Thursday, 29 December 2011

Twenty 12

Poster from the movie 2012

According to Maya Calender 2012 is the year that the world ends – or some feel it could mark the start of a whole new spiritual and enlightened era.
Either way, the new year is here, a whole 12 months full of opportunities, dreams and inspiration – or just over 11 months to doomsday... we better make it a good one eh?!

I am not so good with new year resolutions, I think because usually they are too general. I need specific goals and plans. And yet top of my list this year, as it was last year is:
To Make Myself Happy.

Strange I know, vague of course and selfish – most definitely.
But you see I have this awful problem, as I believe many of us do for relying on other people to make us happy.
And they cant. No matter how much we push them.

A little me time, some pampering, reading, writing, watching old movies, listening to classical music. It is always the little things that bring a smile to our faces.
This year – do them, I hope to. Forget about the washing up – schedule your time in. Don't change your plans to suit someone else, be selfish, smile.

Will you be making New Year resolutions on January1?

But to be more specific and goal driven I have decided to instead of making plans for the whole years based on a five minute whim on New Years Eve I will make out a month by month plan.
Pick five things and stick to it all month. And if I don't succeed (“get away negative and realistic voices”) then I can try all over again the next month, add to and take away as I please.
(Lists are one of the things that make me happy...!)

A little 'To list' for 2012
Make a start on my award winning book is in there somewhere in 2012, as is going on more adventures, taking more photos, seriously trying to make some head way with the family tree, reading, writing, and getting out in the fine country air.

Travel plans are also well underway, I have adventures lined up for the first six months of the year and can't wait to get out and do them.

So out with the old and in with the new and as Oprah Winfrey once said “Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.”

Are you looking forward to 2012 - anything big planned?

Sunday, 25 December 2011

There is no place like home

Home is where the heart is, it is where you hang your hat.
In the lead up to Christmas, many of us around the world will make the long or short trip home to spend the season with family and friends. And if we cannot make it home, it will certainly be on our minds on December 25.

So what is the big deal – where, who, what is home?

Some of us travel the world to find that something special only to find that it was at home all along, nestled amongst the rugged hills and expansive lakes or over the apartment block, across the estate wall and hidden down the back of a 20 year old couch.

Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to. 
-John Ed Pearce

Home can be a building, a set of people, a memory, a feeling.
In Ireland we pride ourselves on providing that 'home' feeling. Countless times I have heard visitors a few days away from leaving the country sigh and say “I feel like I am home.”
Third generation Irish all over the world talk about coming home – although they might never have stepped foot on the island, why?

The funny thing is that we usually leave our own country to discover a new culture, to experience something different, only to take refuge in places, people and things that remind us of our own homeland.

For me, I think it is acceptance, a feeling of belonging. Somewhere where you don't have to try and fit in, you automatically do. Of course memories play a big part – positive and negative ones.
But if your home place is knocked down, or the people you grow up with move away, if you can no longer see the places you once played in, or touch the people you once loved then where is home?
Home is where your heart is.

Maybe that is why Ireland is referred to many as home – maybe we steal hearts. Or maybe we welcome people in, allow them to relax, to be accepted, to get comfortable – to belong. I hope we do.

Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin. 
There is no fireplace like you own fireplace – There is no place like home.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Winter Solstice and the old New Year

Happy New Year! 
WHAT you don't celebrate the New Year on December 21st?

5,000 years ago in Ireland, the Stone Age Farmers would celebrate the start of a new year, the beginning to the end of Winter and the prospect of a bright new season on December 21, the Winter Solstice.

Light entering the tomb.

Scientifically it is the period when the earth's axial tilt is furthest away from the sun, but in lay woman's terms it is the shortest day of the year, the longest night making way for longer days.
All over the world different cultures interpret the event differently, in Ireland we believe it was an event of huge celebration, sacrifice, prayers and more than likely some alcohol, dancing and general merriment!

The event was such a big deal that 500 years before the pyramids of Giza were constructed, Stone Age farmers had co-operated to build Newgrange Passage Tomb, in the sacred Boyne Valley in Co Meath. The magnificent ancient temple which was re-discovered in the 17th century still conceals secrets about it's exact function.
One thing we do know is that it was built exactly to capture the special Winter Solstice. Every year on December 21 at approx 9am a narrow beam of light enters the roof box, travels down the passage and fills the rear chamber with light. The extraordinary occasion lasts only 17 minutes.

Newgrange Passage Tomb
(c) fifiheavey

To imagine the thought, work and effort that went into capture this moment 5,000 years ago blows my mind. And it certainly places a huge significance around the Winter Solstice and December 21. Of course the end of a bitter winter, of almost hibernation and the prospect of longer days and more sun for a population that relied so heavily on the land for survival is epic. But I think there was more to the event than that, something spiritual, a rebirth of life.

Roof box where the sun light enters during Winter Solstice above the entrance to the tomb.

This year 31,531 people applied in the Winter Solstice lottery to be chosen to see the event at Newgrange. (No I didn't get it!)
The sun enters the tomb from December 19 -23, but only fills the entire chamber on December 21. 50 names are randomly picked, and a group of ten get to see the captured sun on each day.
What a way to start the new year before it even begins!
To apply for the 2012 lottery enter here.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Get away, run away

Do you have a runaway place? A specific location you have bookmarked in your mind that in a time of crisis you can call upon. Somewhere to get away from it all, a site where you will find inspiration, serenity and hope?

This may seem like a strange idea, most people probably don't forecast a crisis in their life, they don't prepare for a doomsday, a catastrophe, a life changing event, or even a slight break down.
I have.

St John's Lake, Co Leitrim
(c) fifiheavey

I know there will come a point in my life when I will need to escape, maybe for a few hours, a day, weekend, a week or even in the extreme six months. I know this because the universe is guaranteed to throw some rotten eggs along life's journey. And when something happens, something that unhinges my normal daily rhythm I will need to stop, think and re-organise. In order to this I will need to runaway, to my chosen place and ponder.

(c) fifiheavey

Hence, my runaway place. But I can't just have one place, depending on the problem, the time, my budget, life circumstances, I need to have a few options:

A few hours - this place needs to be close by, easily assessed and cheap. For me it is on top of a no longer used reservoir tank beside my homeplace. I have used this place quite often to ponder things over, from it I see into at least four different Irish counties, I see towns, mountains, roads, houses and cars. The air is clear and fresh and with almost no disturbance. All I need to get there is a pair of wellies!

A day – a whole day to discuss the pros and cons, to debate with myself. A place of beauty and serenity is needed here and most importantly silence. In Ireland the best place for all three is Glendalough, Co Wicklow. The valley of the two lakes has a monastic site and round tower and is perfect place to listen to your inner self while taking in the rugged landscape.

A weekend- a few days to really indulge in deep thought. With this amount of time I need to really evaluate life. Here I have a choice of two destinations: Athens and Rome. Both places hark back to the beginning of civilisation. Ancient ruins, deep excavations, narrow streets and excellent food. Perfect places to seek inspiration and yet also realise how small me and my problems are in the scheme of things.

Trevi Fountain, Rome
(c) fifiheavey

A week- a mini break down, a need for escape and a quest to find answers. To re-discover what is important, to re-organise priorities. Israel is a must. It amazed me in a few days, imagine a whole week? If I went looking for answers, I believe I could find them here, here in the Holy Land, where the majority of world religions converge and intersect. The country, although controversial is special.

Dome of the Rock and Wailling Wall, Jerusalem

Six months- this must be serious! Things must have really went belly up and I can only imagine that my mind is in a jumble, that there are plenty of voices shouting to heard, but no one is listening. This sort of situation demands only one location: India. I have not been there, I know very little about it but have heard and read about people who have had some amazing experiences there. Thousands of people seek spirituality here, submerge themselves in prayer, meditation and thought and re-emerge the better from it.

So if you see me packing my bags for India – stay clear and wish me well!

Do you have a runaway place?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

City vs Country

I love cities, I love the noise, the pace, lights, people and 24/7 entertainment.

Cities are sexy.

But after a visit to Dublin's Fair City a few weekends ago, I have started to rethink my perception.
Because I also love silence, simplicity, space and most of the beautiful aspect of no traffic!

Maybe I am getting older, maybe I have no patience what so ever or maybe I need to own up to being a through and through bogger.* But in the war of city vs country I think country is edging its way out.

People everywhere! Taksim Square, Istanbul
(c) fifiheavey

Born in London but reared in the country side I have spent all my life wanting to live in a city. When I got the chance to do so in the best city in the world: Melbourne I loved every minute of the five months I spent there. And since my return to Ireland have dreamed of one more chance at city living.

Why? Because of everything. Everything a city offers to a young lady like myself. Thousands of people flashing before my eyes every day, never ending possibilities to spend my evenings and 24/7 entertainment. Close proximity to shops, events and glamorous venues.
Who wouldn't want to the live the high life?!
But in my fictional city life I had forgotten about the downside to any city.
A need for patience,a tolerance of traffic, fumes, too many people, too many places, no silence, no reflection and because of the high cost of living – no money.

I often quarrel about having to drive 30 -60 minutes for a good night out, or to an event, or to my favorite shop. But it takes the same amount of time or longer to cross Dublin city, or indeed any city and don't even get me started on public transport!

Plenty of space in the country. Downpatrick head, co Mayo

Is Dublin amazing – yes. Did I have a super good time – yes. Will I return soon – yes.
Do I want to live there ... eh no not really.

When travelling I love cities, they have so much variety, so much to see and they really showcase their culture, but for a more stable residence I think I will have to pick country over city.... for now!

City Vs Country – which one wins for you?

*Irish derogatory term used by city people to describe those who reside in the country side, whether or not the land they live on is in fact bog. A bog is not a toilet facility but a wetland that accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant material that when harvested can be used as fuel.