Hello dear friends and greetings from Zany Mountain. I apologise for my absence, for once it was not due to my usual blogging affliction; procrastination, but rather back surgery and little mishap where I took a nasty fall and sprained my wrist. Hey ho, never do things by half on the mountain. Anyway, all better now, appreciating the return of mobility and of course the reminder from the Universe that at times in life, things are out of one’s control.
Today’s blog is a little question and answers post I did with a small, informal creative gathering for Culture Night 2021, which was back in September. It was actually a great thing to do because many of the questions are the ones I am asked anyway and also it made me think a little of the “whys” and “wherefores” of Zany Mountain. Special shout out to TJ for recording and to the lovely relaxed participants I met on the night, it was a great auld chat. I was going to make a few additions to underline the salient points, but in the end decided it against it, so it’s straight from the horses mouth as it were. Let’s keep it real on the Mountain!
So, tell us where the name of the blog comes from?
Funnily, the original working title of the blog was Earth meets Water, but I don’t think it reflected my personality or was distinctive enough. The name came to me quite suddenly one evening. I grew up on the mountains-the Ballyhouras-in as you know one of Ireland’s highest towns. I lived there until I was 18 but go back frequently for my dose of air. I suppose it’s a bit like growing up in coastal areas, where the sea remains always part of your soul,-the mountain never ever leaves you. Even now I have to get up to height sometimes; it can never be underestimated the power of gazing at the horizon. Of course you never realise that until you leave. I particularly love Sliabh Riabh one of the three mountain peaks that frame the village of Kilfinane, It has magical, calming properties for me and is actually the featured image on the blog. The Zany bit ….well I suppose the blog has an Irish focus and I wanted to capture one of our most amazing qualities-the craic, ya know that madcap flying sense of humour we have when we are not melancholic or giving out! Ha, I don’t think craic would have worked in the title. I suppose to be Zany is also to be maybe a bit unconventional too; to see things in a slightly different way.
You put thought into that title…..
Yeah and funnily one big part of the work is writing the titles and headings for the posts, I often spend more time on coming up with a fitting title than on the post itself-I guess it’s the sentence that summarises and draws in!. Sometimes it can even be one word, which can be more difficult than a sentence.
What is the theme of the blog?
In the “About” blurb in the blog, I state that it is about nature, the community, the self and Ireland. That sums it up pretty neatly but to tell the truth, aside from that it has led me to other areas-like I’ve spoken about mental health, motherhood, spirituality, friendship among many other themes. I’ve often heard people say that there is a seasonality to the posts and certainly in the earlier days I wrote in the seasons as it were. I’ve written about places too-Ireland is very rich in that it provides such diversity and inspiration in the landscape. I think as well because I live one place and am from another, and also have strong ties with Cork, Clare and Kerry of course, I am very open to describing and getting a sense of places. Sometimes I’ll write for a request or a specific theme; I wrote a lot of posts about the pandemic and the lockdowns, as I felt it was something that I wanted to record for maybe the next generation or as a way of processing the feelings about all of that. I also say in the “About” section that I was going to see where the creative journey would take me and you know honestly, it took me to places and people I never expected, which is wondrous to me. I don’t really write about politics and religion-I often think convictions and opinions around these areas are often deeply held and therefore personal and sometimes that can be divisive-there are loads of blogs with a focus on those topics, though.
So, where does the inspiration come from-this question is of particular interest to the group here, many of whom are starting their creative journey…
You know that’s really fantastic that people are, just to say! Nature is a big inspiration, I mean how can it not be in a way-when you grow up on the mountains, it is natural for you to observe , to feel part of nature in your blood. You don’t even realise it but you understand instinctively the rhythm of the seasons and you have respect for the thing that is bigger than us all, nature. On my daily meanderings I snap away on my phone-even a small thing like a leaf or a tree or a colour even will lead to inspiration. It must be a bit like mood boards -I think they call them in maybe the likes of the interior design world. I’m also inspired by snippets or conversations, words, experiences, maybe even by things going on in Ireland. The word thing is interesting-I’m obsessed by them. A friend of mine had a word on their FB feed and it was so colourful, I thought I am definitely going to work that into a post, somehow.
Other times words or inspiration will strike from absolutely nowhere or a place I can’t explain. A few years ago the word loneliness sort of stalked me, I kept seeing it, hearing about it, both from friends and on the internet. I wrote the word in my journal where I sketch out the blogs and ended up building a post around it. I truly love when this happens as I think that is true, unstoppable creative flow.
Thanks for that-a few questions now about specific posts out of interest-what is the most widely read one?
A quick check of my Word Press App tells me it is one called A Prayer to the Universe -I’m so glad it is this one.It is based on a loving kindness meditation I wrote during Lockdown-it was a pretty bleak, grey, isolating time-I’m a firm believer in intentions and I actually wrote it to feel some hope. Personally it is one I know by heart as it forms part of my own meditations, particularly before sleep. Just a quick point though which is interesting too about the posts-I never know which ones will resonate or will be swinging doors ha, some seem to connect very well with people and others no one will read, this is part of the creative or writing challenge for sure, but is often inexplicable, i actually think that is curious and sort of amazing though.
What are you favourite of all the published posts?
I’m glad you said published as only a quarter of them make publication. I was sent these questions yesterday and I thought -oh no I’m going to have to scroll back and see-but instead I just let my mind settle and saw what floated to the top! Funnily the posts I have most affection for, for want of a better word, were both written in the early days in 2015, for two different reasons. I think at the time I was really excited and energised by the creating. The first of these was The God of Small Irritations and really it was about mindfulness but also ridding ourselves of the small things that make us feel uncomfortable or irritated-they can be the small niggles as such. At the time I had very young children and a madly stressful job and there was all sorts of other pressures going on-one of those overwhelming phases of life and I honestly had lost my sense of self -Kathryn was someone over there or someone in the future I was trying to constantly catch up with. It’s a common experience that we can all relate to. It was a useful post for me and even now-years later when things become stressful I think of it and remind myself. From a purely writing perspective it flowed just really nicely, which trust me rarely happens!
The second one is Of mountains and roots. -this was a post I wrote about my roots growing up in the mountains and how it gave me a foundation for life. It was shared on a local FB page at home, and even now I get emotional thinking about it-I got messages from people from that tiny little community in Limerick from all over the world-I remember a man in his late 70s, living in the US sending me just the nicest message about how he had such vivid memories of the place and describing just this longing homesickness at times. You know I have both cried and laughed writing some posts-you are really pouring yourself into some of them and that was one that made me emotional even writing it-not to mind the unexpected things that happened afterwards. I loved it because the post had connectivity, real emotional resonance.
Have you any posts you dislike or found difficult to write?
I cannot say I dislike one single post, some of them are not great, but to me personally every one is something I put an effort into creating and I’m proud of all the posts for better or worse. There was a two part post-The Past is a Foreign Country and Everything Ordinary is Blue -and yes they were tricky and difficult. This was about I suppose my experience of depression-a particularly tough episode. I just got so many messages from people which was very generous of so many of them, describing their own experiences. And I got overwhelmed to the point I thought of shutting up shop-closing the blog. I thought if you are going to write about matters or difficult issues like this, you have a responsibilty as such to others. I hope I am describing it properly. Funnily from a writing perspective, it flowed so easily, once I started. In the aftermath of this I spoke to a few writing mentors and peers and realised this overwhelm of -funnily- successful posts was surprisingly common-maybe one gently suggested, there was a fear of never writing as effecting a post again. It was so interesting and immersive as a total writing experience. Some other posts are a nightmare, I literally wrestle with them-off the top of my head I cannot think of an example-because there are too many wrestlers as I call them!
I know you laughed at this when we sent you the questions yesterday-but why do you write?
I laughed for sure , ha! It’s such a deceptively simple question but it is actually complex and multi layered. the truth is there is no definitive answer and I am still working that out, but I will provide you with some reasons as to why I do.
Firstly-my own background -my mother was an English teacher who really loved the subject, we were always surrounded by books and stories and literature so it was pretty natural for us to be exposed to words from a tiny age. Not only that though-we lived at the back of the shop my family ran and it was a madly busy house, there were always neighbours and friends coming and going and with them their stories; I have several fond memories of loads of gathered around the “last supper” table in our chaotic kitchen and just talking and sharing tales. I particularly remember the folklore stories, Ireland is really rich in story telling and we love to talk.
In myself I do have a vivid imagination -I did even as a small child love to write little plays and stories and poetry and that. That hasn’t changed, I’m constantly writing stories and posts in my head and I’m a natural storyteller in my soul and daily life.
I suppose personally the real reason I set up the blog was to give myself a little courage or to be braver in a sense . At the time it was a really turbulent and pressurised time in my life and I think in Ireland in general. I felt like I wasn’t living really, more existing at the time. And in a sense when you are in this space for a while your confidence can take a dent-my latent shy streak was very pronounced at the time, and I felt a little voiceless. I suppose writing the blog and actually publishing something was terrifying (still is at times) but it’s a good barrier to push through. And it has definitely brought myself back and improved my confidence entirely.
There are also more reasons for writing that are mysterious. I sometimes feel that the creative person has -I don’t know how to describe it other than an interior voice-a nagging. It’s a bit like remember when they used to say nuns and priests had vocations, a calling. A calling to create in this case. My inner voice totally nagged me for years, decades even. I know I’m also very drawn to other creative people too-no matter what their calling, whether that’s poets, artists, musicians, jewellery makers whatever. I’m just drawn to that ability to almost manifest something out of the inner workings of the mind or the heart. They are my people.
I’m an extrovert person who thrives on connection and social interaction with others and certainly I’ve loved the connectivity of the writing when it happens. That has been hugely important aspect for me personally.I will say the writing has become more difficult rather than easy -but that is a good thing because it shows there is development, change and learning in the work -I spend more time crafting blogs for want of a better word these days
And finally and this is the simple thing, I just love words!
A little bit about you now-you mentioned you don’t live where you are from in Limerick?
I live on the county line between Dublin and Meath. On one side is the city-I love Dublin, the people, the banter, the culture and history. It’s a place I feel utterly comfortable in my skin in. I do think of the Jocyean quote often, “When I die Dublin will be written on my heart” I’ve written a lot about the Dublin experience.
Meath is somewhere I am spiritually drawn to. Much of it reminds me of Limerick with the rich green landscape and rolling hills. I love the meadow lands, ancient sites, trees and the way things grow in a tangled hurry. There is something in the air in Meath; a connection to our past like an ancient thread, something that cannot be defined. Maybe it’s a thin place. My very, very first public post was written after spending a winter solstice morning, welcoming the sun on the Hill of Tara in 2014-it’s a place that draws me, and resets me endlessly. Renewed by the Solstice is the post. However my heart is Limerick, there is only one jersey I wear like, ha.
What’s the day job?
I’m in change management in the public sector in Dublin-simply put I work on a team of people that help staff and departments manage change to improve services. It’s varied.
Kathryn,thanks so much for coming here today and giving up your time. A few people have remarked there is great generosity of spirit in the posts and also love the posts that describe a sense of place. Also thank you for giving an insight to your own creative thoughts and journey- finally what is next on this journey for Zany Mountain?
Thanks so much, that is a wonderful thing to hear. I think when doing a personal blog you are conscious of you know, it not being self absorbed -so it is wonderful to hear about of a universal human connection. That has been really the message from this experience of writing it for me. I would say to anyone who wants to start a creative journey-just start, like it will not be easy at times, sometimes it is very hard, emotional even but it’s ultimately worth it and can be really joyous and fulfilling. Zany has brought wonderful places and people to me and even experiences, I don’t regret a second of the work.
As to the future; I’d like to think there are a lot more places to explore on Zany Mountain. I also write a small bit of fiction and I’d love to develop that further-but it is I am finding, different again!
Thank you all-I am happy for anyone here to give me a shout anytime about the creating-there’s also quite a few posts about the process of creating if you want to read them. Part of own early journey here : The Process and the draw to other creative people I talked about here: Other Creative People are my Oxygen.
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Til next time