Jack Frost came to visit last night, draping his icy fingers across the countryside. With a heavy touch, he transformed the fields and ditches, roads and gardens, into a winter wonderland. Not quite as wondrous as snow but enough to make it fell and look like winter.
Haws and berries were turned into Christmas decorations - a tad early perhaps but why shouldn't Mother Nature join the festive rush?
Leaves were etched with tiny ice crystals
and brambles frozen where they grew
Icy buds became Murano glass
I swear I heard the prune leaves fall with a sigh on the frozen grass below.
Usually we lament the influence of American culture on what we see as traditional Irish ways. Fast food, MacMansion, trashy soaps and cosmetic surgery are all imports we could have done without,
although we have plenty of vices of our own.
But Thanksgiving is one American tradition which I like and which we could do well to adopt.
Looked at from this side of the Atlantic, it seems to be a holiday (and I really hate that word) which has avoided being tarnished by commercialism, where the emphasis is still on families getting together and giving thanks for what is good.
It's hard sometimes, when the recession continues to bring so much misery to so many Irish people, to remember that there are still good things in life.
I know, however, that I have reason to be thankful.
I have my family and friends who love me and are loved in return.
I have a roof over my head, food on my table, a job and good health.
I live in a beautiful country and enjoy wealth and freedom which many can only dream of.
Life may not be perfect but most of the time it's good and for that I am thankful.
Town's much bigger than Dundalk have successful markets but for a variety of reasons, much too complicated and long-winded to go into now, there isn't a regular market in town. Yes, there are a
handful of producers who sell their produce on Fridays but it's a small low-key affair.
The Festival of Light festival (nothing to do with the Hindu festival Diwali but all to do with kick-starting the Christmas shopping season) took place last night. I'd intended to go, hoping to get some
interesting low light shots of the parade, bands, and street performers, but it started to rain and I didn't want to get my camera wet.
My talented friend Patricia was selling her pastel drawings and dough art so I dropped by today.
There were lots of interesting crafts and foodstuffs.
Some you could eat......
......and some you couldn't
I met Inga who works in felt
and makes beautiful booties
and the most unusual jewellery out of wool and zips
Bronagh makes hats for weddings
and Jenny from Ferdia Foods was giving out samples of Danucci chocolate
I gave into temptation at the jam and chutney stall
I couldn't find the words I wanted to write yesterday and no photo of mine could tell the story.
Words, those instruments I use every day, failed me as I sat with a heavy heart, the image of a beautiful
young Indian woman imprinted on my brain.
By now, everyone knows the story of Savita Halvappanvar, the 31 year old dentist who died in a Galway hospital because doctors wouldn't listen to her when she asked them to terminate the baby she
was miscarrying. She was told, her husband reports, that as Ireland is a Catholic country, medical staff couldn't intervene once there was a foetal heartbelt. After three days of agony and an eventually operation, she died from septicaemia.
As well as carrying a sadness when I read the newspaper reports of what Savita had to endure and what her husband and family have to carry with them for the rest of their lives, I am angry. Angry that a woman should die this way in Ireland in the 21st century.
Abortion remains illegal in Ireland as the successive governments have failed to bring in legislation in the wake of the X Case in which the Supreme Court stated that abortion was permissible in the case of 'real and substantive risk' to the mother's life.
Medical intervention to save a woman's life is not the same as abortion on demand, yet in the case of Savita, it seems that doctors were reluctant to end her pregnancy even though the 17 week old baby had no chance of survival.
Although I consider myself a feminist, I was never whole-heartedly 'pro-choice' but then I can't throw my hat in with the 'pro-life' brigade either who seem most vocal in defending the rights of the unborn over the born.
Having experienced the miracle of life growing within me, I feel that this precious life shouldn't be ended unless there are very good grounds, such as when a woman's life is in danger or the child would be profoundly disabled with little chance of survival. And what about women who are victims of rape or incest?
We elect politicians, appoint law makers and policy deciders to legislate so that tragedies like this don't happen.
Sadly, the name of Savita is added to the list of women failed by the Irish State which must move to end the influence of religion over matters of life and death.
Rest in Peace Savita.
Dull dreary drab November, how I hate thee. A month which robs the world of colour, sucking the gold from the late autumn leaves, covering the world in mist and clouds. A month of earthy browns and grays.
There are those who drown in the joylessness of the winter months, whose lives are sapped of energy by the dark days and long cold nights.
Others feel their hearts pierced by the absence of sunshine.
But even as November sucks the colour from our lives, turns beautiful pink blooms to a mushy brown, we must remember that nature is already preparing for spring.
The seeds are getting ready to fly
and the buds beginning to appear.
There are hidden flowers and berries for the birds.
The lonesome cry of the curlew pierces the darkness of the night. Winter has arrived.
For the ancient Celts, Oiche Shamhna or Halloween marked the end of summer and this year it has without doubt ushered in winter.
My father knew the signs which accompanied the seasons and pointed to the weather ahead. When the curlews and lapwings left the nearby shore and sought refuge in the fields, bad weather was on its way.
As I grow older, I feel I am becoming more attuned with the seasons. Walking the countryside with a camera or a dog, I watch out for the signs of change - the lengthening shadows, the beam of light, the
new foliage or the dying leaf. I note when the tide is in and when the sun sets, not just for photo opportunities but because it's part of our landscape.
A sharp frost last night crystalized the fallen leaves and blades of grass. I hurried out to catch the
beauty of the ice crystals before the sun melted them before my eyes, seeking out the shaded ditch