Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections

Kerri ní Dochartaigh | 24th December 2021

It’s time once again for the annual end-of-year musings we like to call Shadows and Reflections. Today Kerri ní Dochartaigh looks back over the past 12 months.

Much of this year I’ve wondered how I might ever dare to write about it: the ache & the joy; the grace that took root & wouldn’t shift; the milky, silvery-trailed, foggy fucking splendour of it all. 

The living, just. 

Yesterday I walked on the Lizard peninsula – my new home – on the very edge of the world.

The sky was purple. The air was cold. The sea was still. 

The storm had passed.

Above the dying hydrangea at Church Cove, a bright white crescent moon rose; new & soft & chanting.

Eanair, January

Wolf moon

Ice moon

Old moon

Snow moon

My lover and I gave the old year to the flames of a fire nestled into the belly of an old washing machine. 

We carried the new year into our wee cottage as though it were a wrinkly babe. 

Fingers burnt by out-of-date sparklers. Eyes misty with the weight of much we didn’t know how to say. 

Nestled inside my belly; drumming on my ribcage & tickling my skin: a creature half-way grown. 

A creature that was already the full way embedded in every single part of us we had both seen and had not.

A book I wrote with the help of lots of very gorgeous people was published. To celebrate I ate pie in my pyjamas and walked the dog in a field full of mistle-thrushes & frost. The day it came into the world, a full wolf moon hung low above the old railway line outside our home like a jolly old ghost of a chap. 

Feabhra, February

Hunger moon 

Storm moon

In Hospital for a few scary days. All ended well and I will be grateful forever.

On St Gobnait’s day: beeswax candles & seeds for the bees from a gorgeous woman. 

The moon dips in & out, in & out. 

Márta, March

Worm moon

Crow moon

Cónocht an Earraigh ~ Equinox. 36 weeks pregnant. ‘Everywhere: light’. (E J Burnett)

38 weeks, full term. The dark starred forever more, now. (D Ní Ghriofa)

Launched IN THE GARDEN – a book full of so many raw, important words about the land. I wrote about loss & grief & sowing – 

“I wish I’d known, long before now, that sowing is a way to grieve. As hands scatter seed…[they] are moulding [loss] into a thing like light on stone.”

The last full moon before I became a mother.

Aibreán, April

Pink moon

Egg moon 

Hare moon

I knew our wee one would arrive with the full moon, somehow. I’d known it for months.

The week before he came we had to swerve to avoid a wild hare on a wet, winding road in County Mayo.   

When he began to make his way out they said it would take many hours; at least a full day. 

The moon that night would not be captured; I tried to photograph it over & over again but it slipped from my grasp like butter or a worm or time.

He arrived within a short handful of hours: within minutes of the full pink moon. A wee egg that shapeshifted into a wee human; pink & soft & curious. And more beautiful than the moon, so we had to name him for it. 

Bealtaine, May

Flower moon

Milk moon

the pink of the rising /

the red of the setting /

and all of the beauty in between.

It is both all I thought it would be and none of that at all; all in one fell swoop. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever known and the most harrowing all at once and I wish I knew how to make the tears stop. I wish it would all pass & I want to make time slow down completely & the fact that both these feelings sleep together in the same bed blows my little sleep-deprived mind. 

Matrescence is so hard to spell & process & give in to that I grow to hate the word; much more than I hate the other words that I hate; none of which spring to mind in this given moment. 

Feeding him does not come easy. I don’t sleep deeply enough to dream but if I did I imagine they’d be milky; full of creamy white tears. The first full moon since he came. I think of the seeds beneath my feet; the ones I sowed into the earth the day before the world changed forever. 

Meitheamh, June

Strawberry moon

Rose moon

The day he turned 8 weeks a pair of spotted flycatchers hovered above the wild rose as the wrens sang to him. The day before, his first Summer Solstice, the garden was brighter than I remember anything being in my life. We bathed together in petals from flowers that grew at the same time he did. 

Saint John’s. Candles and (more) celebratory pie to mark THIN PLACES being longlisted for The Wainwright Prize.

I dried out all the flowers grown or given since our son arrived beneath a full rose moon.

What a life, oh my. 

Iúil, July

Buck moon

Thunder moon

Hay moon

There are too many words inside me about gardens & seeds & seasons & home & light & grief & hope but for now I’ll just have to hold them close & sing to him as the circle turns / as the wild creatures go on & on like nothing has changed when everything has; when every single thing has been made brighter than the moon.

Lúnasa, August

Sturgeon moon

Barley moon

Grain moon

THIN PLACES – my first book – was shortlisted for The Wainwright Prize. On the same day my first baby picked a soft pink cornflower from my first garden and placed it in my hand.

How lucky we are, how full of everything that is good in this world, how moulded by light.

And a moon in a deepening, still sky; that seems to know so much more than all the other bodies put together.

Meán Fomhair, September

Harvest moon

Corn moon

Barley moon

Motherhood continues to take & break & make me.

I share a life now with a creature that words won’t hold in place; a singing, bawling, laughing, loving vein of light. He is every part of the night sky. The moon in all its phases and I don’t even care anymore that he is all I talk about now: it’s always been him. My best friend gave birth on the Equinox and somehow I fell more in love with her, with my son and with hers, the musician’s son, the lady who owned the café’s son, the girl from Mayo who’d only left home a week ago, the dancer, the old man who fell ill in the charity shop; with every other human in all the world. I love them because my son has made me the kind of person who can see.

Deireadh Fomhair, October

Hunter’s moon

Dying grass moon

Blood moon

He woke with the full moon at 3.45 am and by the time the moon rose again that night he was crawling. 

He is a force unlike any I’ve ever known before. I would give him all the geese that flew above us as we stood below a planet bright night; the robins below the pink sky; the first frost; I would give it all away for him. 

Samhain, November

Frost moon

Oak moon

Mourning moon

We entered the new Celtic year by giving the old one to the flames; his first outdoor fire, as the trees danced their leaves out from their oxters in the big winds. Sparklers, then home through our yellow front door with its fox knocker just before winter started knocking; rattling at the roof like a banshee, the rain on the windows like teeth being thrown at an old looking glass. 

What a time to be living. Sending strength to every one of us: these are the days for it all, for staying with the fire ‘til it goes out, even if we have to curl up in the stormy dark; creaturely & full of all the unknown things we can hold beneath our skin.

Nollaig, December

Cold Moon

Long night moon

Moon before Yule

The first day of the last month. 

We packed up our whole lives up again, got on a ferry and moved to Cornwall. The wee one’s first time crossing the sea in a vessel. The first (long) night he was without a roof over his head except the car.

We arrived in the morning to his first rainbow and fell asleep that night to his first owl.

The moon isn’t visible yet but it is there.

Sometimes we cannot see any of it at all; sometimes it all feels so lost or drowned or broken or over; sometimes it all feels gone but it is still there. 

Like the moon or the seeds or the anchor or the future or the light: the moon is still there.

(you are still there; you are still there, too)