I've finally got around to marrying up my photos of Ireland with one of my original piano compositions. I hope you like it. Click twice on the play button!
And now for something a little bit different. Have you all seen that amazing NASA photo in the press? The one from the Mars rover, which has been scouting around the surface of the red planet since 2003? I just couldn't resist doing something with this. It brings out the fantasy writer in me! Click twice on the play button.
Now, here's a little test. Does this photo make you curious about what's at the end of the path? To the point where you would happily go off to find out? And what if you've just been tramping for five hours and hated every minute of it. Would you still want to get to the end? If the answer is yes, then welcome to the club! I am also one of those people who always have to know how things turn out, regardless of whether the actual process of getting the answer is a terrible chore. A job started is a job finished. If your answer is no, then I need you to enlighten me. Maybe you need to save me from a terrible affliction!
Let's take the path scenario and apply it to something else. I really do envy those people who can stop reading a terrible book after just one or two chapters, or who can get up and walk out of a bad film after just 20 minutes. I have never been able to do this because of this obsession to get to the end of things. I wonder how many others share this strange desire for punishment. We are those poor souls who hang on in there until we see "The End", when everyone else has long gone and switched off the lights. Yes, we always persist, no matter how painful the experience.
I have friends who can toss aside a book that doesn't appeal to them after just a dozen pages. They don't care about the money they've spent. They have absolutely no qualms. They simply refuse to digest something they don't like. They can also get up and leave the cinema after just ten minutes, quickly making up their minds about whether a film is good or bad. They don't care about the cost. They don't care about the possibility that things might very well have been on the verge of improving. They say that if an author/producer doesn't engage the audience quickly enough, they don't deserve to get people's attention.
Maybe people like me stay engaged because we have this relentless hope that things really might get better, just around the corner, despite the false start. Maybe we believe that something can only really be judged in its entirety. Maybe it's about giving people a chance, believing that there is something good in everything, no matter how small that good is. I will often dislike a book during the early chapters but then find myself loving it by the end. Is it true that if we patiently endure cloudy spells we'll be rewarded with brilliant sunshine? Or is it really just a quirky need to finish things, the product of conditioning?
This reminds me of a story I covered for the radio when I lived in England. The organiser of classical concerts in a small city imposed a ban on a reviewer from the local paper. The crime? The reviewer had published a negative review of a concert, even though he'd only stayed for the first 10 minutes. The concert organiser argued that a proper critic stays and watches an entire show before reaching his or her conclusions. The reviewer and the paper's editor defended themselves, saying 10 minutes is often all that's needed to decide whether something is good or bad. Suffice to say that this story provoked great debate up and down the country.
So, now I'm going to go back to that bad read. I'm struggling. I'm not engaged. (No, it's not the book currently posted in my sidebar). I'll be relieved when I get to the end! But then, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.
a dozen gypsies are
dancing on your head,
spiriting me away
from your sensible
phrases, coercing my
eyes into a flutter
gosh, they are
so uninhibited -
did you say something?
they have their swords
out, and tambourines,
with rags tied around
their ankles, like
they only breathe
to have glorious fun
wow, they know
how to live -
did you say something?
© Copyright, 2008. Seamus Kearney.
Image made from original photo by Eric M. Crawford.
My New Year message to you - great health, bubbling happiness and oodles of good luck - comes straight from the top of a mountain in the French Alps. Yes, I know. Abominable Snowman. Kiwi Yeti. Sasquatch. I've heard them all! You would dress the same if you were standing there in a slapping wind of -5°C (23°F)! By the way, that's Mont Blanc behind me, western Europe's highest mountain (4808 metres). We can sometimes see the top of her hat on a fine day here in Lyon. Here's a closer look at her.
I can think of no better way to end one year and begin another. The sensation of pure freedom when gliding down those slopes is something I first discovered seven years ago - my beloved comes from the French Alps and is a skiing fanatic! This latest excursion to the snow took us to La Plagne.
Every year, without fail, there is that lush layer of new snow, inviting us to go back up to the top of a new mountain and just go for it! We wobble, we sometimes fall, but the thrill and rush of vitality is always there.
Each time I go back into that magical whiteness, I feel as if I am being reconditioned, as if all I need to do is simply push off and let myself slide into the unknown. There is the reassurance that despite the height and the speed, a fall into the snow will normally be relatively harmless.
It's just about putting aside the fear. For me, each new ski season, with all its powerful metaphors of white purity and mountains being conquered, brings on a feeling of renewal. That's why a trip to the alps at the end of the year is so perfect: a new year, a new view!
Wow, that was such a discovery at the age of 32. I was actually able to experience what it feels like to fly. Fast. From the top of an awesome mountain to the bottom. In five minutes. With views that make you want to cry. And if it's not the emotions that make you weep, it's the freezing wind, which seems to have a mission to make us one with the glaciers.
One day I think I will try to write a series of novels based around a snowy mountain. Murder on the slopes! The adventures of a mountain guide! Love in the chalets. Surely anyone who likes to ski would buy them. Think of all those nights that skiers sit around after the slopes are closed, itching for something to do.
I hope Chapter 2007 closed for you in a nice, satisfying way, and that you're now eager to crack on with Chapter 2008! We no longer have last year, and we don't have the next, so let's just focus on this one and make it our year. I wish everyone all the very very best for the months ahead.