Self Portrait, Kilkee, Co. Clare, Ireland ©2016 Janet Maher

Self Portrait, Kilkee, Co. Clare, Ireland ©2016 Janet Maher

Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation…*

This Sunday my father might have become ninety-two, yet instead he has been gone forty-three years. I’ll never forget the series of days during which the rug of my life vanished from under me and everything changed. Somehow it seems fitting that I am in Ireland on his birthday, as I was for the first time on the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. Each deserved a special observance in the place they knew as theirs. As far as I know my father never came to the birth home of his great grandfather. It remains to be seen how I will mark this anniversary. Perhaps I will go to Mass at the Catholic church of Ballyvaughan.

When away from the studio flashbacks occur over and again bringing parallel places and times back to play in my mind, telling me things I would have preferred to have understood decades ago. I imagine my grandfather, James, in the stranger brought into the pub by a possible daughter who saw him walking outside. His eyes lit up when he looked at me a few barstools down as if suddenly recognizing me from long ago (or as if he was younger and I available?), but after returning his smile I politely looked away. It is only in writing this that I realize, my father might have looked like him now. He might have said “Hello!” just then.

At the ceili in Kilfenora the male dancers older than me, with their proper stances, are extremely graceful on their feet. One has been chosen as my partner to teach me to step lightly and swirl with him amid a group ritual that has been performed for centuries the same way. I marvel at a community that comes together once a week to dance—and generously allows tourists in to learn. How could there not be peace and good will in a place that constantly touches each other this way? We learned square-dance versions of these steps in gym class of high school and rolled our eyes. Too cool then to care about things that would eventually matter.

I am grateful for those who did all they could within their limited means to point the way, nonetheless, teaching me to fish, as it were. (The proverb works for all nationalities, even if I’m mixing metaphors!)

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is. But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…*

* T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, The Four Quartets, I, II

©2016 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair