We all have our own private worries. The writer’s fear of exposure to ridicule and failure is one of the worst of the lot.
I am scared of heights but there is no more pleasant night out than a few hours spent storm watching. I would have no bother in toasting a slice pan over a volcano even though volcanoes escape through the tops of mountains. Is it a slice pan or a sliced pan? And would the butter melt before the spreading?
I am also scared of low places like caves, the Netherlands, underground car parks and voyages in submarines, not that I was ever in one. There’s a life-long yearning to climb Sceilg Mhichil but I am scared of the steep, sheer ascent. I was thinking of hypnosis or going up to the top of the Unesco World Heritage monastery on the back of a sure-footed donkey or in the passenger seat of a Star Wars space ship.
I am scared too of admitting weakness as there were rumours around here I was Superman. Fears are often irrational and possibly people who are scared of storms and volcanoes could eat a sandwich with their legs dangling on a 20-storey high beam.
Vicky McCarthy Keane found her courage. She has overcome the frozen motor neurone zone and her new book of poems bears testimony to beating the writer’s fear of failure.
The advice was to stay at home on Tuesday when the tempest hit and so I did. The woods at the back of the house were in a frenzy. Vicky writes about her diagnosis days.
“A wild wind did howl my way,
creaking, croaking never caring”
Barra screamed outside our house like a banshee on a nixer from the undertaker. The crack, like as if from a gun, was the requiem for a snapped spruce and all I wanted to do was to read Vicky by the giant waves in Ballybunion, just over the big river from her beloved Fanore shore.
I’m thinking about fear now again. Arachnophobia has no home in my head. This thought is prompted by a visit from a very bright girl who keeps dangerous spiders for pets. Sometimes people ask if it’s okay to bring dogs into the pub. If it was a Border collie, not only would I let the dog in, but I’d sign over the deeds as well. I love the way the sheep dogs look at you with the sad eyes that change to wide awake when they run free and wild in a sheep field or jump in the river for a wash.
The spider lady promised to bring in her pets. I think I got the love of spiders and poetry from our teacher Brian Mc Mahon. It was third class and the Master told us about Robert de Bruce and how it was he took courage from watching a spider build up his web after failing five times. The moral of the story is: never give up. I don’t like the expression take your beating. We should never take our beating. Vicky persevered as only strong women can.
If you feel low right now from Covid anxiety, well, then spider on. Before you know it, the web will form an intricate pattern to bring you back home to yourself.
A spider set up home in the gap between the side-view mirror and the body of our car. What was I going to do? Should I remove the web and hope the spider would survive? Or was it best to leave it be? The spider not only made it to Dublin but back home as well. We too are tougher than we think.
Vicky McCarthy Keane is no relation but I wish she was. Vicky didn’t take her beating. In fact she managed to make the most out of a diagnosis of motor neurone disease.
I wrote about her here this time last year. Vicky asked to see a 70-year-old copybook of poems with new work written by my Dad in his own writing. The Kennelly family from The Cloth Hall, just across the road, gave me the copybook. Vicky read all about the story here and watched the book on the RTÉ 1 Today Show. (I’ll be back there on Friday next.)
I brought the copybook to Vicky’s home in Killucan on the day the inter-county travel ban was lifted and it was there I read some of her own poems. She is the woman who writes with her eyes. Vicky looks and as if by magic her words come up on the screen before her.
It took some persuasion to get Vicky to send on copies of her poems. The fear of heights, spiders and lows, is no match for the fear of baring the soul. Vicky came to see us during the summer. The day was the wettest ever. You wouldn’t put Boris Johnson out in it. Careful who you vote for. The British people put their Xes on a pirate’s treasure map. But this is Vicky’s story.
She was soaking and so were the whole family. I brought my Dad’s manual typewriter – the one he wrote most of the masterpieces on – and I put the machine on Vicky’s lap. She was so happy. There are times when I wonder if we can keep on going with the pub. There are times when we are less well attended than this year’s Christmas party at Number 10. But Vicky said, soldier on. She is a spider woman superhero and her family are a gas bunch who knock fun out of every occasion.
Vicky Phelan is also going through a tough time right now. Vicky McCarthy Keane takes heart from Vicky Phelan. Vicky McCarthy Keane is my woman of the year. Vicky Phelan is my woman of every year. Two Moms in trouble but making the most of every moment. Vicky McCarthy Keane kicked on from this time last year and Jeremy Murphy, the book wizard, helped produce a slender volume with flaps on a special edition.
Through My Eyes is sad at times but always real and always full of love for family, with a sense of place only the truly in tune can bring before us in vivid pictures made from words.
Some of the poems are heartbreaking but love always wins. Here are a few lines from Sunset Over Fanore.
“As your orange beauty sinks neath the wild waves,
a silver twinkling path leads me to that place,
where petals never shed from the wild rose,
and tears never fall from your tower of love.”
Vicky’s husband Michael is her tower. They are mad about each other.
The money made from Through My Eyes goes to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.