The Path of Happiness

healy pass.jpg

I’ve been thinking a lot about paths lately. Primarily-because my beloved is constructing a gravel path at the side of the house. Work on the path commenced two years ago, continued for about a week, then stopped and it’s stayed stopped ever since.

(The problem being that the job list is too long, the days too short and the bank balance insufficient for the various demands on it!)

During the stoppage, the route from wash house to washing line became perilous. The dug out section would fill with water in winter, becoming quite moat like at times. It all looked a bit like a building site. Very unfinished and unloved.

I have always been partial to this particular snippet of zen wisdom.

‘There is no path to happiness, Happiness is the path’

At the moment, I am taking this very literally. Happiness is my gravel path.  Every time I look out the kitchen window, I’m overjoyed. No more ankle twisting forays to the washing line for me!

There is something very metaphorical about paths. There was a time, a few years ago, that someone very close to me was sick.  They had travelled a long way down a path where the only glimmer of light to be found was at the bottom of bottle. It looked as if there was no way back.

But there was. With help and support they got back on track, kicked the bottle and found some real joy in life.

At the time, I discovered a poem by Patrick Kavanagh about a hospital, which had an uncanny resemblance to the hospital I was spending so much time visiting.

Let me quote you a few lines:

A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward
Of a chest hospital: square cubicles in a row
Plain concrete, wash basins - an art lover's woe,
Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored. 
But nothing whatever is by love debarred,
The common and banal her heat can know.
The corridor led to a stairway and below
Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard. 

Our  hospital had a garden surrounded by a gravel path.

Walking around the garden, talking to other people in a similar boat was an intrinsic part of the recovery process.

‘The Hospital’ became a sort of mantra for me during that period, because of Kavanagh’s unique ability to find beauty, hope and radiance in ordinariness.

It was what I needed to believe in.

During visits, we too trudged around the path  enjoying the spring sunshine, the crunch of the gravel, and reflecting on the inexhaustible adventure of it.

Forgive me if this post has been a bit meandering. Paths are a bit like that. Sometimes it takes longer than you expect to get to the end of them. Sometimes you don’t end up where you expected.






Lady Alone…


This week I am alone. No big deal, right? A lot of  people are alone a lot of the time.

Not me, though. I have been ensconced in family life for what feels like forever.

Not so long ago, I couldn’t eat a meal without a baby crying or a toddler tantruming. I certainly couldn’t have a shower in peace. There was a time I thought I’d never sleep again or talk to my friends again.

Those years have whizzed by in a blur of noise, squabbles, children’s parties, school and food fads.  There was the time small boy had a  seizure, then big boy had a collapsed lung. The panics, dramas and joys all intertwined in that soap opera known as family life.

I’ve worried, fretted and aged in an attempt to keep the show on the road, keep the troops happy – or at the very least, not too traumatised…

But things change. Kids grow up and move on and our parental job description changes.

‘ Cheer them on-do their weekend laundry and provide a safe haven as and when required. ‘

Happily, I’m not yet at the point of waving them goodbye and wallpapering my empty nest. But I am getting a taster of what it might feel like…

It all started with big boy getting a job. Having finished school, he’s spending the summer washing pots to earn some money for college. So that’s big boy gone. Hostage to the dirty pot producing public. I miss him- big time, but couldn’t be more proud.

And now Ger, medium and pre-teen are off for five days. Pre-teen is doing a computer course in Cork and needs family on side to cheer him on, make his sandwiches and collect him at 3.30.

Which leaves moi and the dogs.  Alone. Holding the metaphorical fort.

So how does it feel?

On the plus side:

It’s nice and peaceful.

If I clean something up- it stays clean. 

Mealtimes are infinitely simpler. 

Wash up is infinitely simpler. 

Laundry is infinitely simpler

I can breathe freely (The house is free of deodorants, bodyspray, hairspray and perfume)

Interestingly, whilst day one in ‘alone city‘ had a bit of a holiday feeling, day two is a somewhat more sombre and restrained affair. Whilst there are no squabbles or raised voices, neither is there any silliness, no laughs, no hugs. Even the dogs look a bit subdued.

That old truism;

‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ is kicking in.

Big boy has rang to check in with me five times (fall over in surprise!)

The times I have begged him to send a simple, ‘I am OK,’ text when he’s out and about. Now he’s making actual unprompted calls to see if I am OK!!

Medium and pre-teen have texted multiple messages of love and smiley faces- (aww sweet, eh?)

It transpires that they miss me, and I miss them.

And what about all those things I constantly moan about? i.e chemical sprays choking me, people dirtying things up the minute I clean them, hormones (theirs not mine, of course!) endless scheduling requests.

I’d be lying if I said they don’t matter a toss- just give me back my babies.

They do matter a bit- but not that much.