Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections: Kerri ní Dochartaigh

Kerri ní Dochartaigh | 31st December 2023

Kerri ní Dochartaigh looks back on 2023 in all its many colours.

The first day of the year was pink, oh so pink – flamingos & cheeks – candles & paint, and it was full of moons & dwarves; berries & birds (a goldcrest twice or two once) stars & geese, tractors & wind-children; a graveyard pilgrimage with my small love to visit the ancestors & to listen. 

I wished, for all of us, the light of every star & moon, sun & lantern, no matter how keen the darkness. 

I wished for us to know love in all its fullness. I wished we would have what we need but we would know and trust the world enough to give it all away; watch as it danced back to us, rounder, brighter, ever growing. I wished for us to watch, listen, unlearn. I wished for us to feel. I wished for us to be. 

The first month ended with us moving west, and my wee one telling he loved me for the first time.

On the night before the first day of the second month I tied a white cloth – Bratóg Bríde – to the beech tree in our new garden and waited for Brigid to bless the cloth with protection for the year ahead. Imbolc. In the belly. Bridge leading from winter to spring. My third book began to make its way towards the watery, newly born light in February and I began to make my way back up, properly, from the underworld of PND. Instead of fear about every small thing, I began to experience something other than that. My son started to wear a lavender waistcoat and peach wellies with polkadots when he played ball beside the headstrong horses. He started to prefer my cover of Lisa O’Neill’s cover of ALL THE TIRED HORSES to any version of LULLABYE to help him sleep.


March was green and dazzlingly fresh. I danced around a herb garden in the Burren with my wild toddler and wept in the car home when I realised all the things I had hoped for my life had arrived without me even realizing. (We need to talk more about matrescence.) The equinox came. We began our move onwards, onwards; towards the light. I stood in the west of Ireland sowing seeds into the ground in the pouring rain. My son kissed me and kissed me and kissed me as I came into the house, soaked and singing. The circle ever renewing; reminding; guiding. We bought at auction, from our sickbeds, with our toddler watching the Clangers for the first time, a derelict stone cottage. When we first visited after we’d had word it was definitely ours, my son ran around the overgrown land wearing an orange cardigan with a pixie hood, singing the most beautiful song I have ever heard. Our wee dandelion amongst the reeds in a wild meadow we cannot wait to tend. 

Tending / tenderness / attention – how do we attend to this beautiful world?

April. The first swallows, and the first copies of the book that changed my path, saved my life, and a whole wreck of other cheesy truths. I went to Cornwall to talk about (m)otherhood and it was utterly beautiful.  I began to understand that this story – that we are all mothers here, that we are more finely interwoven than they have had us believe – this story of tenderness and one-another-ness – is the only one that holds the power to guide us through. He turned two, the funniest, most joyful, most beautiful creature I have ever known. Six-word sentences & squeezeboxes, trucks & blue butterflies, sowing his own sunflower seeds – peas too – and I have been allowed, somehow, to explore this achingly splendid world by his side, and it is everything. 

May. My second book came into the world. I painted my nails pistachio green and cut blue cornflowers I thought would not grow. On my lover’s birthday he wore a crown, and we went on the train to keep our small person happy. We went to Scotland and somehow, the sun shone the whole time. Those bright & dancing poppy days. A dear friend was married, and it made me think about the way that there is still so much to celebrate, so many reasons to dance & dance & just keep dancing.

June was flecked with green & white & pink. Roses & elderflower with the rind of an orange & a half. The Solstice and St John’s Eve. Swims in steely waves. A fire into which we placed the bones of a female blackbird, with the bluest of the borage. A moth twirling into a whirling dervish; on a thin & ancient, powerful night. I had the beginnings of a whole sleeve inked onto my right arm, my favourite Edwyn Collins song playing in the background. RIP IT UP & START AGAIN. 

Aye, indeed. Sometimes we forget; unsure where it is we should be going in this moment of such emergency – 

& then the roses & the grasses; & then the bees & the moths; & then the soft pink poppies take our hand – as they remember us the right way back.  

I went to Charleston in July and the wild winds of change blew fierce, and I fell in love with hollyhocks. 

I started trying to live and work and love differently. I blame the women I was with there, and the colour pink. 

In August the hydrangea bush was dusky pink, and full, and I wrote about bees.

A trip to Edinburgh, where I danced alone to Lankum, my first gig since Edwyn Collins before the pandemic, and fuck me pink did I bawl my eyes out, in joy, etc. 

September’s colour began as mint green; a romper in the sunshine that perfectly matched a water balloon as I held a giggling naked toddler in my arms; a slimline notebook in which I recorded quotes from Leonora Carrington; an enamel mug; the door of a bathroom with LADIES in perfect font; my desk; the jumper I wore on the first day I’d taken off in ages… September changed colour that mint green jumper day, when I broke, on the eve of the Autumn Equinox, my ankle; on the wild and beautiful cliffs at Loop Head. (Yellow / black / purple / blueish green etc.) 

October, oh October. Every colour and every flower and every creature belonged to Palestine. There is no moment in my entire life that has called me deeper towards crying out for the freedom of all beings. No moment that has reminded me more fully of the fact that you are me and I am you, and we better start acting like our lives depended on our one-another-ness (for it does, it does, IT DOES.)

In November I started wearing a mud larked emerald on my ring finger, and instead of it reminding me each day of the love I have for (and promise made to) my partner, it somehow has become a symbol for the act of witnessing.  Green for the witnessing of brutality of a level we have bever before known. Green for the grief. Green for the men (such beautiful, tender men); green for the women; emerald green for the children. Oh those children, our children. There is no such thing as other people’s children. We know that they are always ours, every single one of them.  We took to the streets and told them this is NOT IN OUR NAME.

And then the final month. The only flower for this deepening wintertime is the poppy (we stand with you every single day. We will never be done trying to free you; speaking truth to the preciousness of Palestinian lives.) 

We take, still, to the streets, and the month that once was mostly red and green now has black and white there too. The black of this horror, as we try to undo the stranglehold of this colonial project. The white of the dove, as we call for a Ceasefire. 

I turn my heart back to words, to their power to make new worlds.  

I ask myself over & over what I need to learn, and unlearn, so I might take this thing called love and widen it; wider, wider, wider, still. 

I turn 40 this month, and all I want is peace in Palestine. Peace on this fucken glorious and gorgeous earth which is our planetary home. Peace for you, which is really love for you. 

‘Witnesses to each other’s tenderness, which this moment is fury, is rage, which, this moment, is another way of saying: You are who I love You are who I love You and you and you are who’.