2021 - A year in Review - Family, Places and Pandemic Times.

by - Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 has been a funny year in many ways. I've not had as much time as usual to update the blog as I've been immersed in my Master's for much of the year and it really needs all my attention but I decided to do a quick reflection over the year gone by.

There have been highs and lows, new places to visit, emotional ups and downs and friendships gained and lost. The pandemic, of course, has woven its way into every moment of everyday life. Normal now is masks and hand sanitising and more lately, antigen testing and Omicron. I've kind of tried to ignore it, was never one for checking numbers constantly as I just found it too stressful but I've managed to transition the constant noise into a background murmur at this point and working from home means that generally I feel safe and I also feel like I'm not going to be a big carrier either.

Spider's Web on the Curragh
Web of Life - Taken on the Curragh 

Normal has changed and I've mentioned friendships lost - unfortunately some friendships are place dependant and need that proximity to stay alive. With being away from my physical work location in Dublin I've lost a lot of connections that I would have once had. It's also true to say though, that as my place has shifted, so have my friends. It has been really lovely being able to catch up with people who live locally and to develop those friendships which are likely to be more lasting.

I've also felt a massive restlessness and a really strong desire at times to be untethered from all the things that make up the humdrum of my life. I don't know why, I guess there are many reasons instead of just one. Covid lockdowns, the freedom of having grown up children, menopause, the sense of stepping into a new phase of life with doing the Master's. Maybe all of these play a part but I've had moments of literally screaming with rage inside my head and wishing that I could just run away from everything and escape from the needs and wants of other people. Is that selfish? Perhaps, but it's very real for me and even in the calmer moments, I feel like the sands are shifting and that my life is evolving into a new stage. I'm attempting to channel that energy into future me in a good way and keep moving towards the goals I have but even so, I've been escaping to the Curragh quite frequently to try and run off some of that rage.  I've also come to the conclusion (after years of suspecting something along these lines) that I'm neurodivergent in some way. It may be adhd or autism or a combination and pursuing a diagnosis will be an expense that I can't really afford at the moment but it's something I fully intend to do. Reading more about this whole topic and watching informational videos has been a true series of lightbulb moments for me this year.

As always, travelling around Ireland and finding new places to photograph has been a constant joy. Places that were new to me this year were very local - Corbally Harbour and Ballinafagh Lakes, which was a little bit more distant but still within Kildare.
Corbally is very close to where I live and is a nice walk that goes into Naas. The waterway is no longer used for boats but is a great place for a stroll, and peaceful too.

Swan at Corbally Harbour Naas
Swan at Corbally Harbour
Ballinafagh is such a stunning spot, lovely for a picnic and walk and the lakes, as you can see, are utterly picturesque. You can read a bit more here: Ballinafagh Lakes

Ballinafagh Lakes Prosperous
Ballinafagh Lakes Prosperous County Kildare
It's also worth stopping by this church from the 19th century

Ballinafagh Church
Ballinafagh Church
We also visited Jerpoint Glass and you can read more about that here - Kilkenny, Jerpoint Abbey and Jerpoint Glass

Jerpoint glass studio Kilkenny
Jerpoint Glass Studio, Kilkenny
As I mentioned, much of my time has been taken up with studies and I've loved it but simultaneously felt a lot of pressure, particularly combining with work and all the other voluntary work I do.  It's hard to believe that I've fully completed year one. I feel like I have learnt such a huge amount and have tried to incorporate that into any environmental volunteer projects that I've done.  Volunteer work itself has been full on and, in parts, a source of huge stress because sadly people let egos and mismanagement overtake the important goals.  But again, it has been a learning curve and a lesson in not assuming that others are coming from the same space as I am. And some achievements out of this year's voluntary work were putting together a climate action weekend with a great team, being elected to the PPN National Advisory Group and I also found out late in the year that I was successful in my application to become a Climate Ambassador with An Taisce.  I'm really hoping to build on all of that and continue to do as much as I can to raise awareness and bring climate projects to fruition because at the end of the day, it's my belief that change comes about from the ground up and that always spurs me to action.  As part of the PPN Climate Action Weekend I hosted a panel discussion about climate action and participation which you can see here - 

Family played a big part in the year's events of course - we got to spend time with Mara, our little granddaughter, which always makes me happy!
Family at Art Exhibition Kilkenny
Mara and Síomha
Cliona Kelliher Kilkenny Castle Park
Cliona Kilkenny Castle Park
And on Christmas Eve, Ben and Síomha announced their engagement which was really lovely and we're so happy for them.
Family Engagement Picture
Síomha Ben and Mara
Speaking of family, we also did a trip to Kerry and I got to speak to my uncle Noel for the first time in over 30 years. This was a strangely poignant experience, both reminding me of my Dad who passed away in 2015, but also a kind of disjointed reconnection with something of an idea of family that I'm not sure I've ever had in reality.  It's something I've made peace with in many ways and like everything involving human relationships, it's multi layered and complex but certainly, in that moment, it felt nice.
Ballyheigue Beach Kerry
Ballyheigue Beach
And on that note, I'll leave you there. I think many of us are almost afraid to wish for good things for the forthcoming year but yet I sense a collective resilience at times. We'll soldier on, there will be the bad days and the good days and the happy moments that will balance out living in the midst of a global pandemic and also living a climate emergency which grows more urgent by the day if we are to prevent global disaster for human beings. There's always a capacity to change.
Robin in Winter Donegal
Robin at the Bank Walk Donegal Town

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