What is my purple notebook? A notebook of inspiring memories, of various kinds. I describe it here, and list the first few entries, explaining what they mean to me.
The Iliad, E.V. Rieu. I bought a second-hand copy of the Iliad, as translated by E.V. Rieu, when I was eighteen. I couldn't really get into the story much but the atmosphere of the epic and the tragic stuck in my mind.
Star chart, Eason's. A very old memory. I remember writing about it in a diary when I was seventeen. Eason's is a bookshop in Ireland, which also sells posters and stuff like that. I saw a poster of a star-chart whose blue background seemed gloriously deep and sublime to me-- the whole atmosphere seemed solemn and lofty, the atmosphere of the night sky. All my life solemnity has thrilled me. I don't understand people who can never be solemn, and who boast about it. What's admirable about that? Of all the emotions and atmosphere of life, surely solemnity is the one under-represented in modern life.
A day of dappled seaborne clouds. A phrase from Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I read the book when I was seventeen and one sequence (which is often considered deliberately overwritten and parodic) thrilled me and made me yearn for a life of vivid, fresh, memorable experiences.
Matisse and Picasso. A lavishly illustrated book about the two artists which gave me a new zest for the visual world, and the fluidity of experience.
EWTN Doctors of the Church, Sunday dinner, gravy, camaraderie and anecdotes in the studio. A recent memory. I was having Sunday dinner with my father. There was a panel discussion about the Doctors of the Church on EWTN. The dinner was delicious, especially the gravy, and the joviality and camaraderie in the studio-- amongst regular pundits-- made me yearn for something similar in my life.
Feelings into Words. Being there. The title of an English prose text book I found at home, and the title of a chapter in it. The chapter was about first-hand experiences. Nothing is more exciting than the immediacy of experience, and the idea of the immediacy of experience.
Michael Scott, Colorado. The episode of The Office where Michael finally goes to live with his lady-love.
The drama of every situation being what it is-- lecture, dinner, drinks, flight, bus ride, scene in street. Everything is what it is and not something else. That is a thrilling thought to me.
When Harry Met Sally, Christmas Eve, Pope Francis on TV. One Christmas Eve I flew into JFK airport. I watched When Harry Met Sally on the flight (it was Delta airlines, who give you a personal screen and choice of movies). There was a very festive atmosphere. In JFK, Pope Francis celebrating Midnight Mass was being shown on the TV of a bar. Nobody was looking at it, but that seemed entirely appropriate. Who looks at the sun on a sunny day at the beach? I felt such a profound sense of how Christianity and Catholicism were the very foundation of a culture, even when people aren't thinking about it.
Midnight Mass with Michelle in Richmond Cathedral. I don't really like cathedrals, but the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond is an exception. It is cosily compact, and it has the coats of arms of all the past Bishops of Richmond on the ceiling. They all have Irish names!
Holy Eucharist church with Michelle. The church where she made her confirmation. We visited it while attending the funeral of one of her relatives. It was a privilege to pray with her there.
Beach in New Jersey with Michelle. I wrote her name in the sand and she took a photo of it. This touched me very much. It was a cold day, but I prefer beaches on cold days.
NFP event with Michelle. Crucifix on wall. Michelle has a special, and now professional, interest in Natural Family Planning and everything connected to it. We attended a seminar about it together once. It was in a Catholic centre and I remember looking at the very stylized Cross on the wall of this room and feeling a surge of gratitude for our Saviour and God.
Christmas concert with Michelle in General Post Office. On her first day ever in Ireland, we went into the General Post Office, the headquarters of the 1916 Rebellion, and still a functioning post office. It was Christmas. I didn't expect to find a little Christmas concert taking place in there, but there was. And mechanized life-style figures, I seem to remember!
Walter Mitty movie with Michelle. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller, watched in a cine-bistro (a combined cinema and restaurant) in America. Quite an emotional ride of a movie. Just a special evening.
Looking at over-the-top Christmas lights with Michelle. A tradition in Richmond, Virginia. A very special and happy and silly memory.
Chiocca's and It. The Beast, Coke. It by Stephen King is a novel that seems to capture the excitement, terror, texture and wonder of life as few others. Chiocca's is a ratskeller in Richmond, Virgina which is my favourite eatery and one of my favourite places in the world-- baseball on the TV, slightly shabby and worn interior, full of regulars, full of miscellaneous bric-a-brac, cosy but never packed. The Beast is a particular sandwich which I always ordered, with Coke. Reading It in Chiocca's while eating the Beast and drinking Coke was one of the best experiences ever.
Lunch in Walgreen's with Michelle after dental surgery. I had dental surgery in America one day. Michelle was very attentive and caring to me all day long. I enjoyed being a patient. I am never sick, I miss out on all the sympathy!
Whiteboard brainstorming. "All the debates we had".... I love hearing about the creative process in anything, especially the up-in-the-air stage.
The Bible, mullioned windows, Ballymun Road. Reading the Bible (or quotations thereof) always makes me feel I am accessing the deepest layer of human experience and culture. Mullioned windows always seem to me like something decorative in the background, rarely noticed, but symbolic of tradition and heritage. Ballymun Road is full of old red-brick houses. These associations form a chord for me. Somehow, when I think of the Bible, I often find myself thinking of mullioned window and the Ballymun Road.
Letter to the Hebrew, Black Hand Café. This is a café in Richmond. I remember reading the Letter to the Hebrews there one day, while having a coffee, and feeling full of zest for the Christian life.
Book of Revelations, flight to Dublin. The Book of Revelations must be the book of the New Testament that I've read the least. On a flight to Dublin, I read the entire thing through overnight. It filled me with excitement and zeal.
Funny toothbrush. My mother bought a toothbrush once. Only when she was looking at it with my sister did she realize it was in the shape of a woman's torso, complete with prominent 'lady bumps'. They laughed at it a lot. And I felt such a sense of warmth and happiness. I was only a kid. I love those moments of togetherness in humour.
Going straight to Mass from airport. Once I went straight from Dublin Airport to the Holy Spirit Church in Ballymun, complete with luggage, and just caught Mass. I felt like a very dedicated Christian.
Aviator scene with Odie. A scene in the movie The Aviator, where Leonardo Di Caprio (as Howard Hughes) is shown giving himself a respite of only a few seconds before he launches back into supervising his many business and aviation affairs, firing on all cylinders. I never fire on all cylinders. I wish I did.
Tapping and whistling in bathroom pipes. A haunting, pleasantly melancholy sound. I liked listening to it while lying in the bath.
Paintings in Ballymun vegetable shop. When I was a kid. Sunny and Mediterranean and bright. I usually hate that atmosphere, but these caught my imagination. The mundane and the glamorous accentuating each other, again.
Kilmainham prison museum. Concerted struggle. A visit to the museum where many Irish nationalists were held, especially after the 1916 Rebellion. My imagination was fired by the idea of a group of people being entirely and whole-heartedly devoted to a cause, together. Single-mindedness of any sort inspires me.
1992 Christmas exam results. After a year and a half of struggling in secondary school, I finally made a continuous effort and did relatively well in my Christmas exams in 1992. The idea that work paid off seemed magical to me, I was so fatalistic as a teen. I look back on this to inspire and motivate me today.
Alcohol shelves and labels in Tesco. Bhagavad-Gita. We had a lavishly illustrated copy of the Bhagavad-Gita at home when I was a kid. It seemed so classy to me, and helped me see sensual richness as a metaphor for the spiritual life. For some reason I always associated it with the handsome and richly-coloured labels of the alcohol bottles in my local supermarket.
Radio interview, Leaving Cert, "everyone when they're students". Irish people take the Leaving Cert exam when they're eighteen, at the end of the school. It decides college entry. I felt I'd blown my Leaving Cert and wouldn't get into college. I was listening to a radio interview and heard a musician talking about his musical interests in college, saying: "Everybody when they're a student"... It made me wistful for a common experience, a part of life's topography, that I felt I wouldn't know. I like it whenever people identify anything typical of particular periods in life. Special times and special places, again.
Schmaltzy, gentle LPs and LP covers, American men in hats, nineteen-forties. I have a memory of listening to such a record in my childhood, or even seeing a cover of one. Rat Pack era. Men in dinner jackets getting soppy about women with classy hairstyles.