A Modern Day Seanchaí…

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” ~ Dorothy Parker

As I write a book about my travels and the journey towards that decision I’m writing this weekly journal alongside it.

I suppose it would be normal then that the themes will overlap here as I look to my daily life for examples of the ideas I’m thinking about and exploring in writing.

My life makes sense to me when I see it through a bunch of connected stories.

‘I’m bored’ whined Lucas yesterday. ‘That is so brilliant’ I tell him. ‘That means you need to go and make something or think about what you’d like learn about or play with. Ask yourself Louie what you want to make?’ I challenge him.

In my reading about swallows last week I read that there are swallows who don’t fly year round who prefer to spend the year close to the breeding ground. I liked that. It seems to fit perfectly with my thoughts about this week after having spending the day at my Uncle’s home.

Living in Ireland earlier this year opened me up to a wonderful world of wildness, mythology and folklore. It really inspired a creative channel inside of me. One I don’t fully understand and have yet to really tap into…I think it’s a deep, deep well and I’m just dipping the bucket in.

There is something magical about the Irish countryside and it’s people. There’s a pure honesty in the roaring winds and a country that is so lusciously green it shouts ALIVE and GROWING. Maybe it was the ruggedness. The sides of the roads where the berries are left to grow wild, the coastlines where the elements are in charge as the trees permanently sway to one side. Or, the humble, yet enduring paddock walls built by hand from stones and rocks with signs of life growing out of every crack. It was a kind of perfect mix of order within chaos. A slow – enduring life. Everyone that passed by on foot, by tractor or in a car waved ‘hello’. Even Eddie the school bus driver had time to say good morning each day.

Like most countries there is a history of unfathomable suffering. The stories of mothers seperated from their babies and children and the subsequent treatment of women and children hits right at my heart. The Irish are talking a lot about it and they write about it. In the short three months we lived there I think I learnt more about the Irish life and history from headlines and articles than I think I would have in 3 months in Australia. To me the headlines seemed to be less about politics and real estate and more about people and life. I freely admit to being blinkered by rose coloured glasses.

Of course it was a new land and I had an incredible amount of space to focus on the stories that interest me (human stories).  Or maybe it was because the Irish talk and write about themselves, their history and lives. I think it was probably a combination: timing, connection, Irish prose and me being ready to expand.

One of my favourite learnings was that of the historical figure of the Seanchaí. A traditional Gaelic storyteller and historian. They were servants to the chief and the tribe and were responsible for keeping track of and sharing the important information for their clan (the stories). The Irish are excellent at sharing stories – ‘what’s the craic?’ They’ll ask.

It can seem nosy to us but it’s not. It’s a genuine interest in the lives of those around them and one of the reasons I fell deeply in love with Ireland. I was once stopped by the local ranger whom I’d never met. He told me of a house that was coming up locally for sale (in case we were interested).

I think my uncle is a real-life modern day Seanchaí. Even with our limited language, my lack of Dutch and his lack of English we laugh and talk without a problem. I did google translate ‘adopted’ and told him I was considering being adopted by him. No need though – I already am. Anyone that is graced by his presence would feel welcomed into his home and heart.

We spent the day in his family’s schuur which translates in English as ‘barn’. I had a surprise birthday party here 20 odd years ago and it was probably back then the barn was transforming from working barn into the ‘living/working’ space that it is now.

I think dear Uncle G would be considered quite the opposite when it comes to my minimalist tendencies in relation to ‘stuff’. Yet, here in this barn there are layers of love and life. I love every single thing about this wonderful space.

The bunting from a 75th birthday and the 80th one that followed 5 years later stay put. They are important reminders of times spent in this place filled with great love, not clutter hidden in cupboards. This space tells great stories of life. Celebrations and gatherings filled with laughter, frivolity and sometimes tears. I have experienced it all here.

On this day last week, I laughed and smiled so hard with my family.  At my surprise birthday I was a typical 20 something year old and I drank and danced merrily without a care in the world – life was forever. Sadly, during a previous visit I had here 2 years ago I had the last conversation I would ever have with a favourite aunty. I’ve always felt a great connection with her despite living worlds apart. Her words from that day are a constant with me now and I hope to honour her wisdom in how I live my life.

Uncle G knows what matters to him and he pursues that with BIG love. How we go about creating our nests and lives looks very different and yet it’s the same. I think we all just want the same things.

‘I crave the tasty tentacles of octopi for tea/I like hot dogs, but I love hot frogs, and surely you’ll agree/A plate of soil with engine oil is a super recipe. I hardy need to mention that it’s practically free!’ ― Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach

Those same things we all want that are practically free, the moments we keep forever and escape to in our minds when we need the daydreams.

 

 

 

Originally my uncle grew cucumbers in his barn, the majority of his life was spent as a cucumber farmer.

Twenty years ago he became interested in grapes and his curiosity has been gently nurtured to where he is now…about to harvest another season of grapes.

Uncle G is 80 and he says that every year he learns something new about grape growing.

 

 

A little museum like also. My mum pointed out the type of stove her mother cooked on, the copper vase that carried the coal into the house for the fire heater and the handheld ploughs that were used to prepare the grounds for planting.

At times it feels like the ideal of a minimalist lifestyle has been taken over by the single word ‘declutter’. I have 55 things therefore I am a minimalist and maybe at different times I have contributed to that. Heck, look back and you’ll find posts about how to half your kids toys. Yet, stuff is only one part of feeling freedom and a living a life with purpose. I think it’s the relationship with stuff that matters not the amount. Here in Uncle G’s barn it feels like this is exactly what a full, curious, interesting and meaningful life looks like.

I’ll never sit still long enough to build a barn like this and I’m far too much of a free flying swallow to want to collect things but we are both free and I think we both live with minimalist principles.

For me minimalism has become about delicately considering what is important and what isn’t. ‘Stuff’ is only one piece of a ‘contentment’ puzzle. Even then we all have a different shaped puzzle piece of what amount of stuff looks right to us. I can’t help but feel a bit sad when the stories I read never move past the decluttering of ‘things’. Big shifts don’t happen because you empty your cupboards. It’s what you do with the space and ‘why’ you do it.

Sure I love an empty cupboard and am definitely of the travel ‘light’ crew but I can’t help but think that Uncle G has a fabulous lesson here in his barn. I’m sure he’s not buying this life from shopping malls and checking off lists…he’s just living in his life each day, following his curiosities and building his armour by living with heart. He had been up since 4.30 on this day last week helping his son pick grapes.

If we stick with a one dimensional idea about ourselves or rigidly stick with what we know and pursue what is easy – wouldn’t life be boring?

Boredom and curiosity are both slippery slopes for me. I can be either a hungry beast for nothing (boredom) or a hungry beast for something (freedom). Extremes you see. But I choose to feed the curiosity beast (the something) because ultimately that’s the one that feeds me and keeps me just a little more free. I do allow myself time to slide down the boredom slide otherwise I’d never know which freedom ladder to take. Just like I do with my kids.

Doing dishes, folding washing sure we all have to do that kind of stuff but aaah that’s a good time to dream about the Paris you’ve just read about or the lily fields you’ve just painted or the wild run you’ve just had.

I am a wanderer, a slow liver, a nature lover, an introvert, a seeker, a smiler, a crier, a woman of extremes, a deep thinker and so much more. Sometimes we feed one part of our soul and other times we need to shift towards another. My wandering has definitely been nurtured for a bit and now I am taking the time to reflect on just what happened there! Gosh it was amazing and hard and a brilliant kind of slow chaos and I learnt loads about the world, myself and my family.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learnt to recognise when I’m masking boredom by numbing it with bullshit (and there’s plenty of that around ready to takeover your mind and tell you what you need). When I’m bored I usually need to make something, an actual something or a something with the situation. Make a beanie, some muffins, a fitter body, a stronger mind, a new hobby, find some new inspiration…sitting in the discontentment usually tells me which part of my soul needs filling.

 

I had a little moment this week where I took some time to cry. I cried for the birds that no longer wake me, the sounds of the rain on the top of the campervan (right above my bed) or the lighting at my window, things people have said to me that I’m still hanging on to (the old hurts), the uneasiness of transitioning into this new curiosity of mine (I feel like a pretend writer often), I missed the wild children who would wake up and go outside to play lego, the loss of my oldest who made me laugh so much when we travelled (he’s a high school kid now)…and maybe a bit more.

I guess that’s life though isn’t it, movement and change in a forward direction. My friend April said that it’s all temporary and she is right. My trip feels like it was temporary as we shift into a new chapter. Writing it up seems like a great way to honour that incredible time.

There is beauty in all of this for me because I feel curious and free. Free to start growing layers that are build from honesty and purpose. I am crying about the things I’m feeling now and the things I need to let go of to move forwards – that seems like healthy crying. I’m alive in the moment of this phase of my life, not too far forward, not too far back just here taking this moment in and living it.

In the crispness of sitting in this sadness I could mourn what I was missing and create a plan with small steps. A stick collecting adventure in the woods on this particular day, and an overnight adventure this weekend to reclaim some wildness and togetherness.

My garden courtyard in just a few weeks is showing new layers of life and love and isn’t life wonderful with you’re surrounded by a story that you’re a part of creating:

 

The colour of the flowers come from my mum. She left me with plants to plant before returning to Australia after her visit. I sat in the beauty of them drinking my cuppa and thinking of my mum.

I took her hiking in Ireland and in Holland. The first snap was from the daily laneway run I took each day and the second is this local heathland here in Holland. My cousin tells me it’s purple for one month of the year! How lucky we are to experience it this month.

(From here in this post is where this morning I took my camera out of the cupboard. I uploaded the travel photos and deleted the memory card to start a fresh adventure with my good friend and trusty Olympus. I miss that part of me – the documentary photographer because I notice it all and that seeker/noticing part of me she needs nurturing and air time.) 

The lavender I admire daily, bought at the market on my first visit. It reminds me of my friend. The incredibly talented, ever gracious and wonderful confidant City Hippy Farm Girl.

The bird feeder the kids and I built to invite the birds into our space. There is a wonderful walk in the woods connected to collecting these sticks.

There is also the wonderful man who curiously stopped me on that walk to point out a flock of swallows. I am not joking! That is why I know my current path is the right one (and my spirit animal may actually be a swallow not a wolf – I’m open to change).

The collection of herbs to be planted and the basil that reminds me of Italy and Jimmy’s love of the Caprese salad.

This week as I continue to dive into writing – I fed beast of curiosity. I began listening to Richard Fielder’s Ancient things series and I popped the podcast cherry as a source of information (Kristin ;)). Which Greek god do you think this led me to and will end up referenced in my book?

Travel is a great way to feed my curiosity about the world. Observing, learning and immersing myself in difference to notice things – and of course the head space. I can’t travel to new countries everyday but I can travel in my daily life.

It’s probably why I love taking photos. I see things. I see stories. Stories that are connected to meaning.

It is probably why I love IG. It has proven to be a great way to document the past years and certainly the daily photos I posted of our trip and Sydney life will form the basis of where I look back for my book.

There was a part of IG I struggled with towards the end of my trip and as I settled into this new chapter but I’m trying to find that middle ground again. I wanted to step out of that space but I miss sharing little stories and the people I have such a fond connection with. I want to continue travelling with them and their stories…it’s the bullshit I need to let go of.

 

I think my dear old uncle and I are a tad similar. Different in how we get there, different in the stuff we hang on to but both curious about the world we live in.

Escaping into what provides meaning to us as we feed our curious beasts.

I can only hope that one day I too will be a great keeper of the stories of my clan.

Oh and Louie…he made a boat and then researched the endeavour to get a better idea of what he may need to add (Zoë joined him).

 

 

If you’re still reading. A long story I know (it’s why I need to write a book) it’s a tiny fraction of all the thoughts that go through my head to connect dots. Yep, I get that it’s unbalanced with words and pictures but I don’t actually care. Gosh I’d never get anything published if I tried to make it perfect. I’m on an enduring slow ride here and honestly chaos is a part of that, this kind of chaos (trying new things) not the busy overwhelming kind of chaos.

Oh, and music always….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “A Modern Day Seanchaí…

  1. Hi Fran,

    I love the flow of your stories, from Ireland to Holland, swallows to family, and of course pictures to match 🙂

    What spoke to me today were the comments on stuff – moving past the decluttering, finding space and what you do with that space. “Stuff is only one piece of the contentment puzzle and we all have a different shaped puzzle.” Great! Yes! Contentment, everyone wants to find a life of contentment. However, I think it is that elusive moment. It is a moment to recognize though and often fail to do. Everything in our life is a moment and we need to acknowledge each for what it is and what it means to us. We can be generally content if we pay attention to all the moments.

    Also got me thinking about finding what brings meaning to your life, but on a smaller scale, like what you like to do with your time. For some reason, my husband and I never seem to run out of things we want to do. All the possibilities of things to do outside, all the things we want to create, fix, change, learn about, research, find answers to etc. It’s the way our minds work. I used to read the encyclopedia as a kid, now I can just look it up on Google. You are always my good reminder to bring some calm and downtime into this list 🙂

    xx Lisa

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    • Thank you for sticking with it Lisa, it was quite a novel ;).You’ve been writing some great words yourself these past few weeks.

      I think when we are young we are excellent at being in the moment. Feeling whatever we feel. For me as I got older and the noise from the outside got louder I somehow forgot to stop in the moment. I actually remember the day I actually felt the crisp air I was breathing, it was after a yoga class in Sydney. I remember being quite gobsmacked…this is mindfulness! Crap it wasn’t that hard after all and I’d even read a book on it, maybe I just wasn’t ready till that moment. It was much easier from that day.

      Ha Ha I didn’t read the encyclopedia but I adore that you did. We all have our extremes hey, sometimes dipping in at the other end is an important way to challenge ourselves. Hmmm sounds a lot like no ideas month! Me, I’m embracing ideas instead of letting them all slide. Extremes you see.

      F xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As usual so thought provoking and evocative. Your storytelling is already wonderful, I think you will make a most suitable keeper of the stories.
    Today I took away the need to be true to myself, to honour who I am. I feel that over the years here, I’ve stopped following myself and started to follow the generic person society tells me I should be. Why don’t I love my home? Because it doesn’t reflect me, many of the things in it don’t have a part in my story, they show what is expected but not who I am. Your uncles shed tells a story. Maybe as our culture ages we will become more comfortable with our stories and not be afraid to show them, even if it means being unique.
    Now I know why I see swallows all year round as I walk along the beach. They live in the shrubs on the beach edge and never leave. I love seeing them fly around me diving and weaving, such gorgeous little birds.
    Too many thoughts and too slow typing on my phone to get a coherent comment down, wish I could walk and talk this all with you.
    Cheers Kate

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    • Aww Kate this was such a heartfelt and beautiful response. I really loved reading it and I know you worry about words but you have them and they are really meaningful.

      Yes I can totally relate to what your saying. I think when I started this ‘simplicity’ journey I kind of came out – embraced my differences. I then realised that there are a few more of us out there and then my world changed. I started hanging out in my own skin more.

      I was thinking about your comment about honouring yourself and yes I think that is such a truth. I wear other hats of course but my soul, my mind and my heart they’re me and it’s up to me to nurture them. I just want to identify as myself. For a while my life wasn’t reflecting me and it kind of just creeps up on you doesn’t it?

      Society aah so much to answer for with all it’s noise. I really work hard at reducing the noise in my life, too many opinions to too much advice clutters my own thoughts. I do try to stick with one idea, challenge, project or book at a time.

      Well I did feel like we had a walk and talk. I though a lot about your comments and I have some hiking photos on my screen as I type now. 🙂 I’d love to hike in Tassie one day so you never know.

      Fran x

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    • Kate, the best thing about being over 50 is I feel so confident to be myself. I have cut down my wardrobe and don’t care if I have less clothes or wear the same jewelry every day. I have gotten rid of things in our house and it’s not a magazine spread. If something works out it does, if not I move on. (All of the above so unlike my younger self.) Most of all, the things I do, the hobbies I have, the way we choose to spend our time. It is so much easier when I don’t care about others, just about my family. That I think though is a big thing – I have my husband and we have similar viewpoints on most things. When we don’t, it lets us have “discussions” lol!
      Lisa

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  3. This “I think it’s the relationship with stuff that matters not the amount. Here in Uncle G’s barn it feels like this is exactly what a full, curious, interesting and meaningful life looks like.” goosebumps … wonderful goosebumps!

    Loving these reads Fran you beautiful swallow!!!

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    • Why thank you for reading my TAW classmate (and awesome friend).

      Honestly it was like a bam moment and kind of cool because I’ve really been thinking about how my own relationship with stuff wasn’t my focus anymore.

      It is kind of a shallow focus after a while if you have nothing else going on.

      Of course I don’t believe in buying crap that ends up in landfill and I really do hope that the grossness of crass consumption becomes something people take away from the decluttering speak.

      The bookshelf doesn’t have to be empty!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a read!
    I. Can. Not. Wait..for your book xx

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