Brigid's Day

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Today is Brigid’s Day, and marks the old Celtic festival of Imbolc,  the first crack in the rugged defences of winter, the first hint that Spring could be on its way. Actually, it’s colder here than it has been for weeks, but since the sun is shining we’ll disregard the temperature for now. Two weeks ago today, I was reading along with writer Damian Gorman and Patricia Canning, Project Worker from the Reader Organisation, at an event in Coleraine Library organised by Libraries NI’s Health in Mind team. Our remit was to select for the assembled audience prose and poetry pieces that we had found personally uplifting or inspiring. We talked about many things during the course of the morning: about images of light and dark, earth and sky, about the difficulties we all face in life, about the joy and the escape that reading can be. One of the participants commented that she had recently resolved to be more mindful when she read, a sentiment that was echoed by one of Patricia’s selections, an extract from The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. ‘To read is to dream,’ writes Pessoa, ‘guided by someone else’s hand. To read carelessly and distractedly is to let go of that hand.’ Damian read Maya Angelou’s truly inspirational poem 'And Still I Rise' (here she is, reading it herself) and then had us all laughing at a piece from a late nineteenth century instruction manual: advice for the young bride on her wedding night. ('She should let him grope in the dark. There is always the hope that he will stumble and incur some injury...' You can read more of it here.) We had a seventeenth century sonnet, a book the size of a child, poems by Durcan and Heaney. Among the extracts I read was one from Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin. I finished with a piece from The Butterfly Cabinet in which Maddie claims that ‘Every day after Brigid’s Day… is longer than the one before by the length of a rooster’s step.’ It doesn't sound like much, but it's heading in the right direction, a little more light in every day that passes. After the event, one participant commented: ‘It reminded me of how powerful reading can be in lifting people’s spirits and connecting over time and space.’ I think we all came away feeling a little lifted and a little more connected over time and space. Many thanks to Coleraine Library, to Libraries NI, to Health in Mind Project Manager Frances Dowds, to Outreach and Information Officer Helen Kielt and to Damian and Patricia for a hugely enjoyable morning. The picture to the right shows (back row from left to right): Patricia Canning, Frances Dowds, Jean Fitzpatrick from Libraries NI and Damian Gorman and (front row), me and Helen Kielt. The rooster (top left hand corner) is called Gilbert.





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