It is the first mild day in March:
Each minute sweeter than before,
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.
There is a blessing in the air,
Which seems a sense of joy to yield,
To the bare trees, and mountain bare,
And grass in the green field.
The hush of a spring wind, and the lilt of birds, perched sentry like upon the electricity line which bisects the field behind my home, provided the most glorious of soundtracks as I pondered this, my 13th column of 2014.
By remarkable coincidence, upon opening one of Con Houlihan’s many magnificent book-bound collection of essays, the above text from William Wordsworth’s poem ‘To My Sister’ greeted me immediately.
Sun, birdsong, a good book and the most splendid of views as I glanced from my sitting room table to drank in the living portrait I’ve woken up to these past 12 months, were all at my disposal in that unquantifiably satisfying moment.
And for all of the above, I give thanks every morning.
I consider myself an optimistic person, very much on the glass half-full side of life, yet I remain wary of those ultra-energetic types who appear to exist in a constant state of posivity.
Surely, and this is only my own perspective, you’ve got to spend some time in the gutter, as Oscar Wilde put it, if you wish to savour the stars?
You’ve also got to learn, and as my 35th birthday approaches, it’s taken me the better part of 20 years to grasp this particular concept, to, from time to time, say no. To stop. To take time out. And to literally use that downtime to smell the roses.
Just as the perpetually positive person fills me with unease, the concept of occupying one’s waking hours with all manner of activity is something I’ve only paused and reflected upon in recent months.
This trade of mine demands a huge level of commitment and industry by its practitioners, but if it’s all you do each day, if you can’t switch off from it, if it wholly consumes you, then surely one’s output will suffer?
To be blunt, being eternally busy is as questionable as being all too idle to all too long.
Speaking only for myself, some of the better journalistic ideas I’ve had from time to time have generally transpired away from a computer, loaded with a couple of hundred emails, each politely demanding a little of me or my colleagues.
Standing at the top of a hill on a breezy afternoon, switching off from Twitter and Facebook for 24 hours, having an unexpected chat with someone during a chance meeting or reading one of Con’s many splendid columns: all represent time well spent. Very well spent, even.
I sprung from bed quite early one morning last week, and knowing I’d not be buying a ticket back to slumberville, I laced up my runners, suck on my hi-vis jacket and set off for a walk.
Walking never appealed to me much, but I’ve altogether changed my view on such ambling of late; maybe it’s got something to do with the slow creep towards 40, who knows, but anyway it’s a realisation I’m most grateful for.
Surrounded as I am by fields, trees and thickets, there was no traffic at all as I strolled along. The only interaction I had on my walk was with some calves, who clicked their hooves in my direction upon sight of me as I passed their paddock, before human and bovine interest alike set their sights on something else.
Just down the road from there, I encountered a robin perched atop a road sign. Days later, my unexpected meeting with Mr Wordsworth (via Mr Houlihan), as the birds chirruped sweetly along, reminded me of the “blessing in the air” this time of year tends to provide.
Savouring the ordinary is something a great many more of us would benefit from if we open up our minds to it. But only if we learn to stop. To say no. To take time out. To smell the roses. To see the goodness in life.
On Friday night, I shall be among the hundreds in Saint Nicholas’s Church (Carrick-on-Suir) to hear Fionnbar Walsh talk about the legacy which his late son Donal has gifted to the youth of this country. But of course, Donal Walsh’s message was not solely intended for those not yet in adulthood.
Life can be very tough sometimes, downright unbearable even. But life can and will get better, even if reaching that particular destination involves much pain, not only for the sad, lonely or depressed individual, but for those who care and love for them.
Filling your day from dawn to dusk with activities, duties and responsibilities is not the answer – at least it no longer is for me.
Of course some cannot avoid such a fate for a whole host of reasons, but to those who have a choice, stop. Just stop. Put the brakes on. Open your sitting room window. Listen to the birds.
“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her,” wrote Wordsworth, words Con Houlihan made known to me through his own masterful pennings.
Spring, it would appear, has finally sprung. And it behoves all of us who can get out there to do just that. And revel in it.