Thursday, December 29, 2016

Robert Cat was my companion during illness

It is with great sadness to have to say goodbye to Robert Cat
my Companion and Teacher
Robert  (?) May 2007-  28 December 2016

For the past nine and a half years
Robert Cat has been my companion

He seem to understand when I was unwell
and in need of compassion

He has been my teacher
 to take life easy

and to hide from the world
when life is too hard

We shared a simple daily routine
and during our recent walks 
he would be concerned for my well being

He was a supervisor
and admirer
of my creative work

page from Into the Light by Corina Duyn, photo of cat and sculpture on fish
page From Into the Light

Robert was the inspiration
 for many of my stories

As he was always with me on my walks 
during the writing of the Cirrus Chronicles (2008)
he became one of the characters in it 

sample page of Cirrus chronicles with image of a cat
Page from Cirrus Chronicles with Robert Cat 

In 2011 I created Flying on Little Wings
and Robert was in there too,
warning the birds about danger.

with all of his 7 kg
was a great lover of FOOD!

This was his daily pose to alarm me
that it would be dinner time soon
It always brought a smile to my face

I will miss the
"I am going to die if I don't eat in the next second"
kind of cry by the sound of opening a tin of tuna

And the ...
'please, please, please'
when opening the fridge
to take out a tub of yoghurt (see short video)


I am deeply saddened that he is gone
but privileged to have had his company

And to have shared his existence
with so many of you

He used to receive Christmas cards
just in his name...
and throughout his life had cyber cuddles 
from as far away as Australia

I have no idea how I will deal with the silence he leaves behind
How I won't listen out for him to come in my bedroom window
How I don't look for him in my garden,
and how birdwatching will be on my own now

How, when I go for an afternoon nap,
that he won't be there to cuddle up under the blanket.
(only at that time of the day- never any other)

How his/our unbroken routine
will be continued without him

So many memories
so many thoughts

We buried him this morning
in the front garden
in his favorite spot
Surrounded by six humans and one cat
we said farewell

Thank you all of you who were part of his life

May he rest easily

Friday, December 23, 2016

Flying out on Little Wings

small white feather

Flying on Little Wings

At the end of this eventful year, personally and in the world, I find myself setting off on my next flight on Little Wings with the thought: "I don’t want to rip the skies wide open, I just want my song to be heard.."

The recent meetings with some amazing people like Carolann Copland at the CAP Awards for Indie Writers in Dublin,  Grace O'Sullivan at the launch of Dis-ability ... This Ability exhibition,  Bernadette and Stan Phillips who invited me to chat on their World in View radio program, and Mags Durand - social media mentor-   have collectively set me up for my next flight on 'Little Wings'.   But of course it is not just this select group of people, but all of you who have supported me throughout this year of discovery, of challenges, beauty, pain, gratitude, puppets, creativity, and new friendships - in real life and in cyberspace.

Thank you, from the deepest space in my heart
for being part of my journey - part of my life.
Wishing you all a peaceful year ahead.

As this past week brought me back to the wise words of singer Kris Delmhorst, who years ago gave me permission to use her song Little Wings in the Flight Path documentary about the making of my book Hatched, I will leave you with the lyrics of her song, which you can also listen to  here 

Little wings by Kris Delmhorst

today I went flying in my favorite patch of sky
I circled and I circled above the world so high
and I thought to myself, what a lovely lovely thing
to be up here with the clouds, to be flying right out loud on little wings
then I met a 747, then he knocked me right out of the sky
he landed down beside me, he looked me in the eye and said
I don’t know why you even bother, I don’t know why you even try
I don’t know where you hope to get to, I don’t know how you hope to fly on those little wings
little wings
little wings
little wings
now I don’t want to be a jet airliner, I just want to be a little bird
I don’t want to rip the skies wide open, I just want my song to be heard
and I don’t want to be state of the art, I don’t want to get there overnight
I just want to be part of all this beauty, want to be part of all this flight on little wings

I’ll never be a flea in your circus, I’ll never be a prop up on your stage,
I’ll never be one more little songbird you can try to keep inside your cage,
you’re never gonna tell me where to fly, you’re never gonna tell me what to sing
and if I end up lost and all alone at least I know I got there on my own two little wings

I guess that you reap what you sow
I guess it gets lonely at the top
I guess it gets harder and harder
to ever really know just when to stop

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Podcast and Talk related to This Ability Exhibition

Two links related to the recent Dis-ability This Ability exhibition on the one page:

Talk by Grace O'Sullivan at the launch of the exhibition, and the Podcast of my interview by Bernadette and Stan Phillips on Tramore Community Radio.

Other recent podcasts and talks related to my work:

  • Sister Stan's talk at the celebration of Into the Light and my work at the Sanctuary in Dublin 2016
  • Talk with  Pádraig Naugthon, (Arts and Disability Ireland) on his Arts & Disability Radio program on Near FM (7.45 minutes into the program) 2015

Friday, December 16, 2016

Cirrus Chronicles- a story inspired by short walks

Page from Cirrus Chronicles by Corina Duyn
Page from Cirrus Chronicles by Corina Duyn 

Cirrus Chronicles- Landing in Ballynelligan, is a fairy-story-with-a-difference. The story was conceived during my short walks along Lady Louisa's Walk in December 2008. 

Every time I went for my (fifteen minute) walk, I thought about this story: what Cloud Fairy Cirrus would see, who he would meet, what they might do. I took many photographs along the way which also inspired the story, and many of which became illustrations in the book. 
Thinking about the story, and having my camera with me, made me less aware of the struggle I had with walking. It made it fun.

The Robin, who is the first 'person' Cirrus met, accompanied me on many of these walks. 
Quite extraordinary.

I also made a small sculpture of Cirrus which I then superimposed into the photographs.  

Cirrus Chronicles is a story of a Cloud Fairy Cirrus Kalani when he accidentally lands in a field in Ballynelligan (a real location). There he meets Sarah Robin, Wally Wood mouse, Robert Cat, a song trush, partying Christmas Tree Fairies and a wooden Zebra. 

Following is an abstract from this small book. To set the scene: Cirrus took part in an event on Cloud Nine: Cloud Hole Jumping. This is what happened.

Cirrus made himself as tall as he could, all five inches of him, and walked towards the starting line of the track. Taking a deep breath, he started on his run. Counting eleven small steps, Cirrus slowly increased his speed. Then three long steps, all the while concentrating on his posture. However, what he could not calculate, were the many marshmallows bumping up against each other, in the litres of lemonade in his belly. Just before the last and most important jump, he slipped, and tumbled through the Cloud-Hole.
Sliding with great speed down the rainbow below him, legs in the air.

(next chapter)

Wet Trousers

“Get out of my bath!” Cirrus looked up, and saw a bird, smaller than himself, sticking out its red breast. “Get out of my bath! Can’t you hear me?”
Cirrus was a little scared. He had never been away from home before.
To be honest, he felt pretty embarrassed too, sitting with his bottom in a puddle of water.
“I am so sorry,” he said in a shaky voice, “it happened by accident.”
“Well, you just make sure it doesn’t happen again,” was the reply. “This is MY field and MY bath!” The bird flew off in disgust.
Cirrus ran towards the edge of the field, water sloshing in his yellow boots, and sat down on a moss-covered rock.
The sweet smelling grasses surrounding his hiding spot, were tall enough to reach the rooftop of his parents’ house. To see the tops of the enormous trees in their winter outfits, he had to lie on his back.
Taking off his boots and wet stripy socks, he asked a little shaken, “where am I, and how on cloud do I get home again?”
Hanging his trousers out to dry on a low branch, he looked out over the field. Through a gap in the trees he could make out a river. On the other side there were trees that looked like huge wet feathers.
“Look at those mountains, they are so green,” he said in awe, “and so BIG!”
“Well, what do you expect?” the red-breasted bird called out from a nearby tree. “You are looking at the Knockmealdown Mountains. What you see there are only the hills. You should see the REAL mountains!” the bird boasted.
“The ‘what me down’ mountains?”
“The Knockmealdown mountains, with the famous Vee Gap. ARHG, what would you know about mountains!”
“We have mountains too you know,” Cirrus said in his defence. He was feeling rather self conscious, sitting in his knickers, legs covered in goose bumps.
“So, where did YOU come from?” the bird asked.
“From up there,” pointing his skinny finger at the sky. To his horror
Cirrus could not make out Cloud Nine, Cloud Nimbo, or any other
Cloud for that matter. The rainbow too, had long since disappeared.
Taking a deep breath, he continued, “and if you would be so kind as to tell me, where am I now?”
“In Ireland, you ejit. Don’t you know anything?” The bird stuck out its breast again, ruffled its feathers, holding its head up high, tail resting on the branch. “You are in County Waterford, near the town of Lismore. To be more precise, you are in the townland of Ballynelligan, in the field owned by me and the Scanlon’s.”
“Enough,” said Cirrus. “One more thing though, who are you?”
“I am Sarah Robin, registered resident of this glorious field!”
“My name is Cirrus Kalani, and I live on Cloud Nine.”
“Cirrus? Never heard THAT name before!”
“I am named after those feathery clouds, you see high up in the sky,” he explained, “and if you like to know, my granny told me that Kalani means ‘the sky’.” 

page from Cirrus Chronicles by Corina Duyn
Page from Cirrus Chronicles by Corina Duyn

There are many adventures. The overall goal is to get Cirrus home again... 'Santa Man' will make an appearence too...


To buy a copy of Cirrus Chronicles- Landing in Ballynelligan, click HERE 

With EVERY book order I will also post a copy to Barnardos, a children's charity in Ireland.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Childhood interests leading to present day writing

Are our interests during childhood the stepping stones, the seeds, for whatever we end up doing in adulthood?

What will Sinterklaas bring me?
Watching a TV program the other day about toys from the past- (a looking back at Christmas through toys), I remembered a photograph of me longingly looking at toys on display in a shop window.
I found it in a scrapbook my mother made for me, a very, very long time ago.

To my delight there were many drawings and pages of writing in there too: A drawing made on my first day at school, age 4;  Letters and drawings for Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (Saint Nicolas and Black Peter); Handmade birthday cards for my parents, and Mother's Day and Father's Day's Poems; Christmas and New Year's wishes.

The pages in this scrapbook which really made me sit up and think how my past shaped my present day life, were the pages from school notebooks.

"This little girl is me.
I am big already.
In learn in school
We paste things.
I make a beautiful book
A book with images
I still make books,
with images...

Translation: left:Write a story by this image.
Right: There was a little girl who was very poor. She 
lived in a small hut, in a large forest. She lived there all alone, 
so she had to clean the house all by herself. As she was really poor, 
her clothes were not very nice. One day a really rich man passed 
by and said to the little girl. You get a new dress. This the little girl 
liked very much.
I still write stories based on images.
Living in a small hut (lovely!) 
Not quite the reality, but a dream all the same.
Happy with a small gift.
Not sure about the rich man though...

Title: Het Vogeltje
This story was called Het Vogeltje
(The little bird)
Not my own story I am sure
but curious it survived for almost 50 years

Little Birds...

I have spend the last 18 years writing about, 
and creating birds...

Thank goodness my writing has improved
from these Very First Written Letters

My first written 'words', aged 4

My more current writing and books

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Care givers need care too

page from Into the Light by Corina Duyn
Both sides of a sheet from 'Into the Light'  book-in-a-box

All of us who are living with illness,
 are in need of support
in our day to day existence.

(... in fairness we all need support in some way, 
but that is a story for another day)

or care givers, 
allow us to live at home
in our own environment

I am hugely grateful
 for all the support 
I have had over the years

are the lifeline 
of many

 they do not always 
get the acknowledgements
 they deserve

Please give them some thoughts 
over the coming weeks
Or some pampering
or a listening ear
or hug

With every best wish 
to those unsung heroes!

Wishing you all 
a peaceful Christmas time

My deepest gratitude to you all

Image is from 'Into the Light' book-in-a-box,  available here (from €20 + )
Also available as A4 Print, see here (from €12.50)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas time while living with chronic illness

Christmas poems by Corina Duyn from her book Hatched
page from Hatched 

Christmas is almost upon us.  A time of sharing. A time of memories past, and yet to be made. A time of celebration. Of love, fun and kindness. But - looking at it from the view point of someone living with chronic illness - for some this time can also be a time of worry.

My Christmas times are quiet, and I like them that way.

But I know that for many it can be a challenge not to go along with the 'norm'. To not feel the pressure to pretend to be well.

There might be worry about shopping, about buying presents, about travel, about organising food. The financial burden.

The thought of being in the company of many others when really you can only cope with one or two people around you at the one time, might already bring stress.
The worry about going over the precious energy levels and ending up with a relapse. The accompanying thought: "Is it worth it?" It might well be!
Christmas poems by Corina Duyn from her book Hatched
page from Hatched 

When one is well for a short time, 'others' might think that you can always be that well, and that you are 'faking' illness.
How, or can one stand up for ones needs? Concerns on how others would react to those needs.

These are real pressures for some, and it can be a huge challenge to not get drawn into situation you don't want to be in.

Those of you who live with chronic illness, or are in constant pain, I truly wish that you are able to carve out me time, and stand up for what is important to you.

Hard, I know...

I truly hope that you find some time to value the true sense of Christmas. Not get drawn into the madness.
Enjoy the light- the festival of light.
Enjoy the company- for as much as you can manage.

Maybe see if you can simplify your Christmas preparations.
Friends and family, hopefully, value your presence more than they would like a bought gift.
Share a friendly smile.  A listening ear. A hug. Write a letter, a short note of thanks...

Plan ahead: creating a balance of the time spend with others, and time in solitude.

My health has improved a great deal since writing these poems which are from my book Hatched- a creative journey through M.E. More able to be out of the house more often and have some level of independence. But even so, I still like to focus on the simply things of Christmas...

Lots of love to you all.
I am thinking of you.

Christmas related Links you might like:

A fun fun abstract from the Cirrus Chronicles:
'Santa Man' 
Read abstract here. The book available to purchase here

The poems on this blog page are from Hatched,
which is now available as e-book (PDF format),
here  for €3.99. 

A previous Christmas themed post

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hope: Finding courage within the weakness

HOPE Quote from  Into the Light by Corina Duyn
Quote from
Into the Light by Corina Duyn

Keeping the thoughts on Hope. And Trust. And finding the space in one's head for the beautiful and the challenging...

It always takes me a while to be brave enough to listen back to my own words spoken during an interview or talk ... But today I finally found this courage and the head-space to listen to podcast of the interview, or more precisely, a leisurely talk, recorded on the 24th November with Bernadette and Stan Philips on 'World in View' -Tramore Community Radio.
See MixCloud link at bottom of page.

The chat was a beautiful exchange of thoughts about art, life, illness, disability, nature, (Zen) poetry, ability, boxes and getting out of them, eggs, presence, puppets, the importance of Fun, strength, transition into disability, new beginnings, and changing attitudes...

The chat flowed freely and I think we could have chatted for a lot longer, given the time. The view of the sea from this radio station made it all the more special.

Towards the end Bernadette read out a quote from my Into the Light  book-  about finding yourself in those moments where you know what you are doing is exactly right for you... and thoughts about Hope. (see quote in image).
... Hope with the capital H, where one sees the bigger picture of one's role in life - I was told, and I can see it now, that yes, I have found that place of Trust - of knowing my role in this world of illness and disability, and being an advocate about Ability.

The experience of the Dis-ability ... This Ability exhibition has - for me personally- been an experience of growth. Thank you Grace O'Sullivan for your words at the opening talk, and Bernadette and Stan for the amazing and easy chat, for helping me to Trust
I will endeavour to remind myself of this in times when I am a bit 'rattled' by circumstances, and unsure on how to handle them.

One such challenge came a week after the radio chat.

...  a display in disarray.
When I arrived at the Cultural centre to pack up the exhibition on the 1st December I was rather shocked (to say it mildly) by the state of the show. The exhibition had changed from an exhibit of 'stories' to what looked like a badly organised store-room.

I became aware that the puppets and tables with our books had been moved to accommodate a gig on Friday 25th.
Which is fine...
Although the puppets were returned to their previous location, they seemed to have been handled in an unkindly and thoughtless manner. They were thrown into, or on, their boxes.  The tables with books, prints etc were left in the back of the gallery. Open boxes with plastic wrapping flowing out of them on the floor where our book displays had been.

Seeing our exhibition in this way made me so incredibly sad. And I am embarrassed that people who came to see the exhibition, which had received such great publicity and kindness, would have seen a place in disarray.

For the past week I have tried hard to make sense of it all. To not let this strange event blithe the overall beautiful, positive and empowering experience.
To keep seeing the Bigger Picture.
To Trust.
Trust that all is well.
To still see the Hope with the Capital H. To find my courage within this weakness. Or perhaps also seeing someone else's weakness in their inability to see that, for the last 5 days of the exhibition, that there was something seriously wrong with the display...

After writing to the art centre, I have received an apology, and am assured that this will never happen again, and that they can learn from the experience.

I suppose the most challenging to get my head around was (is) that the whole point of the exhibition was  about Ability - about stepping out of boxes - and yet this exhibition ending had a visual aspect of being thrown in the boxes again.
I know this was not a deliberate act, but an unfortunate result.

To finish on a lighter note... two of the puppets - my own: The Reporter, and Miriam's Monk had their string completely entangled. An interesting side effect.

Reporting and Mindfulness all tangled up.

Seeing the bigger picture.

Trust and Hope.
Finding Courage within the weakness.

Thank you to all of you who have visited the exhibition, who have encouraged me through social media, through email, messages and phonecalls. For practical support and for believing in the thoughts behind this exhibition. My deepest gratitude.

Now, please make yourself a cup of tea and join us for a chat!
My interview proper starts at about 9.30 minutes in, but if you have the time, please listen to the whole program as it is all related and interesting.


My books mentioned in the interview.

Talk by Grace O'Sullivan

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Housebound but homeless

e-book available here
Page from Hatched now available as e-book 

During my first year of illness, I found myself housebound and  facing homelessness at the same time.  I had one night left in rented accomodation. This experience will never leave me. 

In the Ireland of today homelessness is a BIG problem. It breaks my heart that people are sleeping out in the cold. That some feel that this is safer to be outside than staying at a dedicated hostel, out of fear of those who stay there have used drugs or alcohol.
Homeless people sleeping in doorways of shops, where all the commercial Christmas 'stuff' is displayed in all it's glory behind them.
A bigger contradiction can not be found.

Google 'Irish homelessness' and about 518.000 results come up...

My own story with a 'brush with homelesness' is that in the first year of being ill I staying in friend's houses until I found a flat in the centre of town. The drawback was that it was upstairs.
I used only the first floor and had my bed in the living room. But it was warm and I was in town.

The local librarian Evelyn Coady shared this memory at the Hatched Booklaunch in Lismore in June of 2006: "Dropping an audio book in to Corina back in 1999 I was horrified to see the wheelchair abandoned at the bottom of a steep staircase – Like Rapunzel incarcerated in her ivory tower Corina was trapped – trapped in a body unsure how to function – trapped – trapped full stop.
“Housebound but Homeless”
I was under the impression that I had this flat on a long term basis. But the landlord came up one day and said that he needed it for a holiday let. More money no doubt for those few weeks, but the rest of the year the place would be empty. 
My friends and carers were angry. Very angry. 
My belongings were packed up around me, and plans were made to bring me to the county council offices to have me sleep in their hallway, out of protest. Other plans were to stay at a B&B... There were various Council houses vacant in the town, one even with a ramp for wheelchair use... Empty for at least a year... But due to local elections no houses were given out until after the elections. To make a long, painful story, short, I received a letter in the post the day before I had to vacate my flat. My new homehelp was with me when the post arrived, and as by miracle, my new home was across the road from hers.
Every time I read or hear about homelessness, I recall this event. 
Homelessness should not be as big a problem as it is. Even again today in this little town where I live there are empty houses. Some for months, maybe a year... I can imagine that this is not just happening in our town.

There are many organizations in Ireland to support people who are homeless, or at the brink of becoming homeless.  For example Focus Ireland  or the Simon community 

Part of the Bag of Hope
I am not able to help them in a 'hands on' way, but every year I make donations in stead of buying gifts. This year I also made a Bag of Hope, a rather large version of the more familiar Shoe Box Appeal. I filled a bag with a full set of clothing, shoes, socks, jacket, hat and gloves, toiletries, book, notebook and pens, a few snacks, etc. A reader of my Facebook Post, created a bag too. She even included a small sewing kit, and a colouring book. Another friend brought the bags to Cork.
I hope that these small gestures made a bit of a difference in someones day.

Another way I hope to do my bit this year is by making donations from sales of my book. 
See the Little Wings Christmas Appeal on how to get involved,
 if you would like to help me help others.

I feel immensely fortunate to have a house.
To have a roof over my head.
To have clothes, shoes, food, heat. 
To have a warm bed to get into.

is too small a word 
for today.