HEART OFF GUARD

HEART OFF GUARD

There’s a point on my way home: a bend in the road as it rises to crest a hill. Suddenly the hedges part, and the coastline is laid out, widening the world before me. I remind myself never to become bored by it, but really I don’t have to, because, familiar as it is, and as Seamus Heaney so beautifully wrote, it can still catch my heart off guard, and blow it open.
Just as the notes of a perfume can suddenly transport you from the here and now to another place, a memory, a burst of intense emotion, these moments of vulnerable wonder are fleeting and powerful. An artist, an apple grower and a writer share theirs. They come with a colour, a rain of petals, and a warning…

Turquoise in France
When I was fifteen, and emerging from a disrupted childhood of divorces, separations and step-parents, I was sent to France. From the moment we sailed out of New York Harbour, I was beginning the happiest summer of my life. I stayed with a family in Marseille and tried to make myself dream in French.
One evening, in their old apartement, and most likely due to a half glass of red wine, I suddenly and unexpectedly burst into torrents of tears. There I sat, with this lovely, warm, intact family, weeping and weeping. Mama made me an infusion, a word I did not know. The next day they took me to a small shop belonging to one of their relations and bought me a turquoise bikini. 
To this day, that particular turquoise can surprise in me the warm feeling of being with that family, with whom I was able to be so open.

Katherine Boucher Beug is an artist, based in West Cork


Ninety Acres of Blossom
When the apple blossom arrives, I feel as if someone has turned the lights on. You catch an exquisite faint scent, and listen for the hum of the bees. Bees love yellow, and I find myself hoping they are working on the apple trees and not the profusion of dandelions, and I hold my breath until after the first week of May, when the threat of frost has gone. 
I get up early in the morning to walk the apple avenues, wishing I could share them more widely, but enjoying the peace. There’s a certain moment, when a faint breeze brushes the blossoms down, like a gentle confetti and I’m surrounded by softness. 
A big wind, and the blossoms have gone. The scents and sounds will change. Hopefully it will be a rewarding Autumn. People will come to pick, and the hum will be of chat and laughter, the rumble of apples being laid gently into the bins. 

Julia Keane grows apples at the Crinnaghtaun orchards in Cappoquin, County Waterford.


Minding the Magic
‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (1922)

The books that I read with my children when they were small have a particularly strong emotive power. When I read them now, I am transported back to the wonderful vulnerability of early parenthood, when the doors of the heart are thrown so wide that you have to shield yourself from the world. In later parenthood the heart is not so easily thrown off guard, but The Velveteen Rabbit will take me back there in a heartbeat. I don’t revisit it often, in case the magic evaporated through excessive use.

Eleanor Flegg is a writer. She reads her novel, The Spinning Master, on Spotify.