No Landing Place

I was in the Court of Appeal yesterday to support Chris Murphy and Doris Noe who took up the David and Goliath challenge, as part of the SAVEHEANEYCOUNTRY campaign, to NI’s Department of Infrastructure to ‘red’-route the A6 upgrade (there is an alternative brown site route alternative but that has not been chosen) adjacent to Lough Beg.

There was no fairy tale ending. We lost. It has left me feeling bruised and sad. But the outcome is not a surprise. The whooper swans will be returning from Iceland in a few weeks to an utterly changed landscape.

This morning, I found myself remembering this poem by Mary Oliver, its last lines replaying in my head. It’s mostly about lilies, but as a flower of wetlands, that is perhaps appropriate; and about van Gogh, who as the poem puts it, ‘wanted to save’; and arguably, through art, did save a part of himself.

Anyway, I will let the poem speak for itself. This is ‘Lilies’ by Mary Oliver, from her collection ‘House of Light’ (Beacon 1990).



I have been thinking
about living
like the lilies
that blow in the fields.

They rise and fall
in the wedge of the wind,
and have no shelter
from the tongues of cattle,

and have no closets or cupboards,
and have no legs.
Still I would like to be
as wonderful

as that old idea.
But if I were a lily
I think I would wait all day
for the green face

of the hummingbird
to touch me.
What I mean is,
could I forget myself

even in those feathery fields?
When van Gogh
preached to the poor
of course he wanted to save someone –

most of all himself.
He wasn’t a lily,
and wandering through the bright fields
only gave him more ideas

it would take his life to solve.
I think I will always be lonely
in this world, where the cattle
graze like a black and white river –

where the ravishing lilies
melt, without protest, on their tongues –
where the hummingbird, whenever there is a fuss,
just rises and floats away.



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