The Importance Of Creating Things That Don’t Last

Birthday cakes are hard work. First there’s the planning, the choosing of flavours and decorations to match the one being celebrated. Then the time comes and there’s the baking, decorating, lighting, singing, and finally eating. Hopefully someone remembered to snap a photo, because once the knife goes in, the culinary work of art is quickly dispersed to paper plates and plastic forks that were created to be used just once, before going to fill the rubbish bin.

Continue reading The Importance Of Creating Things That Don’t Last

33 Wildflowers

In the weeks we’ve lived in lockdown, we’ve discovered that Parcheesi is a fun game, car parks make good bicycle playgrounds when there aren’t cars in them, and there are paths to walk on near us that we never knew about. Having a 2km travel limit for weeks on end has forced us to be creative, and to look more closely at the familiar things in front of us.

Normally, if we want to see flowers in the Spring, we go to the old mansion house a few minutes away, where the formal walled gardens are open to the public and kept blooming with exotic beauty from around the world. Ever since we moved here, we’ve felt lucky to live near such a place. Now that place is closed. Instead, we walk in the industrial estate.

Continue reading 33 Wildflowers

The Things We Remember When Normal Life Stops

Normal life evaporated in Ireland today. It’s like the nation caught the virus, and went to bed. Schools are closed, events are cancelled, and the streets are getting quiet (although the shops have been crazy). It feels like the world is turning upside down, burying the life we’re used to and bringing up uncertainty and fear in its place. And the fear is real.

No one knows for sure when this will end, or what it will cost us in lives and livelihoods. We do know this, though: Normal life is good. We already miss it. And maybe that’s a silver lining to these dark clouds – we remember what we love. The steady rhythms of normal life can make us sleepy and distracted, but now we’re awake. Now we remember:

Continue reading The Things We Remember When Normal Life Stops

The Man In 38F

Somewhere over the Atlantic, there’s a metal tube with wings. Inside, a man sits in a seat called 38F, surrounded by strangers. And the strangest thing of all is the fact that he’s a stranger, too. He doesn’t feel like one, because he knows where he came from and where he’s going and why. He knows someone. He knows the man in 38F. At least, he knows him better than he knows any of the people around him.

But they don’t.

Continue reading The Man In 38F

The Small Choices Shape The Big Ones

They say life is full of choices, and they couldn’t be more right. Every moment we’re awake, we’re making a choice of some kind or another: a choice to do what we’re doing instead of something else, to do it joyfully or bitterly, to notice the people around us or use them, to say something or not, to say it one way or another, to wait in silence or fill the time with social media, what to eat, what to wear, how fast to walk, how fast to drive, and so on and on and on. But in the midst of all this half-conscious choosing, a few choices stand out. We know them well. They are The Big Ones:

Continue reading The Small Choices Shape The Big Ones

Exotic Escapes And Ordinary Days

Summertime. The beaches are calling, and the exotic places of Earth are waiting for me to take a selfie with them. This is the season when we carve out time to put ordinary life on hold, put to-do lists in time out, and let responsibilities rest. For a few days, or a couple of weeks if we can get them, we are free.

…until it’s time to go home and return to ordinary days full of ordinary people and ordinary jobs and food and conversations about traffic and plans for the next holiday. Holidays can be so nice that they can tempt us to see the months and weeks of regular work in between as just a preparation for our next chance to get away. But what if all of this ordinary stuff in between is more than just a savings plan for another escape? What if it’s actually our life? And what are we missing by wishing it away?

Continue reading Exotic Escapes And Ordinary Days

The Hidden (Mental) Work In Housework

I’ve been doing extra chores this week, since my wife Jessica is out of the country. Even with the freezer full of food she left us, it still takes a lot of time and effort to keep things going around here. Dishes and clothes and bathrooms don’t clean themselves, and it doesn’t matter how many times I brush the floor, it’s dirty again. I knew this was coming, and I do housework anyway, but there’s another side of the job that I’ve found more difficult than the extra physical labour involved in being the only adult in a house with three children. There’s a hidden weight in housework that is heavier than all the dishes and laundry and dirt combined: The mental strain of keeping up with all the various things that need to happen, and when, and how.

Continue reading The Hidden (Mental) Work In Housework

The Middle Years

My wife and I got married 15 years ago this week. Shortly after, I wrote a short poem for my new bride:

Are there seasons to love, new months and years bring?
If seasons there are, our love is the Spring
A sapling still budding, fresh fruit on the vine
With roots planted deep in the well of Divine

Must needs there be Winter? I haven’t a clue
My prayer is to always be growing the New
But seasons can come, and seasons can go
Our love will remain, it will always be so

Though slowly, yet surely, this oak of the Lord
Will grow up precisely as it has been told
Till stands in God’s garden a tree strong and true
That brings Him a smile as He’s passing through

I suppose it’s natural when you begin something to think of the ending. But there’s something else I didn’t think of so much back then, something we’re living a lot of right now. It’s something you might call “the middle”, or in the words of the poem, that “slowly, yet surely” bit. Saplings may be full of exciting potential, and mature oaks of awe-inspiring strength, but it’s the transformation from one to the other that accounts for the majority of the life of the tree. And our marriage.

Continue reading The Middle Years