Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections: Kerri ní Dochartaigh

Kerri ní Dochartaigh | 23rd December 2022

Every year, we give over all of December (and usually most of January) to a series called ‘Shadows and Reflections’, in which our contributors share highs, lows and oddments from the past 12 months. Today it’s the turn of Kerri ní Dochartaigh.

‘January 1 is a seed, a pea, a lentil…it will grow, and sprout, 

be green and shiny…the new year is a good omen!’ 


If this year had a colour, it was pink. A soft, faded, dancing pink. The kind of pink that takes you by the hand and leads you back to all the places you first felt safe; all the places that made you feel like you; all the places that left space – deep down in the places where your blood and bone and sinew meet – for singing. 

If this year had a word, it was – in actual fact – two words; a pair – stillness and listen. . .


The very first day was pale pink candles, an icy swim beneath a Penzance bridge, and words that lingered long into the winter’s unfurling. By Sara Baume – about love and a mountain and ways to inhabit this earth alongside other creatures – and by Britta Teckentrup – on kindness and togetherness and what it means to care. My son spent the whole teething night on the sofa of our rented barn’s living space; laughing in his sleep; laughing and laughing & laughing. I listened as though no other sound I would ever hear would ever come close (because it won’t, of course.)

The month carried on as first it began – the anniversary of my grandmother’s death came under a soft pink sky, the paperback publication of my first book, the writing of my second; all the while mothering a small wildling who begged us wordlessly to carry him to the sea, the sea, in his salmon pink bonnet; his soft, round pink cheeks; with his songs. 

Another woman was broken by another man, and all I could do was say her name, say her name, say her name – a pink candle lit to guide her home – Ashling Murphy (say her name.) I danced, soft and tender, with my son to ‘Peggy Gordon’trying to find the strength to mother him in the midst of this harrowing violence into which he has been born. ‘I wished I was in a lonesome valley/ where womankind cannot be found’ (imagine a valley where they couldn’t find us…) 

Trying to parent him in a way that lets him be a part of the change; the breaking of cycles. On the last day of the month I lit a candle for another mother and her son – Ann Lovett and her baby boy Patrick – who both lost their lives the night she brought him into this world. The candle was pink. 


A fierce pink February. 

Words and light and skies and him.

Freezing swims, sunset swims, moon swims, curlew swims.

Daffodils and geese. 

A pink notebook with firework stars all over it to write myself back into myself. 

A mama and her babe in brown jackets against soft pink gallery walls in Newlyn.

Spent the babe’s first Valentine’s in Bristol, after cards in the early morning covered with pink ink. 

Westerlies and snowflakes like wee dancing ghosts.

(‘why would we ever hurt another?’ – Kathryn Joseph, on repeat, as humans inflict such pain on each other.)


The first Shirley Hughes book I find is pink – Bouncing. What a loss. 

St Ives, he crawled the whole length of the beach. A video of a wee pink hatted head, just beneath the soft pink holiday homes, in dancing, late winter light. 

PND has stolen so much this last year; leaving the world stripped of colour and light. It’s a long road out of here but I spent my son’s first spring equinox dancing with him and his dadda to Edwyn Collins’ RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN and everything feels so bright.

My first Mother’s Day. Potager Gardens in the glorious sun, my son learning to say BYEEEE like he has said it always. 

Found, while hiding from my work with my son, 18 bird skulls in the garden. 

A cacophony of bone.


My bábóg wore a pink merino top, a cream woolen gilet and his pink bonnet as he took his first steps in a garden full of hens and bones and melting snow. The sun shone and we watched choughs in the cliffs and in the sky and in our dreams. Swallows came back at St Agnes and something else began to return, too; something much less visible – the fire in me I thought had gone forever. PND is a fucker of a thing. Mind your precious selves; mind the precious mothers in your lives; mind the people who bring the precious things into the world and keep them safe; for they are the only hope any of us have left. Saw my first kingfisher, as my love did the dishes, on a day like any other. Then, behind pink clouds, a heron. Beneath them, a rusty fox; hunting the chickens. 

I started therapy for PND. 

My first book published in America. 

Swims. Words. 

Celia Paul – all pink-covered and glorious. 

First draft of second book completed, first Birthday of first child celebrated; what a life. 

A full pink moon, just like the one he came with.


My lover’s birthday. A pink flamingo on a celebration ring, and a pale pink book about building one’s own safe home. At the car boot sale of dreams, shade 691: APPLETON BROS LTD LONDON – daring wool to mend more than merino leggings. A solo swim at Coverack Harbour – a pale pink linen dress on top of grey pebbles as I slowly start to see a future in which I may feel like me, again, someday. Evenings spent with THE ART OF REPAIR – pale pink darning mushroom on the cover – and pale pink thoughts on my insides. 

Mothering as an act of repair, etc. 

Disco candles, in the post, one mother to the other; all pink and pink and pink – purely by coincidence. A meteor, a Minack theatre, a mend on a (different) pale pink dress. 

A move away from beautiful, housing crisis Cornwall. A son wearing pink glittery wellies at a music festival, and the biggest smile I have ever seen in my life, all day every day.


Arrived back to our garden, and the biggest, blousiest pale pink rose I have set eyes on; right at our yellow front door. Only back a day before a fledgling wren came inside. Oh, world: I am listening. Poppies – of all colours, including pink, sown before we left, and a pale pink milking stool for coffee cups and seed packs and chamomile gel for raw pink gums. That foxglove, though; oh my heart. Imagine abandoning a garden and returning to all that; that light and that softness and that hope.  

Wild pink roses in the garden, and at MOLI for the launch of WAKING LIGHT. 

Solstice Eve – sweet William growing in our hedgerows, just as I’d been missing Cornwall.

And pink cosmos; o! the cosmos!


Back in Clare and all was just as it was meant to be. Too much pink to write of; too much goodness. Planting potatoes at Fanore in his pink dungarees, amidst the pink poppies, beneath pinkening skies. And the healing happening in me; oh the healing. 

Cork. Pink hydrangea and the first film photos of him. 

Clogs on a pink rug in Bantry.

Raspberries in a labyrinth where I felt peace like I hadn’t in years.

Pink straw flowers in the garden on our return, and skylarks on the east coast.


Saw 8 magpies for the first time in my life.

Rhubarb crumble all month on those pink bowls, in the garden. 

A Bordered Beauty moth, oh my.

Two years ago we found out our son was growing inside me.

We bought a van. 

Dreaming of flycatchers. 

We put our house on the market.

A pink unicorn cake for a magical girl at the beach to end the month.


Didn’t make it to Wales or England as planned but we ate strawberries by the sea, my son in hot pink woollies, and painting pink sploshes with yellow and orange in a community garden full of light; full of mothers. Fires and van camps and swims and pasta on institution pink plates. Pink sweetpeas and blackberries turned pink in cake eaten on the laneway. Cavan carboot sale full to bursting with pink: a tee-shirt with words as gaeilge; a pale pink shed bathroom; a napping toddler wrapped in dusky pink wool with a bright yellow truck in his hand. At Stormont, for International day of Peace: a Peace Heroine NI exhibition and a sky too pink to even explain. Equinox. The womb of the earth opening. A wee boy in a pale pink shirt and pink wallpaper in the University of Limerick loo just before a gorgeous award ceremony; then a soft pink loo in Galway, warming up from an icy Michaelmas swim.


Pink pjs for my son from a new friend, and a harbour full of sea birds and pink pink sky, as we tried to find a new home, again. A wild, gorgeous child in a pink woolen suit, drinking hot oaties and stroking my face in the early autumn light. Pink crayon on old music paper. Pink pjs (another pair) with moons on them. A goldcrest. The first solo trip with bábóg to Scotland. Pink tiles as we sheltered from the unstoppable rain. A (found) pink hat, and a fan with pink stripes, and a solar eclipse at the train station coming home. Clare, in the storm, to a beloved house with pink plaster walls and a deep sense of belonging.


Watercolour lanterns and cinnamon snails and finches.

A mouse family, an heirloom horse and rainbow stars.

Eclipse season and a month of letting go.

Celebrated four years sober with a sunrise, moonlit swim at Shroove beach.

Made a moon for my sun.

Bought a pale pink enamel cup with hot pink trim to celebrate being alive. Stole (accidentally) a pale pink plastic tumbler for the wain. 

Made, too, a wee advent tree, to join the moon.

My kitchen table is full of wooden animals, snotty tissues and pink candles, and my oh my am I grateful

Ended the month by sewing my first cushion; soft pink Celia Birtwell, covered in what could be unicorns, and other magical creatures; to go with his second-hand pink Christmas eve pjs. 

Galway lights and Lahinch storm and a mobile – made together – of soft pink moons.


The month of all months, the time of all times.

A wee star taler and her felted midnight sky of stars.

Stars and donkies and root children. 

Mice and tractors and marshmallows in a wee tin. 

Beeswax nativities and woolen angels in a pink kindergarten, on the coldest day.

A full cold moon and a basket full of Christmas books.

Frost light and new words and horses on the old railway line. 

Pink hares & dwarves & wind up mice. 

A frozen coaltit and Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas. 

Saint Lucy’s Day, and a wee gnome on a wee tree, and ‘big deep wat’(er) – his favourite puddle frozen solid.

A post shared as a story on Instagram as I finish writing this: