pull down gently to release the flow of oxygen

airplaneA yellow mask springs down from the clear tube attached to the hand of a flight attendant. “Pull down gently to release the flow of oxygen. Place the mask firmly around your nose and mouth before pulling on the elastics to tighten. Be sure to put on your mask before assisting others.” He exaggerates a tugging motion like a Broadway cat pawing his whiskers.

If you have spent any amount of time flying you will have it drilled into you that you won’t be any good to anyone else if you run out of oxygen while helping the person who has less strength and ability than you. Thinking slows down and motor functions become sloppy until there is just not enough strength to help others, or survive.

I had barely landed back in Dublin before I was being told off by friends about the schedule I was jumping into this week. “What can God do with a dead Christian? What good is a dead Christian to him?” I was asked. My sleep deprived self couldn’t quite vocalize the response that immediately came to mind, “What good is an alive one?” It’s rare that someone who doesn’t 100% (80% minimum) believe in God would ask that question as if it really matters. Apparently, it did to him and I was curious to know why. Unfortunately, you can’t get answers to questions that you don’t ask out loud. I’m pretty sure that I smiled and laughed anyway. Who really says things so straight like that?

In this life, love is our oxygen. Food and shelter, we can exist on only those but we cannot fully live. Not this love – that cloudy word that has been reserved for parents and their children, or two people with hearts in their eyes. Not this love – that all-inclusive abstract thought, so slippery and fleeting just as you reach for it. But this love – that tangible expression of kindness when we haven’t deserved kindness, patience when we haven’t deserved patience, acceptance when we haven’t deserved acceptance. It’s that wholehearted embrace that comes after a truth filled explosion of all that is good and bad. No, we cannot live without this love.

Do you feel the love being sucked out of you as the pressure in your life changes? Are you the strong one and yet think that you can help others without putting on your mask first? What good is a corpse? Find love. If left alone in nothing but your thoughts and silence, cry out, “Love! Love me!” Search for that perfect love that takes fear and destroys it. Pull down gently from the heartbeat of heaven, cover your nose and mouth, tighten and breathe deeply. Then, assist the person next to you.

spotting talent

2015-08-01 11.19.48-1Lawrence’s strong back shimmers in the evening light as water sloshes over it. I take a step back to get my city shoes out of the way while Jane rubs her horse down, prepping him for the show the next day. After knowing Jane for 11 years I finally made it to the Glens of Antrim to visit her in her home, surrounded by some of her favourite things. How unlike the chaotic field of tents and rambunctious urban teenagers that were our common passion.

Blueberry pancakes set us up the next morning before I climb aboard the gigantic horse hotel on wheels, along with Lawrence and Jane’s team for the horse show – her dedicated mum and dad, and Nikki … who seemed to be as much of a younger sister in the family as the groom. Just east of Belfast Jane pulls us into a relatively empty field that is roped off into sections. Following orders, I place two lawn chairs in their usual spot, right in front of the vehicle for front row seats.

2015-08-01 09.12.39Now this is no Calgary Stampede right here – it is much more dignified than that. Helmets, riding jackets and jodhpurs replace stetsons, cotton plaid and denim. Women outnumber men. Draft, Hunter, Cob, Connemara and Riding Horses are groomed with precision according to their class. For Lawrence it was a lot of hair off the top, two wide lines drawn on his rump prepped with pigs oil, and sharks teeth to finish the look off. The black nail varnish on his hooves is already beginning to wear off from its unappreciated application the day before.

2015-08-01 13.32.46“That is a beautiful horse,” each of my hosts would say now and again as horses and riders circled in front of us.

It was that day I began to understand these shows were not about primping a horse and displaying it as if in some sort of beauty pageant. They are about owners “spotting talent” in a horse at a young age, training it, grooming it and giving it a future career with someone else. You have to pour heart and soul into an animal, knowing you will have to let it go. It takes cost and risk for very little return. After a bad fall (her father made sure to tell me that it was no fault of her own), Jane recovered from a broken back in her early 20s. This was only several years after wining Supreme Champion at the Dublin Horse Show in the RDS – the win of wins! Her first question was about when she could ride again.

Even after a lot of work to get a horse to a show, there is no guarantee for a win. I can’t say that I’m too much of a fan of the subjective nature of judging at this event … both during the competition and after. Horse and rider are all under scrutiny from a hundred pairs of eyes.

2015-08-01 13.36.54-1By the time Jane’s event was over, the field was full of people, horses, pet dogs and gigantic vehicles. The dark clouds gave up their rain as we climbed into the shelter of our vehicle and reversed out to head home. My own brief attempt at cowgirl-turned-proper-horse-rider-with-the-english-saddle was a bit of a bust that afternoon and reminder that there is a long way to go before I could live the particular fantasy where I am the heroine in a Louis L’Amour book. But this is where Jane thrives and dreams.

As we walked under canopies of lush, green forest surrounding Glenarm Castle the following morning, we shared mutual inspiration for the starting of great things that grow from existing talents that we gave time to develop alongside our professional and spiritual lives. It just so happens that we are both in a place where these realities have collided with enough ferocity that the sparks have jumped, igniting opportunity. In our respective areas we are “spotting talent” – taking raw material and beginning to forge something new from inherent possibility.

tandoori butter chicken

Over the past few months it feels like my first friends are finally returning to Ireland! Ones who moved away for adventure or following the purposes they were meant to live out somewhere else. Some have just returned for a short stay and others have moved back. Last week I got to spend time catching up with several of them! On Friday evening three of us spent the entire time eating, catching up and laughing … a lot! We worked like cogs in a machine as dinner was put together. All very normal until one of them said, “let’s have a competition to see who can make their dinner look the nicest.” Competition. Not, “let’s be creative and see what each other comes up with.” Nope, competition! That is when you know you are good friends. Of course, only one of us was allowed in the kitchen at a time so that our ideas wouldn’t be stolen. The results – even more laughter!

2015-01-09 22.31.04I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t like this recipe. It was what we enjoyed for a not-so-passover-passover-meal a couple of years ago (not so passover because it is far from kosher and not even close to the passover meal!). I even tried to make it in Romania when I didn’t have my proper recipe with me! So good.

Tandoori Butter Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

  • chicken breast cut into large bite size pieces
  • 4 lemons (3 if you don’t like as lemony)
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger, finely grated
  • 5 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper

Squeeze lemon juice over the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Let stand for 30 min.

Mix all other ingredients and pour over chicken. Marinate for 5-6 hours.

Put chicken on rack and grill, turning once, until cooked through and beginning to blacken a little.

Butter Sauce

  • 2 tsp. butter
  • 1 large onion
  • 7 large garlic cloves (yes, the garlic might infiltrate your house)
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • 800 ml tinned, chopped tomatoes or pureed tomatoes
  • 1-3 hot chilli peppers (make sure to wash your hands before touching your face … S. would have done well to do that last week!!)
  • remaining yoghurt marinade
  • 300 ml double cream (whipping cream)
  • 5 Tbsp. cold butter
  • a bit of ground almonds or almond butter wouldn’t go amiss but I usually don’t have that on hand

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter and saute onion. Add garlic.

Add all other ingredients except butter. Simmer for 1/2 hour.

Add the cold butter one tablespoon at a time, whisking as you do. When butter is melted add chicken.

Serve with rice.

Garnish

  • fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • limes