Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Gitanjali by Tagore

I thought that my voyage had come to its end, at the last limit of my power, that the path before me was closed, that provisions were exhausted, and the time come to take shelter in silent obscurity. But I find that Thy will knows no end in me, and when old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The War of Art

I haven't blogged for a while. Indeed I haven't written anything for a while. Yes, I've been on one of those long voyages through the dark. (Is it getting harder the older I get or does it just feel that way?) I'd be lying if I said I wasn't set back by People of the Great Journey's lack of success in the world. A blow to my self-belief, confidence and love of writing. But this wonderful book by Steven Pressfield, which a younger writer sent to me recently, admonishes me for that reaction. At the very least, Pressfield points out, failure in art still puts you in the arena as opposed to the sidelines, stands or parking lot! Giving up is quite simply unprofessional and a surrender to that insidious evil Resistance. So it's time to get back on the horse. Get back to work. Here's a relevant quote from Goethe found in the book: Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Christmas Carol

I've just finished my annual reading of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Yes, as always, I wept for Tiny Tim. I love this story. It is beautifully written, the characters are wonderful - indeed mythic! - and the tale always puts me in the Christmas spirit. The illustration on the left is from the first edition, by artist John Leech. I'd love to see a copy of that work. Meanwhile, I am slowly but surely getting sorted for the day. The ham has been ordered as my sister does the turkey; the tree is up, being the real thing and quite lovely; and Finn has made delicious egg nog while I've made mulled apple punch. There are still cards to be written and presents to be bought - upcoming trips to Dublin and Powerscourt House will clinch the latter - and then I can put my feet up, ready to enjoy the big day. May I wish you all a very happy Christmas and Yuletide season.

Friday, August 01, 2014


Went to see this amazing play the other night at the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire. It is based on the terrible story of the young woman who was fatally raped and beaten on a bus in Delhi some years back. A story that shocked the world. At first I didn't want to go. Strange, perhaps, given that I've dealt with similarly painful issues in People of the Great Journey. But books are not as immediate as theatre and you can always close them when they get too hard to handle. You're stuck in your seat in a theatre. No exit. I'm glad I got up the courage to go. It's a stunning piece of human rights activism and art. Compelling. Distressing. Beautiful at times.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cill Rialaig Artist Retreat

Not long back from a week-long residency in an artist's retreat in County Kerry called Cill Rialaig. The brain-child of the amazing Noelle Campbell Sharpe, it is a restored famine village - all stone houses! - overlooking beautiful Ballinskelligs Bay. All around us, mountain and field with sheep, before us a stretch of blue water dotted with islands. Ahhhhhh. I got to work on my latest novel The Magdalene, a book I started 25 years ago and have finally returned to! It is incredibly complicated and I needed to lay down plot time-lines and character chronologies while wrestling the structure into shape. Done and dusted! As the summer solstice occurred while I was there, I got a decent bonfire going and called out the other residents to enjoy it. Made several wonderful new friends, a Finnish visual artist Sirpa Pyykko, an American poet Jodie Hollander and an American visual artist Kathy Kissik. We've all agreed to meet up again, possibly in a retreat somewhere in Finland. If you pop over to my regular blog you'll see a few pics of nearby Skellig Michael, a place that was on my bucket list and I finally got to see. All in all, a brilliant week that also included jumping into the pristine, freezing-cold, glorious sea.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Bray Arts Club

I've been invited to give a "show and tell" at the wonderful Bray Arts Club on the seafront in my hometown of Bray. As most of the members of this club are artists themselves - painters, musicians, sculptors, actors, playwrights, novelists and the like - I'll be drawing aside the curtain to show how the wizard worked away on her dials and cranks. I'll present a Powerpoint with images of the mansions that inspired Dunesfort House (all Scottish houses, some now in ruins) and landscapes of the Outer Hebrides and images of the Callanish Stones. I'll also bring my original workbook from the trip that I took to northern Scotland with my dear departed friend Dr Nena Hardie (who makes a cameo appearance in the first and last chapters); the huge sheets of paper that helped me plot the structure of seven days and nights; and the photographs of people who resemble my characters. Looking forward to the night and to hearing the other presenters as well. Got a little chuckle when I saw that the poster called me "Olwen Melling." Life imitates art. Here's the link to the Bray Arts site: brayarts.com

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Grand Maitreya Project

The next time I go to Mongolia, I will be visiting this giant statue and stupa site. Reminiscent of the Ancient Wonders of the World, it will no doubt be an international pilgrimage and tourist destination. But there's even more to this incredibly ambitious non-profit project. It hopes to appeal especially to youth and future generations and will focus on ecology, science and the arts, reflecting the nature of Maitreya, the Buddha of the future. No surprise that the statue was designed by Zanabazar, the 17th century spiritual head of Mongolia, who was a genius in many areas including language - he invented soyombo, the Mongolian native script - medicine, astronomy, and the arts. In the latter case, he cast beautiful bronze statues and was also an accomplished painter. I saw a lot of his work in museums in Mongolia. He's an inspirational example of how one can cross spirituality with art and science and his vision certainly lives on in the Grand Maitreya Project.