Clip-it-ti-clop, clip-it-ti-clop. The sounds of the city filter through my window. I lift my hands off the keys and exchange a view through the window of the worldww for the window of the world. I stretch, lengthening my body from its desk side curl. My eyes search the grey sky above me, triangle peak and red brick in front of me until they settle on the cobbles below. A smile tugs my mood upward as I spot the source of the noise interrupting my staring contest with the screen. A horse, saddled, with its owner are the only traffic between my building and the next.
The cobbles and the hooves have been here longer than the metal strips placed between them and the ding-ding of the Luas sliding by. The new city resembles these. It has reconstructed the inherited streets so that glass, metal and plastic can whisk us through them fluidly … in a hurry … forgetting to look outside … forgetting to listen. But the windows were not forgotten in construction. They have been built into our modernity. The sounds can still seep through them. Our legs can still carry us and feet can still bridge the cobblestone gap. And the horse outside, it can still clip-it-ti-clop, clip-it-ti-clop. They can still disrupt and entice me to the window where I give thanks for the sounds of the city.
Dreaming of days where you can just tuck yourself into your favourite corner? That place where the world disappears as you meet with friends, or where you don’t feel like anyone is watching you spending quality time with story-lines coming alive off a page? That corner where you can hold onto your cup of coffee or tea and have someone bring you something fresh from the oven? Take a walk to the north end of Smithfield, to the corner between Brunswick Street and Grangegorman. A two story, old brick building stands there with its dimmed old florescent light sign “Italian Restaurant” is scrawled across the top and weather beaten menu hangs beside the window. Cibo Creative Kitchen has found its home here for just less than a year now, thanks to a couple of warm-hearted Italians who have made this city theirs.
Soft twinkly lights shine their welcome from inside. Step into the entrance and open the door to your left. Warmth encloses you in a coming home sort of feeling. The music and cosy feel lend to sharing a smile or few words with strangers and unknown neighbours. Behind the tall, beautiful, carved and polished counter Rocco or Stella wave their hello. Small eclectic tables are covered in colourful oilcloth. Lights are covered with old soup cans. There is a corner nook with a round coffee table made of an old bicycle tire. Two small couches are pushed against a bookcase full of inviting and inspiring shared reads. This is that place of comfort – that corner of this house of Dublin that just feels right. From the kitchen come seasonal pastries, soups and sandwiches. Stella shares her creativity with something new every week, an invention of inspiration. If looking to have something warmer, you might just find she has made her grandmother’s lasagna that day.
On Wednesday afternoons if you arrive around 2:00 you will find Rocco helping us move two tables together so we can set up colouring books for the community. Colouring books for children, colouring books for adults, dot-to-dot and blank pages sit on the corner ready to be used by anyone needing a moment of downtime. Chairs surround the tables with jackets hanging off the backs of them. Young, old, rich, poor, local, international – the space is filled by anyone who adventures into the comfort of this hideaway. Conversation flows. They have given us a generous welcome into the treasure they have created for the community. They have become friends.
Since writing this post, Stella and Rocco have both moved into other endeavours in the city. We were so thankful for them and look forward to hearing about what they are up to next!
Of all the days to not have brought my car into town for work! After 13 hours in city centre I was left carrying half a tray of uncovered cinnamon buns through inner-city streets at 10pm. There are plenty of people who might think this is a bad idea. You just never know how safe it is (I’ve never had a problem). As I walked down the hill from my church in the dark a group of rowdy teen lads from the area spotted my tray full of “cakes”. My initial reaction was … relief! I might not have to carry all these buns home with me!! Sure enough the tallest lad, towering over me, stopped about two feet away from me, reached his hand out and asked for one. “Absolutely!” I said to him. Pretty soon I was surrounded by a wall of lads each looking for a late night snack. Their faces transformed into innocent joy as sugar coated their hands:
“You have just made my night. No, seriously, you have.” “Wow, thanks!” “I love you!” “Did you make these?”
In that moment it felt like they had experienced ‘home’ – the space where you are loved for no reason at all and experience nothing except good things without having done a thing to deserve them.
My load lighter, I crossed the river and walked to the top of the hill to wait for my bus. Late night buses to my community don’t have a fantastic reputation either. I haven’t quite figured out why yet. It was only when the bus pulled up that I realise I didn’t have enough money on my bus card to get home. I smiled at the bus driver and offered him a cinnamon bun. He told me I had enough money to just get me home. The bus was quiet. A few young adults sat alone with their headphones in. The only exceptions were two men who were having a conversation across the aisle from each other. One reached out for a cinnamon bun with a question in his eyes. “Of course!” I said to him and then proceeded to offer cinnamon buns to the others on the bus. “Communication!” He exclaimed, “This is exactly what we had been talking about. No one communicates anymore. They all just look down at their phones the whole time.”
The lines across both these men’s faces told me they had lived more lifetimes than their years would allow. So we proceeded to talk about anything and everything. Soon another man and his son came on the bus. The skin on their faces draped over deep hollows. One of my new friends offered them my cinnamon buns, confident that this is what I would want. Finally we convinced the boy to have one. He shyly took one and slowly ate it while the rest of us shook hands and introduced ourselves. One of the men then asked if I was a teacher. “I teach a bit of sewing,” I said. He knew it, he could tell I was a teacher right away. As we got closer to my stop the other asked me if I was a preacher. “You could nearly call me that as well,” I said through a smile. “A sister?” he asked. “Not quite,” I responded. He was working away with something in his hands before extending it towards me. “I don’t have much to give you,” he explained as he handed me a small candle. Shaking their hands and blessing them I exited the bus near my house.
I think they met God last night – him in me. The reactions they had were the same I have when I mysteriously experience his Presence near me. There is a rightness, a letting go, a vulnerability, an accepting of kindness. I was humbled. A tray full of cinnamon buns and perfect love that doesn’t leave space for fear, such a small taste of heaven. These small offerings of hospitality are my fish and loaves. Miracles are made of such things.
In a rubber playground littered with cigarette butts and surrounded by cobblestones, the children laugh and play. They climb, they jump, they dance! “Watch me!” they shout. Tourists eyes are glued to the ground as they descend out of their bus and bounce their suitcases over the stones to their hostel across the way. Clad in business suits, men and women stroll home from work, their bags swinging freely. A football is kicked around between the rows of houses and apartments. The shop is full of local Dubs and foreigners just like me grabbing the few things they need for the evening. The cafe is full of people at their leisure basking in hospitality. Jameson tower stands proudly in watch. The tall modern lamp posts wave their salute. Brick, stone, concrete, glass and metal. White skin, brown skin, freckled skin.
The evening air is full the music coming from the mouths of the youth. The morning brings a hush and drone of vehicles as the city slowly wakes up.
I love this city in the sun. I love it in the rain. I love it when it is grey and clouded over. I love it when the sun breaks in the west and rainbows appear in the east. Whatever the weather, these cobblestones come under feet of young and old. Beautiful, beautiful people.
Through the gates of the old demesne the sounds of the city are replaced by wind whispers. Behind me I hear the approach of runners with the steady friction of their shoes meeting the paths touring the park. Children’s laughter comes from the playground to the left. I cut across the grass to the gateway of the old walled garden.
An arched entrance with open gates stands in welcome. The path slopes down the centre of two lawns towards an empty sunken concrete pool. Gardeners are out with their wheelbarrows weeding, preparing and planting the perennial beds that colour the borders of this first sanctuary.
Ascending from to the pool I enter the gates of the heritage orchard. Pale pink almond blossoms proclaim a promise of a good harvest. The fruit trees from a few hundred years ago are finding their way home again. In the far left corner bees are waking up from their winter sleep and are busy making their honey behind the green mesh of their designated home.
Through the opening of the back wall I step into the kitchen garden with its sculpted herb garden, neat rows of strawberries under mulch, rhubarb borders, fruit trees espaliered on the back wall, central garden tunnel, vegetables growing from the bulbs planted in the winter, and empty beds waiting for their purposes to be fulfilled.
Bring your ladders or climb a statue, it’s easier to catch a glimpse of the colourful and extravagant costumes of the Paddy’s Day parade. Tourists and locals cover the parade routes like a sea of ants. Bobbing shamrocks float through the crowd and adult sized leprechauns are found throughout the crowd. It was the first time that I had been to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin as a spectator. The artistic stories told by different counties were less like the parade floats I grew up with but far more descriptive and skillful creations. Enjoy the moment!