I am confused for a moment, remembering a writing course I took in Dingle, during the time I lived in Ireland.   It was given by a poet famous for her writings in the Irish language, the brilliant and ginger haired Nuala ni Dhomnaill, who was down from where she was living in Dublin for a while.  We met in a second floor classroom of the Diseart, a building designated for the teaching of Celtic Studies.  It is up a hill, near the top of the town, where Nuns are buried in a small cemetery surrounded by calla lilies.

In my memory, it is Winter.  My classmates and I are on tea break.  We huddle around an electric kettle, holding the same ceramic mugs that are used by other groups that meet in the building, like the Wednesday Art class I also attend.  In Nuala’s class, I sit next to Emer and Orna, my fellow writers from the Dingle Writers Group.  They are forever annoyed with Louis, Emer’s father in law,  who is a little too happy with his own poetry for her, or for Orna’s taste.  When we go around the circle, each of us reading out our  poem for the week, the bearded and smiling Louis, proprietor of a successful pottery business,  manages to slip in an extra one, sometimes two more poems than we are supposed to be allowed to read.    Nuala lets him get away with it every time.   For the most part, I enjoy the show.

And I listen to Irish being spoken, along with English.  I don’t catch much of the meaning, not having gotten past the beginning level in Irish class.  No surprise, Irish is one more course I have taken here in one of the Diseart’s classrooms.  Its upstairs rooms flank a hallway featuring the floral carpet of another era, with extravagant blossoms existing on an impossibly huge scale.  On one side of the hallway,  the windows of the classrooms look out over the churchyard.   The grass is low and green there, dotted all over with tiny daisies.  Louis, Emer, Orna and I all write in English, though I have known Orna to bring the occasional poem written in Irish along with her to our monthly writing group.

A few weeks in, there comes a night in Nuala’s class, when I decide I have had enough of Irish.   After stewing about it for a while, I stand and head out the door.  I may have gone for a walk down by the dark harbor, I don’t know.  But I am back in my place again the next time, my poem for the week written, listening and watching.  I am welcome here, though this is a class supported by the Irish government for the purpose of keeping the language alive, and I a foreigner who hardly speaks it.  We read a poem by Paul Muldoon, who translates Nuala’s poetry into English, and writes in a gorgeous way himself.  It is a poem that strongly evokes Autumn, specifically Autumn  in America, as Irish people refer to this country.

After thinking about it a little more, I realize it may not have  been Winter when I stood with the others from Nuala’s class, chatting around the tea kettle.  Confusion is replaced with the certainty that we drank tea year round, wherever we went.   People used to find it funny that I could leave mine until it was cold and still enjoy drinking it.

What I do know about those seasons of drinking tea, and of writing, is that it was in that class I wrote what I consider a Summer poem.  Nuala picked up an orange, and after cutting it into pieces with a knife, passed one around to each of us.  She told us to close our eyes and to focus on the sharp taste of the fruit, and to let it bring to mind whatever it might before taking up our pens to write.   For me, this is the poem that came of that inspiration:



 As a child I found the secret place where bees lived underground.  It 

was next to where the boys had their fort, that dark and private 

 boys’ place where no one else was allowed.


 I kept the knowledge of the bees to myself.


 In Summer you could never trust them.  They lurked in the coolness 

 of the clover at evening.  I had been stung often enough to know

 that, but  didn’t stop walking barefoot there.


The bees were there again when I stood beside him under too

bright sun, and felt, but couldn’t say my heart was breaking.

 The air was heavy with  the vibration of wings and the softness

 of humming.


It was in Ireland that I first learned to walk alone at night.  I was in my first week of travelling along the West Coast,  on an Island known around the world as a tourist destination. It was surrounded by clear water, and was in most ways as unpretentious as your own back porch.  Earlier in the day, I had gone for a walk and been caught out in the rain.   Afterwards I was treated to a simple vision.  A white horse stood  beside a pale green house.  Above them a rainbow crossed the light gray sky.  The scene is etched in my mind as if I had photographed it.  I wondered then just what being in Ireland meant.

That evening, Aiofe, mini skirted proprietress of the place where I spent the few nights on the island, offered me a torch and some directions.  I had a reservation at the communal table of a North African chef who nightly conjured up a full course vegetarian meal for seven euro a person.  It is possible that he is still there.  By now he must have raised his prices.

With much less trepidation than I would have thought, I walked out into the darkness, light in hand and not much else to go on.  I arrived as I had been told, at the first landmark I was given, after several minutes walk through damp, chill air.   What I saw there warmed me inside, and set the tone for many future nights travelling alone on country roads and pathways.   On some of those walks, during more than five years that I spent living  in the West of Ireland,  I carried my own light.  On others I looked to moonlight to guide me.

Statues of the virgin mary had never meant much to me.  They were symbols of another religion, one I wasn’t born into, adult child that I am of a conscious choice to turn away from organized religion.  It is a decision I have a clear memory of making on a Sunday School morning, age 8.  At that placemarker, found on my night walking out on Inis mor, she stood in a grotto lit by a candle burning steadily inside a red glass.  I thought of the person, unknown to me who tended her light., and was glad of his or her unseen protection.  Standing in darkness, on my own in a strange place, some part of me came home.


This story is about me, though it is my intention to be somewhat anonymous in the telling of it.  I am naturally more at home behind the camera than in front of it.  I enjoy being close to the action.  Obviously that figured into my becoming involved with the theater, though the way it began felt more like fate than it did a conscious decision.  
  What is really most important about costuming for me is the love of storytelling.  Even though what happens onstage is not my particular individual story being told, I may have built the hat for one of the performers.   That hat may speak as clearly as anything she says or does while wearing it.   My hat might make such a bold statement that people talk about it after the show.  Or it may speak so softly that they absorb what it is saying without being conscious that it even exists.  That hat has a job to do.  That hat has a little bit of magic.