Indomitable Irishry by Orla Broderick

My seanmháthair whispers soft dreams of bog cotton heads. She speaks from Ballyness, by the crossroads. Where women like me are. She speaks as Gaeilge. ‘Is thusa mo leanbh. Is thusa as mise. Is thusa as Tir Chonaill, as Danu.’ Her voice became clearer to me, wolf moon to wolf moon, Imbolc to Imbolc.

‘A star fell from the sky,’ my seanmháthair says. ‘At first she was a dolphin. She walked on land among the small fat people. She gave them many star-children. She instructed her children how to care for their home. They called her Danu.’

My brain is a buarach. A big stinking mess, in Gaelic. My menopause and linear time have not found compatability. I was slightly catatonic there for a while, with the overwhelm of it all.

There was a choice I made, under Mother moon, twelve moons ago. As February approached last year, I invited my long dead seanmháthair to guide me. I begged for my ancestors’ wisdom. I researched Bríd, Buddhism and The Ochil Hills. I requested the grace and bounty of Saint Brigid. She sent me a mental health specialist called Hamish.

Can I remember the moments, I knew? When did the drips of truth begin? I wrote myself a poem, last year, around this time. To remind myself I had been through worse. Hamish suggested I needed closure regarding Moray social work. I agreed. He saw a pattern to my rages. 

As Imbolc approached, my dog and I had taken to wandering further up, further in each day. We followed burns into glens because I had to disconnect from reality. This day, or this week last year, you came too. Maybe the moon and your mood had aligned favourably. Maybe you were adequately caffienated. Or bored. 

‘To clear your head,’ you said, ‘you go where people don’t.’

We had climbed beside the burn above the silver mine. Beyond the first beaver dam. I sat on a smooth rock. From my pack I produced a purple pottery goblet. I filled it from crystal clear snow melt, and drank. I re-filled it, for you.

‘Tastes like silver.’ You said.

‘Oh my beautiful daughter, drink, come here when you can to wash and drink. Cleanse your inner waters, your blood. Here is purest water. Mni Wiconi.’

Has it only been a year? We sat, we splashed, we drank, as we have always done. I had oat cakes, cheese, a knife. 

We walked up Wood Hill, to the Silver Glen. I was not a criminal then.

‘I come up here to pray,’ I said, ‘to chant, to breathe deep gratitude into every step. I give thanks to my Mother for her love and protection.’

‘Protection from all your stalkers?’ You said.

‘Yes baby baby, protection from all the haters who would put out my Light. Gratitude that you are still alive, that we have this second chance. It requires strength, grace, wisdom to sort you out. I find fey places, to pray in.’

This Imbolc I weave protection spells to keep me safe from you and yer fella. Twelve months linear time does not make any sense in my mind. It’s not logical. Too much happened. Ikeda Sensei, guide my writing. May my words be soft and gentle and bring delight to many, as the Lotus Sutra advises.. For my happines, I want to write it out, dance it out. With utter faith in a Universal vibration, I gave you back your life. What you do with it now is wholly your own choice.

My daily ritual is the art of grounding myself into each and every moment. I have to make myself stay real because as Nollaig approached last, I tried to take my life away. Finally I faced it and terrified the shite out of myself, the doctor and Hamish. Now I chant for me – to stay alive.

I need to own the energy of each breath as it flows in my body. 

Findhorn Foundation has been playing meditations via You Tube since. My home, with my cat and my dog, reverberates day and night with healing tones. 

I re-visited the Climate Change Conference held in Findhorn in April 2019. On You Tube. I knew the filmakers as friends and neighbours. ‘I fed some of ye, at this kitchen table, in my cottage.’ I told the telly. ‘Some of us have shared single malts and outrageous stories.’ This knowing gave me a truth of me. For Hogmanay this year I cleaned out your room again. 

In silent retreat from the world, I released you. From my auric bodies. From every corner of my home. I will root here meantime. Go, be free, explore, you are ready.  Eilean a’Cheo baby and refused to speak Gaelic. If I did one thing wrong, it’s not leaving you in Croileagan until you spoke your own ancient language.  Or not leaving you in foster care until you felt remorse.

To stay calm and real and breathing, I imagine sitting in Marie’s home, hanging out. This activity requires my total dedication. I am committed to breathing. G said ‘get it out, write it all out.’ Marie said ‘that story is your fortune.’ Michael said ‘no one else can tell this story.’ Scotland’s Makar loved the snippetts she supervised for my dissertation.

To write it out, I must put it all in order somehow. Except there is no order to Universal Timing. I know only to go with my seanmháthair’s whispers. 

‘Start with what’s on your desk,’ Scotland’s Makar taught us.

Here on my desk is a blue-green barnacled glass bottle. The shell scales are like fossilised lichens, clinging. They are tiny skulls. Limpet skeletons grey and ivory white. They are molluscs bonded on a bottle. The neck is uneven. That means it wasn’t moulded in a machine. Human hands, human breath and alchemy made this bottle. A century in a deep mud bank by the river Snizort, Eilan a’Cheo, where I dug it up. I told you it was treasure from before Saint Columba.

Mid November 2021

We met with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau’s finest. I was trying to piece it all together. You came home eighteen months ago with a coke habit financed by foster care. I had to dry you out, feed you, hold you, play cards with you, entertain you, make you laugh and march you up hills, into glens, to give thanks. I did this out of love. It cost me my health, all my spare towels, linens, pots, sanity, capacity for work. 

‘The stress of the neighbours has affected my Mum’s mental health, and mine.’ You informed the advisor.

‘Why don’t you just move?’ Asked Wullie. You darkened. He saw it.

‘No way, she is not moving, she is not able to move, she’s just been diagnosed with PTSD and we know Creepy Texas triggers her, but the cops are on it. She has a garden and pals. The doctors’ is round the corner.’ You told him. 

He glowed in that moment. I always pay attention when mens’ auras reveal Light. Your barriers rose. You barricaded yourself behind your Father’s black eyes. I took you home and questioned you. Three years ago, to the very hour, I had reason to question you about a party. Three years since my first arrest. 

‘I got the travel bursary,’ you told me, at home, after you lied to Wullie.

‘Did you now, isn’t that just fabulous. Well done. Where are you off to?’

‘Bali, with Jack.’ 

I chanted my mantra three times in big long deep breaths.

‘ Have you lost the run of your own mind? You are not going to bloody Bali, you get your arse over to Dublin and heal your trauma properly. Just tell my sister, all of it, before I do. Stop hiding, stop lying.’

Your dark look came last November.

‘No, don’t lie to me.’ I told you in the car in Bridge of Allan.

‘No, you are not spending any more money until you re-pay me.’

‘No my darling baby baby, you don’t get to put your own needs first.’

‘No, you do not abandon your Mammy or dump her for a fella.’

‘No, we are not lying about this anymore. You own what you did to yer ma, to me, three years ago. You take it on and you put it right. I am not broken due to Creepy Texas and Verucca. You did this. This is the cost of living every day with your guilt.’ I said all this and more. 

When the cops lifted me last, I had spent the week deep in meditation. All the evidence to hang the foster carer was laid out on the floor in front of me. In my meditations I asked ‘who needs all this information?’ The guidance in my gut, the one I rely on, always, told me breathe and wait.

I can’t remember how many times I have been charged, arrested, interviewed these last three years. But the last one was a week past Sunday. You, and yer fella, had made statements. The cop who followed it up will never live it down. From Dunblane to Falkirk they’ll laugh at him. I should write a letter of complaint to someone, but I need to straighten my head. It’s all too surreal. I had a witness in the car my daughter. That day ye say I frightened ye. Up at uni. His hairy beer belly hanging out the window of your bedroom. 

‘No my sweet girl, you do not lie to Wullie, he is trying to help. Do you believe your own lie? Yes, we inherited a long standing social problem, which doesn’t help, but the resources it has taken to get you where you are are all used up. You are ready to fly, as you must, but you owe me the greatest debt, which must be repaid.’

Nollaig to Imbolc challenged the best of us. I am made of steel. I am rock inside. Days after days I lay in bed, my dog curled into me. She held me as I wept. Your disposal of me was cruel. It felt like all the compassion had been sucked out of the world. I displayed all the anger, frustration, desperation I felt, and let you see it, by email.  You said nothing. Virgin money messed up my accounts. Universal Credit sanctioned me. The housing officer attempted victim blaming. I couldn’t afford to feed the cat. Or myself. The medication couldn’t work, with no food in my gut. 

A week passed, you were gone. Maybe to Bali, with Jack. I found a box with a hundred paracetemol. I lined fifty of them out on the kitchen table. My parents voices wanted me dead. Pills and peppermint tea. My dog begged me to stop. You wouldn’t look after her, she said. My cat agreed. 

‘You are the love that needs to stay alive.’ My seanmháthair said. ‘You are not alone. I am here. You matter to me.’

Then I was only breath. As the drugs wore off, my eyes rolled in the back of my head, with lights shining. I had to watch each breath as it journeyed my body. I had to stay awake, talk to a doctor.

‘Well done for getting here.’ Said Doctor Jack.

‘My friend was a Samaritan. She told me what to do if it ever became real.’

I hold the bottle on my desk. It has weight. I smell inside the sludge of Skeabost. We called it the beach. It lacked sand. Under the broch by Skirinish, where the Snizort and the Tora meet the Little Minch. Opposite the headland known locally as Starvation Point, where Saint Columba landed – that’s where this bottle comes from. Saint Columba’s monks built a cathedral on an island in the Snizort. They built a path out to the tip of Starvation Point. The landowners lived opposite. I lived fifteen years out on the Isle of Skye, on beaches or river banks, stretched on a rock. Big Norman the shepherd was my pal. You stole his quad bike, raced it out over the hills. He never minded.

‘Mo leanbh bhocht.’ My seanmháthair repeats every morning, kissing tears.’ Drink water with the highest vibration, honour your goddess heritage’.

When the cops came last, I thought they were going to say you were dead. Instead they said I frightened yer fella.

I am a criminal because I frighten men. Finally. For Lá Féile Bhríde 2022, you and me and him were scheduled to appear before the Sheriff. 

May the birds sing of justice. May the poets of Danu speak again.

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