Ruth Fitzmaurice: A man handed me a coin at the trolley bay. His small kindness moved me to tears

Disenchanted by news, we need a re-enchantment. Why not sing a new world into being?

‘Covid restrictions are lifting, meaning our first drive to the botanic gardens. Did you hear? The rhododendrons are in bloom.’

‘Covid restrictions are lifting, meaning our first drive to the botanic gardens. Did you hear? The rhododendrons are in bloom.’

 

The butter dish in my kitchen is more reliable than any weather report. Lifting the lid, I’m excited to see softer shinier butter, a hardened block no more. Drinking hot coffee, I count bird silhouettes landing on a faraway tree: one, two, three and then breathe. Covid restrictions are lifting, meaning our first drive to the botanic gardens. Did you hear? The rhododendrons are in bloom.

“You need to start watching the news, have you heard the latest numbers?” asks my sister from the phone. Her big-hearted three year old is banging his bike against interior walls in the background. “Why can’t we go out now?” he yells. “I want to see what’s going on!” I don’t watch the news. I watch body language. Mask to mask, you can tell the numbers by watching how far and fast the twitchy ones leap out of your way in the supermarket aisles. I’ll check the weather and our nation’s mood by considering the state of my butter dish.

The news got switched off here long ago, long before Covid. Scolded by my sister, I dip in for duty to see what’s going on and the newscasters are walking around. When did the desks go? Still the same clanging tones I remember as a child, Angelus bells to follow, a cacophony of gloom, as indecipherable as the muffled teacher voice from the Charlie Brown cartoons. Blah blah blah. Sorry. I can’t. Ever patient, my sister explains the latest numbers.

Guarding the gate

At the botanic gardens, a forthright lady wags her finger at the man guarding the gate. “I’m three cars back and we’re not moving,” she says in a clear drawl. Forthright because she’s American, I guess. “We’re full. Come back at one o’clock,” he says, waving away cars. “We’ve come a long way,” she says. We have indeed. Signs from the butter dish this morning have me offering him another smile, softer, a bit slicker. We’re not budging either.

Yesterday a man handed me his euro coin at the trolley bay outside the supermarket because he saw I didn’t have one. His small kindness moved me to tears. We’ve come a long way, but to where? What the hell happened during that year-long head-prison Covid blip when time ceased to have any meaning because every day felt the same?

Here we are a year later. Blink. Blip. The rhododendrons are in bloom. Tall and lush, pink and bright as the best Hindu wedding, I crane my neck to catch a glimpse of their form from the car window and they are pure poetry. “You’re an existentialist,” says my philosopher partner. “You dwell in the world poetically. Have you read Heidegger?”

My parents got vaccinated during the countywide lockdown and I visited straight away. Was I within the 20km? Don’t ask because I don’t give a f**k

No, I’ve never read Heidegger, but reading poetry sounds better than watching the bloody news. Yes, hark close. I’d rather listen to Walt Whitman’s love words for all mankind read aloud, get enchanted by a landscape of souls and his magnificent beard. Or read some Yeats, Come away, o human child..with a fairy hand in hand, for the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. We’ve come a long way, but now, disenchanted by news, a re-enchantment needs to happen. Why not sing a new world into being, every one of us? Why not? asks the toddler heart, banging against walls.

Softer look

Enough weeping, whatever your woes. It would take so very little. Start with a softer look towards your beloved, or dog companion, or lover, or the chubbier child hand reaching for yours, or any pair of eyes glancing your way at all. Oh poor stolen child, first you got lost, then you stopped asking why altogether. On this beautiful day, go fill your lungs to bursting and don’t speak to me of material things. Be extraordinary as the world around you deserves. Noses forever dipped in news bulletins are missing the point entirely.

My parents got vaccinated during the countywide lockdown and I visited straight away. Was I within the 20km? Don’t ask because I don’t give a f**k and on meeting a checkpoint shouted “Mental health! Mental health!” Then I flipped them the bird. Nonsense. I blushed as gardaí waved me through, inner hero speech left unspoken. Gulp.

“You gave me a reason to get up this morning,” said my mother, her voice like a song. They did their civic duty, lived isolated, incarcerated, walked no further than the laneway for the longest time. I watched my dad hug his eight-year-old granddaughter for the first time in a year. She is the world’s best hugger and buried in there good and proper.

The numbers must be better. The butter is softer. People out there are smiling. Good feelings rise to the surface like cream. Where are we going? At the botanic gardens, the flustered attendant waves me in five minutes later, well before one o’clock, under pressure from the forthright American or it could be my soft smile, or perhaps it’s just his lunch break.

Beauty of these flowers

Open the gates and rhododendrons greet us. If life is not about poetry then what on earth is the point then? The beauty of these flowers also lies in the knowing. They will not bloom forever. We are not here forever. Not even a long time. So how do you live today? Dwell in the world like a poem and park your sober empirical data three cars back.

Life happens in bloom with the rhododendrons and hells bells! The bluebells are next. All it takes is a kind word, or a hand passing a euro coin. Eyes are windows to the soul, and his twinkled long enough to sprinkle real fairy dust. It was only a matter of seconds. Oh human child. The world is enchanting. Go get reacquainted. Or consult the butter dish. Then pass it on.

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