• The Story Pilgrim

When Goodbye Calls.

Have you ever been in a good relationship and then, in the slight of a moment you look upon your partner and feel nothing but the cold fury of indifference? It’s not that you hate the person or that you lack anything in common but that spark which once sizzled has become like a lost piece of coal which has been tossed out the fire.

It was like that for me regarding Bandon. Bandon is a town placed in the beautiful rebel county of Cork. It is known as the Gateway to West Cork. As I sit here wondering whether I ought to ignite my forthcoming move there is a sadness in my heart. My blessed time in Ballydehob may be coming to an end.

When I left Bandon last February, worn and weary I had every intention of return. Ballydehob was for such a time as recuperation and restoration would allow. I needed some peace and quiet to undertake the process of recovery and Ballydehob certainly permitted that. However, a few days ago I ventured into Bandon and as I took one faltering step after the other through the town I felt as though I was watching a scene from an old film. I did not fit anymore.

To my astonishment my intended move is to a place which I had never considered. The town found me. It all started with me joining the local art group in Lisheen House. Thanks to my tutor Jennifer I have picked up a pen again and next week on Saturday 3rd March I will have some of my work in exhibition. It may be a minor achievement but it is one which I never thought possible and due to encouragement of both Jennifer and my colleagues I made the decision to create my own illustrations for my forthcoming book.

It is amazing what a little encouragement can do. I believe a kind word and a little nurture ignites confidence and can propel one forward. It certainly was a far cry from the sense of woundedness I sustained a year earlier by the lack of celebration I experienced when my first article was published because I was sick and had made myself invisible.

The salt grey clouds have somewhat dispersed allowing the tender smile of the sun to tease. As I reflect at all the events that transpired against me and propelled me to Ballydehob I have to state that I do not have one shard of bitterness in my heart. I am firmly of the opinion that I am destined to be here in this very place. I have had time to create a CD, a long labour of love, put together a workshop and had time to write and illustrate my book, yet another long labour of love. I am of the opinion that in the process of my creative endeavours without realising it I personally changed. The person who returned to Bandon a few days ago was in affect me but a different person. As I said in my last blog post I am venturing onto a new path. I need new experiences and looking forward to meeting new people to inspire and challenge me. Essentially Bandon could offer me nothing more.

When I look back at my worst moment of 2017, the night I spent in South Doc Medical Centre struggling with breath. Sitting on a couch in a sterile room masked with a nebuliser I now appreciate that it was then that I had truly left Bandon. It was at that moment when I sensed true loneliness and the tortuous concern of whether I could manage yet another breath.

The morning came and Bandon life carried on as usual, but it wasn’t just another day for me. It was a day that I could breathe freely. However, I was awakened, I had no option but to muster up the courage to leave in order to pursue my desire to write and tell stories.

It isn’t easy to venture on unchartered territories, it is so easy to conspire to remain where you are and deceive yourself that you are happy when you simply are not. I needed to find a place where people create and it is so embedded in their nature that they cannot but create.

When I reflect back to 2013 I had the very same feeling when I was living on the Derry/Donegal border. I remember standing in Derry gazing towards the Peace Bridge knowing that I was about to say goodbye to one of my favourite cities. I remember the excitement upon me as I travelled down to Bandon. I was delighted to be in Bandon and I embraced Bandon life. It was during this time I started University College Cork reading Digital Arts in the Humanities. Moreover, I was also an active participant in the writers group. I am indebted and thankful to both the Bandon Family Resource Centre and Bandon Adult and Further Education Centre for giving me the opportunity to do projects and storytelling. I am truly grateful to have been a part of the Women of Bandon; Past and Present Project. I was in my element sourcing local Bandon stories. The magic of Bandon was in the air for five years and for those years I was nourished but as often in the way of life, things come to an end. I could have made the choice to merely exist and plod through or utilise all the learning I gained and navigate towards something that offered more fruitfulness.

I began this article with reference to the experience of waking up one day and finding that the person who one used to love has morphed into a relationship whereby your partner has become a stranger. Admittedly, I have been there and that is indeed a heart-wrenching place to find oneself. In contrast, falling out of love with a town may not be as heart-breaking as falling out of love with a person but nevertheless it still offers pain. And now another move is on the cards - perhaps if I can gather the documents together and my application is passed.

I ponder as to whether I, The Story Pilgrim will ever settle in the one place. Perhaps I have learned that life is too precious to exist. Thus when goodbye calls, one ought to listen.

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