Thursday 18 August 2016

There's a voice there and a home, you just didn't know it

I love to photograph. The way you can hide behind a lens and what you see within it is the world you captured seconds previous in your mind's eye. When I write, sometimes the words don't come. When I sing, I miss a note or two or falter on a lyric. Cooking has riveting heights of taste sensations that can so easily be followed by a billowing fluffy cake that last minute, decides it has given up on life and sinks inside of itself. And painting. Let's not forget painting. The image I have in my head doesn't seem to want to be placed on canvas. But photography. That's a different story. Each snap sucks up the colors and the energy of a sunset or the smells of turmeric muffins out of the oven. The shutter takes hold of breaking waves and spontaneous smiles. And yet that beautiful camera also leaves behind all that colorful, energetic emotion and sights for someone else to take hold of and save as an image in their camera, just as equally, just as fairly.

A few years ago, I parked my car by the lake, alongside everyone else's car on a sunny summer's day in July, to go for a swim and a maybe sail. I left my belongings, bar my wetsuit and towel, in a bag under a jacket in the boot of my car. Not on the back seat or on the driver's seat with the door open and a neon arrow pointing to the bag. Hidden. Obscured. Safely tucked away to be used later. A few hours later, I came back and the bag was gone. So was the smooth line along the door frame of my little car, as well as my CDs, including the Tenacious D one I roared along with on solo road trips to Clare. I remember laughing and joking with my Dad on the way back to the car and then mid conversation, realising something was wrong. When I saw that the car had been bashed and my bag was taken, I wasn't upset, rather confused. Why would someone do that? Did they not realise I was skint and had nothing of real value? Did they not know that there was less than twenty quid in my wallet, alongside a bunch of grocery receipts and some water bottles? Then it dawned on me. My journal. Gone. Stories and ideas and dreams built up over the summer. Gone. My camera. Gone. Sunsets and waves and wildflowers and more. Why?

It's funny that I hadn't thought about that theft or how it affected me until now. Suddenly, I could remember feeling stupid, blaming myself for the theft and damage to my little car. How could I have been so idiotic?! I remember my Dad and the rest of our family friends in the car park being astounded and rushing to offer their help and everybody being more upset than I was. Until a few days later. I imagined the morons who had stolen my belongings and reading through my journal and laughing at my dreams. I felt exposed and minor and immature. Mostly, I felt lost without my camera. It took me months of camera-less despair before I could afford another one. I was utterly lost. When I saved up for another, I carried it with me everywhere. Street lights, food markets, street murals and coffee cups. Light playing on windows and door frames, old ladies peering out over balconies and book spines. I couldn't get enough of it. Then the blog happened and every manner of food and adventure dripped from real life into my camera and onto my computer screen and I felt like I could share my world in the way it makes sense to me; visually.

Two weeks ago, that camera was stolen. Along with another journal, a beautiful bag my sister had gifted me, five euro and my housemate's fishing rods. The journal was one of those beautiful Taschen ones, bound in Gustav Klimt's artwork and given to me by my lovely friend Krisi. The bag had red handles the color of sun ripened summer tomatoes and hand printed retro patterns, because she's thoughtful and creative like that. Five euro and shopping receipts and lists from way back. Fishing rods. And my camera. There are photos of the whole summer in Clare on there. Of the time my nieces came to visit me here in my new home, swimming and adventuring on the farm and eating crepes twice the size of their faces. There are recipe ideas I was saving for September when work calmed down and I could share them with you here. And there are photos that were never taken of places in Clare I haven't been to yet and experiences I haven't had and images and visions I haven't yet had the wondrous privilege to formulate yet. Oddly, when I realized all these things were taken I didn't really care either. I was in a state of shock and overwhelming gratitude.

Two weeks ago, that camera was stolen and for a time, my unwavering beliefs in feeling safe and trusting that 'bad' people weren't part of my life, were taken too. You see, two men came into my house two weeks ago and they took things that did not belong to them. At 3.30 in the morning. While I was asleep on my own in the house. Even now, that's strange to stay.

I thought it was my housemate. He would occasionally come home unannounced for an hour or so to get something he needed before going back to work. He works away for weeks at a time so I'm used to having the place more or less to myself. I never feel weary or alone. It's a privilege to have it to myself. That night, I was so confused when I heard the squeak of the front door handle and footsteps move in the kitchen downstairs. I didn't know whether to jump out and give out to him or just turn and go back to sleep. I tucked myself into the duvet more and tried to rest. The footsteps kept lingering and shuffling. I grew quieter as I listened. My gut was telling me something was very wrong but I chose to ignore it. The reality of listening to that kind of reaction meant that I would have to admit the person shuffling downstairs was not my housemate.

The footsteps grew louder coming up the stairs. Then the flashlight scanned past my bedroom door and I noticed I wasn't breathing anymore. Two sets of footsteps walked past my door and on into his room. Even when it was obvious now that there were two strangers sneaking around my house, I assumed I was wrong and rang my housemate. No answer. Looking back on it now, I'm not sure I was thinking. Captain Hindsight says I could have climbed out the window, locked my door, called the police but the windowsill was covered in books and teacups, I didn't know if I had a key in the lock of my door and the phone reception was faulty. If I ran, they'd hear me or see me and I might not get out the house. So I did what would never occur to me in real life. I walked out onto the landing between his room and mine and called out my housemate's name. When two men dressed in black stopped whispering and walked out to see me, a voice I didn't know flew up from my belly and I roared with a fire I didn't know I had, "Get the f**k out of my house". I was terrified. They laughed at me and I nearly collapsed. Somehow, I didn't. I roared again, this time feeling my two feet firmly on the ground and my wild hair tossing around the air. I felt possessed as I roared at them and chased them down the stairs and out of my home. As soon as they left and I had bolted every door and turned on every light, I inhaled again and sobbed, putting on shoes and a coat and dialing my neighbors.

Every part of me collapsed when the first of my neighbors arrived, followed by the next and the next and the next. They were just as frightened as I was but I was held and given tea and wrapped up. Police and banks were called. One friend even drove over at 4am as backup. That's what hit me and also what stayed with me for days after the burglary. The love. I was terrified, couldn't sleep, every tiny sound and movement petrified me to my core but there was love and community and concern everywhere. I know that had my house in Dublin been burgled, friends and co workers would have been amazing but neighbors and shop owners, friends of friends and the veggie man? Never. They wouldn't have even known my name. Being a small town, the incident spread like wildfire but instead of feeling embarrassed or harassed, I felt part of the community, a cared for and loved and respected friend.

I won't lie. I still check the locks, sometimes waking in the middle of the night to lollop down the stairs to visually show myself that the deadbolt is on, the chain latched in tight. I pull the blinds down on the windows downstairs and don't leave anything lying around on the kitchen table anymore. I always need to know where my keys are and my gut bolts when there's a knock on the door or worse yet, the window. I'm devastated about my camera but not about the plastic object, rather the memories and colors and smiles and foods contained inside its little plastic chip. I miss the potential images I'll miss until I can save to get another one and the freedom of expression and creativity it gave me when writing proved difficult or my perfectionism was trying to get the better of me in other areas of my life.

I feel sorry for the imbeciles who stole my beautiful bag. They'll never know the care my sister took to choose it for me or how it got its little hole on the bottom corner. They never had a friend who remembered my love for one specific Klimt painting after ten years of friendship. I feel thankful for the love and the care and the fact that nobody got hurt. I'll get another camera and there will be other memories to capture and savor but I'll never get to experience that amount of genuine concern from people who a few months ago were strangers to me in this new town. What a gift!

If I summarize the events, it all does sound horrific but I often think it was the beginning of a major shift and a new change. A new place to live came up, you see. It's nearby all these beautiful people and places, work and farm and the surf but it's also in the country. The sun shines along the land all day. It wriggles the dew up from under a forest and lifts the haze of it into the sky each morning, waking birds into song for the day. In the mid day, the warm rays shine on tunnels of veg and when the warm orb is finished its orbit of the farm, it sinks behind more trees, only for the skyline to be replaced by the moon's orbit and it drifts up over the trees and nestles high above the house.

There's a room for me there now and a new stage. This stage doesn't involve me running away from discomfort and dis-ease like I've done so often in my life. I'm not so scared of failing and depression and confusion and relationships and trying that I want to run away somewhere warm and unfamiliar. This time, I'm looking forward to settling in even more, getting my hands in the dirt more regularly, feeling the comfort of wild winters and warm shelters. Even more than anything, I'm looking forward to standing my ground, tall and proud, wavy wild hair abound. I'm not hiding in my room anymore, looking for a key to lock discomfort out. I'm here to stay, to stand in my community on the land and in the sea and even though it will take some time to sleep restfully, I am safe, I am loved, I am part of a community, I am lucky, I am free.

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