Work-free, tooth-free

Well, I finished the librarianship Masters last Friday, so I guess that makes me officially a qualified librarian. It’s all been a bit of an anticlimax though, because I had the pesky tooth finally removed the previous Tuesday, and I ended up not being able to do any more work on it after that. It was lucky it was a group thesis, as it meant the rest of the group could take over with getting it in, otherwise I might’ve had to get an extension.

So basically the past week has been a haze of recovery. I spent three days looking like a chipmunk and vomiting regularly, which was a lot of fun. And then I ended up with a fluey thing on top of the tooth pain and discomfort. But over the past few days I’ve finally been feeling more like myself. I’m hoping to get back to photography over the next few days, and writing too.

With the end of this masters, and the start of a new (renewed) relationship, right now is very much a time of change and new beginnings. I’ve had the time and space to do a lot of thinking – about my writing, about where I want to go from here, what direction I want my life to go in. And also about larger philosophical and existential questions that I regularly come back to.

I feel that I want this blog to take a slightly different turn, but I’m not sure how. I like the idea of having a better structure to it – maybe a specific type of writing each week, and particular days when I post photographs, to give it some structure. I absolutely love The Boy With A Hat’s 50-word stories, so I suppose that kind of thing is what I mean, though of course I don’t mean to copy him!

Alternatively, I might start a new category of posts. I picked up a pencil and drew for a while today for the first time in years, so who knows, maybe that will turn into something.

For the moment, it’s over and out. But I’m hoping to reinvigorate Sirens & Muses very soon!



There have only been a few times in my life when I feel like the person next to me is an extension of myself. It happens very occasionally – that someone understands you, you understand them so well that the walls of identity slip, just a little. There are probably very few people, of all the hundreds of people you meet in a lifetime, who you could ever feel that close to.

And when it doesn’t happen for a while, for a few years, you forget how it feels. Other kinds of closeness start to seem just as special, and you forget what you’re missing. You can become consumed by people, totally immersed in them and your love for them, whether romantic love or just pure friendship. But that feeling of slotting together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – you know it when you feel it, and suddenly you see what you’ve been missing for all these years.

With other people, it has only happened maybe twice or three times, with one or two very close friends. People with whom I shared transforming moments, moments of epiphany and growth. Often, it’s helped along by alcohol, on those hazy nights when identity becomes so blurred that I have full conversations with myself in the mirror.

But only you make me feel this nearly every time I am with you. Only you can look at me in that way that makes me feel like you can read my soul. With other people, I don’t even believe in souls – I am a sceptic, rational, an atheist and a nonbeliever to the core. But lying in your arms gazing into your eyes, I could believe in anything.

The ticking forward of the world draws gently to a halt. The thoughts and feelings dispersed in my mind rush together like the tide, becoming a single unified feeling washing over me. I become still. And this life that we all embark on alone becomes complete – because I am no longer alone. Because you are in it.

Busy Bee

I knew August was going to be a very busy month for me. On top of the thesis I’m finishing, there is unanticipated stuff going on with my life too, and while it’s a nice kind of busy, it hasn’t left a huge amount of time or energy for anything else except the thesis and watching the odd episode of something funny.

I’m definitely not complaining. The summer (autumn, whatever) has finally started to be what I had hoped it would be. When I’m not stressing about my thesis or worrying about my suicidal tooth (which will have to be pulled in September) I am happier than I have been in a long time. Or maybe happier than I have ever been, really.

Measuring your own happiness is a difficult task. So usually I don’t bother trying to compare current feelings to past feelings. And yet. There are some times in life that just stand out above all the others. It’s not that all the bad stuff goes away – or even that it’s perfect, and you’re never worried, anxious, upset. But some things just feel right. And you find yourself unable to stop grinning from ear to ear.

A part of me is terrified. Once you’ve seen the abyss, it’s hard not to fear falling into it again. It’s hard, sometimes, when you’re tired at the end of a long day, not to start picking apart potential problems.

But mostly I’m excited. It’s just as well to have an ear to the ground, so I can exercise damage control if it comes to that. But although I’m scanning the water for sharks, I have jumped right in. And the water feels good.

Tears of joy

Everyone should cry tears of joy at least once in their life.

I probably cry more than most, but I still feel lucky that this has happened to me already so many times. Most of these occasions have been down to one person in particular.

The only other time I can recollect was when my cat came home. We had her only two days when we tried bringing her outside in the garden. She was on a cat leash, as we didn’t want her to wander off and not be able to find her way home. But in a moment of sheer bad luck, just as we got outside with her, a helicopter came by overhead. She was skittish at the best of times, and she completely panicked – she struggled out of the leash and ran off. She was out the front gate and down the street before I could even run after her. I was inconsolable, sure that I would never see her again. But that night, in the wee hours of the morning, my dad woke me up to tell me she was back in her room. That was the first time I cried tears of happiness.

It hadn’t happened to me in a very long time. And even when it did before, it was tinged with relief or sadness, as they came after making up after a fight, or realising I hadn’t lost someone I thought I had. But over the last week, I have experience some of the most purely happy crying of my life.

It’s a strange feeling. Because it’s very close to the physical feeling of grief. It doesn’t seem to turn into actual sobbing, but the tears are copious and the loss of control is similar. The same overwhelming of emotion – with so much feeling, it has to come leaking out of you somehow. It worries me slightly when it happens – I have to take a minute to register what’s happening emotionally, to double-check that I’m not, in fact, sad. But after a second, after a moment of clarity, it is the greatest feeling in the world.

I spent a lot of years thinking that all the crying I was doing was a bad thing, and worrying that I am too emotional, let things get to me too much. But now I am realising that it is a beautiful thing, an expression of pure emotion. It can be almost unbearable when you’re caught up in the grief-stricken sobbing. But these happy tears make up for it.

The shape of a room

Click here to buy prints, cards and posters of some of these photographs!

Last week, I rearranged my bedroom in my parents’ house. I’ve always had a single bed at home, but for the past couple of years we’ve had the guest double bed sitting in our garage, so we decided it would make more sense if it was in my room instead. I go home to my parents’ house pretty often, and having got used to sleeping in a double bed, a single is starting to seem smaller and smaller. On nights when I can’t sleep, I feel as if the edges of the bed are creeping towards me, and every time I roll over I feel like I’m about to fall off.

So the furniture had to be rearranged to make space. Of course, there were probably easier ways of going about it – but I have a particular love for rearranging rooms, so I jumped at the opportunity.

It was also an opportunity to get rid of some last vestiges of my childhood that were clinging on. I had gradually taken down most of the posters and photographs, and boxed away a lot of the stuff that lined the shelves and window ledge, but there were still some areas that hadn’t been touched in years. I’m terrible for getting sentimentally attached to inanimate objects, so I do keep everything, but I do love the feeling of putting away a part of your life that isn’t relevent anymore.

While I was cleaning and moving, some forgotten friends and objects resurfaced, and I got to see things that had been there all along in a new light. So out came the camera.

Mr Woof was given to me three Christmases ago by my boyfriend at the time. Although I’m not a teddy bear freak, and had hardly bought a new one since I was a child, I fell in love with this guy in a toy shop – he’s big enough to be satisfying to hug, and ludicrously soft. He had been boxed away with all the other remnants of that relationship, and it was high time to take him out again.

I’ve picked up a lot of different things over the years, but the ones that have stayed laid out in the room are mostly those that were gifted to me, or hold some emotional significance. All the clutter of my teenage years has gradually subsided. It seems to be a common teenage phenomenon, the wish to fill your space with clutter and noise, as though desperately cutting a personality out for yourself. My walls used to be covered with sketches, drawings, paintings, photographs, pictures of celebrities, postcards, any pretty or funny flyer or poster I came across. But these days, I need a bit more room to breathe.

It used to be the case that my room was filled with cats – cat figurines, pictures, stuffed toys. There are still a lot of these floating around if you look closely. But there is one rather odd animal that I ended up with a mini collection of – elephants.

The dark wooden elephant in the middle was the first one I acquired, bought in the airport in Bangkok when I was eight. We didn’t ever leave the airport – we were on our way to Australia, the long way around, as we had missed the flights that would have taken us across the US. The ivory elephant to the front was the last to join the collection. I found him when I was ten years old in a small second-hand shop in County Meath, while on holiday with my mother, aunt and cousins. My cousins had a friend staying with them in the holiday home as well, and I had a fairly violent if quickly forgotten crush on him. I can still remember the smell of him as I wandered around the dimly lit jumble of a shop.

But the third jewelled elephant was probably where my love of elephant figurines started.

This little guy is made slightly ugly by the greyish-brown putty that holds his mirrored glass, and he has long since lost his tusks. But I love him because I can’t remember him not being in my life. He lived in my grandparents’ house, on a shelf in the corner at the back of the living room. Every time I went out the french doors into the greenhouse, I would wave hello or touch the red pieces of glass on his back. When I was nine, my grandparents died, and he was the only thing I requested to have.

These guys are ‘the dudes’ of my room. Both of these are relatively new, compared to the old canon of stuffed toys I grew up with. All of the older ones are now in the attic, apart from my two favourites, who have come with me to my flat. I’ll have to dedicate a post to them exclusively some day.

But these guys; the orang-utan was bought in Dublin Zoo when I was ten, and my cousin (and good friend) has a twin.The penguin is called Suica Penguin, and he’s from Tokyo. Myself and my boyfriend at the time spent two weeks in Tokyo back in 2008. Anyone who has used the metro in Tokyo might recognise him – he was the mascot of the Suica card company, which supply prepaid travel cards in Tokyo. We were highly amused by all the posters he featured in, and when we spotted a stuffed version in a metro station shop, we had to have him. He is co-owned, but has always lived with me.

The red paper lantern is also from that trip to Tokyo, but the dream catcher is much older, I can’t remember how old. These hang in the middle of my attic room, much to the consternation of anyone trying to move around the room. I am used to the fact that there is only a narrow strip down the middle of the room that you can stand upright in, but others are not, and cannot fathom why I would block this way with these hangings. But I like them; I always find ceilings too bare.

Although I probably would have been moving things around anyway to get the double bed in, moving furniture and cleaning always seems to be something I do when I’m going through a period of change. It lays out a clean slate, I guess. And gives me an opportunity to look back before moving forward.

Changing season

It’s the fourth day of autumn, and although there’s no sign of the leaves starting to turn – it’s usually a few more weeks, and thanks to all the rain this summer it’ll probably be later than usual – there is definitely that glowing August feeling in the air. I associate late autumn, in the run up to my birthday on Halloween, with cold sunshine and dead leaves blowing in gusts of wind – and already the wind is picking up and the sun in shining more often than it did all summer. I know a lot of people in Ireland consider August to be summer, and thanks to the school system it is still part of the ‘summer holiday’ season for me, but I can always feel the change of season coming on this month.

It’s been a tempestuous summer, and not only in terms of the weather. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much change happen during these months, and that’s saying a lot, as my summers were often very busy times for me. But my world has been shaken around quite a lot, and it looks like it might be about to turn upside down completely.

In a good way, though. I can’t say if it’ll all be for the best, because who can ever know that. But it feels good, it feels like it makes sense even though it doesn’t, not really.

The research project is starting to wind to a close. The first couple of months of that went very fast, but now it feels like I’ve been working on it too long. With all the changes that have been going on in my head and out of it, the coming towards the end doesn’t really feel like I would have expected it to. Or maybe these things never do – I guess the end of my BA didn’t feel as I might have expected either. But anyway, I can’t wait. I feel like my life is waiting to start. It’s not even that I have anything lined up or any solid plans, but with the new leaf I feel turning, it seems that with the end of the Masters I really will be ending one era of my life and starting a new one.

I can’t wait to have more time for writing and taking photos. Particularly writing – I have an idea that I’ve been gradually working on, and I’m itching to see if it can turn into something solid. Come September, all of this can actually start happening. A new beginning has rarely seemed so appealing.