Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Ray McGrath


Ray McGrath’s column ‘Notes from the Cocoon’, as he adjusts to a life in isolation – last in series


ONCE upon a time there was a good man, happy in his circumstances and the beauty of where he lived. He began to have a dream, which recurring, gradually took possession of him. The dream was of a wonderful place which he called the Celestial City. No longer able to resist he bade goodbye to his loving family and set out on his quest Not having a map for his journey but following his vision he would stop at nightfall wherever he was, take off his shoes and point them towards his destination.

One night a trickster came and turned his shoes around. Next morning stepping into his shoes he continued his journey. After many days of travel he at last saw, away in the haze of distance, the minarets and towers of a city. They gleamed. His Celestial City lay before him. He saw and felt the details of the surrounding countryside as he continued his journey admiring plants and creatures he had never ‘seen’ before. He arrived at last in the outskirts and was dazzled by the beauty of the place. ‘Oh! The Journey was surely worth every step and how vivid my dream was’, as he began to recognize in detail the wonderful places of his dream. He walked through the city along streets that grew increasingly beautiful and familiar, turned a corner, came to a door, opened it, went in… and lived happily ever after.


‘And so, for the road ahead… uncertain as it is, it will be another adventure, a journey this time enriched by deeper friendships, a sharper focus on the gifts of my surroundings, a determination to be a participant more than a passenger’


There was something of that awakening on emerging from my 12-week-old cocoon the other day. Driving into town I had a feeling of ‘seeing’ things as for the first time. Almost the excitement of discovery! A feeling also that I wanted to keep that sharper engagement with my surroundings in the new normal. Something to look forward to as I eased my way out of the security of the cocoon. A way of meeting the challenge of regaining confidence.

I was also aware of how as a community many of us went beyond our comfort zone to help out. I thought of the small kindnesses left on doorsteps, of the many phone calls to make sure we were ok, of the hundreds of volunteers who helped out in Covid related projects, services and helplines. I thought of the many collaborations between groups and agencies attached to the Covid Community of Call helpline and the work that went on behind the scenes by many, including the Waterford Older People’s Council, Waterford Social Prescribing, Waterford Libraries, Waterford Immigrant Council. Some of it was new work but much was there before Covid such as Meals on Wheels and always… generous and caring neighbours – work done quietly and considered normal and unremarkable by the doers.

To all as we emerge from whatever confinement a warm thank you from a grateful cocooner. Impressive, what we could do when the chips were down, and I thought… can we now do this in connection with Climate Change or a Housing and Care strategy for older people? We are capable… and I thought of Emily Dickinson’s lines… ‘We never know how high we are/till we are asked to rise.’

And so, for the road ahead… uncertain as it is, it will be another adventure, a journey this time enriched by deeper friendships, a sharper focus on the gifts of my surroundings, a determination to be a participant more than a passenger, a greater appreciation that the Celestial City is the here and now, appearing much of the time as the ordinary and unremarkable but full of possibilities – the great companion of old age. So this being the last Notes from the Cocoon and until next time I leave you with lines from Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Ulysses:


Come my Friends

Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows for my purpose holds

to sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles

And see the great Achilles whom we knew

Thought much is taken much abides and though

We are not now what strength which in old days

Moved Earth and Heaven, that which we are, we are –

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.


From Cheekpoint, Waterford, Ray McGrath contributes regular columns to the Waterford News & Star, including his most recent series Gaultier Heritage Rambles.

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By Ray McGrath
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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