at the end of a cul de sac on some random street in North Dublin and it’s of course a little bit gray, but that’s okay. That’s Irish weather for you.
I’m in limbo today, a gentle purgatory of sorts, in a random room in a suburb. It’s a nice enough room except that it’s basically a bed. It lacks a desk. So I’m sitting on the bed using my laptop as a desk for writing. It also lacks a spoon, no spoon to measure out the instant coffee that I made with the electric kettle. So I made it much too strong today. And certainly no toaster or anything else for making breakfast. So I’ll have to just munch the last of my brown bread cold. I love Irish brown bread, and have hoarded the end of my last loaf, assuming I’d make breakfast on this last day. But I guess not. I must have failed to read the description properly.
This room is in what seems like a sort of gated community, without the complicated entrance – a bunch of streets full of houses that all look the same. The owners have renovated their home to make the first floor a warren of rental rooms. I think there are at least three down here. They use the plumbing from what was once the kitchen to create a standing shower and a tiny sink in one corner of this bedroom, but no toilet. You have to go upstairs for that. And that’s the only interchange with the family space. But for the warm greeting of a friendly cat, this would be an up-jumped hostel room. This is what comes of not having a clear picture of my purpose just now. Oh, well… make the best of it and get some work done before I’m finally off to Paris and to people I know.
I’m so excited to be among friends. Finally, after many months. I’m grateful for new friends I made along the way or I never would have weathered this time so well. I know that you hear it always in my intro, but it’s true that human connection is all we have. In the end those friendships are my most valuable takeaway. Alan and Lori and my group of friends from the Mudhouse residency. Temi and Katrin and all the storytellers from Herefordshire. Young artists from Chianti. Irini and Jim from Paros. Ute the egg farmer from County Clare. I hope to keep in touch with all of these going forward. But even the passing encounters that only lasted a short while were a spot of warmth in my solitude.
One of these was a very funny random connection in Ireland that I haven’t mentioned. I was driving along the Wild Atlantic Way and stopping where I could take some quick pictures. At one rocky beach I pulled over and a small black dog defied me to get out of my car with loud protesting barking. It was an old terrier with a grizzled face and rheumy eyes, and it ran atop the low wall and yelled at me as I alighted from my car. I spoke to it soothingly and it calmed down right away. All bark and no bite, fortunately. This dog was part of a small and curious band of rovers who were passing some time at that ‘lay by.’ Their captain was an old woman with short gray hair and a black fleece dotted with bees. She was plucking weeds from a barrel of flowers that served as a speck of decoration beside a random bench. It seemed a weird location for a bench let alone for this troop of characters, but perhaps it was a resting spot on a walking trail. I have no idea. The old woman had a younger dog on a leash – a lively black and white border collie type – and also a black cat sat at her feet and seemed to be part of the gang.
I took a few pictures of the landscape. And then we struck up a short conversation. It seems she had taken it upon herself to be the custodian of that barrel of flowers. She said she lives just up the street in the blue cottage and walks down here every day with her animal companions. “Even the cat?” I asked, eyeing the busy road dubiously.
“Oh yes, she just follows me and I can’t help it.” But once she had started in talking, there was no stopping her. Topics jumped from one to the next. And I realized that I would be spending the next hour on this bench if I didn’t extricate myself.
“Well, I have to be off,” I said when she paused for a breath. “I have an appointment for a haircut.”
“Oh, I just got my friend to cut mine the other day,” she said holding up a short lock of her hair. I had to convince her to try because when I asked she said Och, I can’t cut your hair because I’m drunk most of the time. Well, you’re not drunk now, says I, why don’t you give it a go? And so she agreed and to say the truth, I thought she did a tolerable job. Now with your straight hair, I’d say you should get something fancy. Why don’t you try a perm?
I laughed and made my exit as quickly as I could. Later when I told my hairstylist this story, she was shocked. “Oh, no,” she said, “she’s just given us that bad reputation all over again, all the drunk Irish.” So funny. A couple of light hearted encounters to add color to my rambling days.
In the juxtaposition of the present, and that section of the past upon which I’ve been training my mind in order to unfold this story, I’ve been trying to remember all of those small but meaningful encounters that led me here. Each one created a kink in my path. Each one represents a path that was chosen, and therefore one that was abandoned. It does no good to regret those missed ones. They won’t change, and I can’t retrace my steps. There are some, however, that I wish had lasted just a little bit longer. They felt abbreviated by an external hand. And by no choice of mine.
One in particular comes back to my mind, every time I set foot in Ireland. He lives here now, some of the time. We had a brief and incredibly hot, primarily sexual relationship 20 years ago, I might as well say it here, because you’ll pardon the effusion since you have no reason to question me. It was the best sex I ever had in my life. I’ll tell you more about him soon, his story is coming up. But as I sit here in Dublin, I’ll just say that since our parting, I think of him a lot, especially when I walk these streets in Ireland and hear this accent everywhere. And there was a period there where he also must have been thinking of me, because every time I landed in Europe, anywhere close to him, I would get a Facebook message: “Come see me! Come to Galway.” There were always reasons why I couldn’t. “Well, I’m in Italy. That’s not anywhere close to you.” Or most often it was because my kids were with me. And I could not fathom leaving them alone in a hotel room, just to go off and have one wild night. So many excuses not to do it. And thus the years slipped by.
So this time, here I am alone and untethered. My daughter even told me I had to go and find him. I went so far as to book my spot near Galway, saying I would decide then. But I sat there on that chicken farm, and I chickened out. Twenty years is a long time. Yes, we’re still friends on Facebook, whatever that means, but too much time has gone by. Too much gravity has done its cruel work. And I realized – and I have thought this before too – that it’s one thing to grow old beside someone. They don’t notice the gradual entropy. They don’t see things slip and sag in tiny increments. There’s love or there’s apathy, or whatever it has turned into, but there you are having traveled the road together. But I have a picture in my head of the two of us in bed 20 years ago. I imagine he does too if he thinks about it. I just couldn’t bear to see his face and watch that picture turn to ash in his mind’s eye and blow away forever. I’m not vain. I don’t think so. But I’m not deluded either. I’m old now. At 40 I did not feel old.
I would welcome love and romance into my life again if it came my way, but I think it would be better to start from where we are now. Perhaps some light encounter down the road will blossom into the love of my life, as the palm reader promised me years ago. It’s at times in my life like this when I’m musing about this that I get this song in my head: [sings] I am an old woman named after my mother. My old man is another child who’s grown old…
I hope that all your memories are sweet ones. And those that aren’t, leave them by the side of the road. You’ll make more. I’ll see you then.