Charlie byrnes

More notes from the 4th floor

Maura Mulligan at Charlie Byrne’s bookstore in Galway City.

By Maura Mulligan

On Saturday, just before she went shopping with her husband and daughter, Francesca sent a text asking if I needed anything. When I clapped eyes on the water, bananas, oranges and apples she delivered, I knew I had a good neighbor and that I was looking after myself.

In keeping with social distancing practice, Francesca left the groceries outside my door and knocked. I in turn wrote out a check, put it under her door and knocked. Who writes checks anymore? Some of us seniors do.

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I find that following a daily schedule helps me stay mindful. When it was time for my dance exercise, I invited others to join me on Facebook. Last week I posted a video and the responses led me to believe that friends appreciated the invitation to a virtual dance. Someone suggested that I slow down so she could follow. I worked on a dance lesson then and with the help of some lovely concertina music by Mary MacNamara from her CD “The Lady’s Cup of Tea.”

I showed a simple reel step. The first part was a move I learned sixty-five years ago from dancing master Séamus Forde in Aghamore. Adding a toe/heel action from Edwina Guckian’s sean nós class when she taught at the South Sligo Summer School, made the step into a new creation for me.

The act of teaching something I put together from two different dance styles and the challenge of figuring out how to video myself was a good distraction from the newscasters. God bless them, they continue to inform us about the hundreds of thousands who loose their lives throughout the world every day. They bring to life the disappointing fact that the federal response to the crisis is terrible. In my opinion, all the denial, delay and dysfunction on the part of the Trump administration has brought on more distress and death than would have been necessary had we someone in full charge. I admire Governors Cuomo and Murphy who seem truly to know what they are doing for their people.

But if on a conscious level I attempt to distract myself with things like teaching a step on Facebook, getting to sleep isn’t always easy. Last night I was awake for hours. I tried to focus on my breath – inhaling and exhaling as they do in yoga. When that didn’t work I thought about the doctors, nurses, first responders and the kindness of people who reach out to those of us who are older and live alone. Ryan, from nearby Weehawken (a member of my dance class) sent me a text to ask if I needed anything. She was about to go to the supermarket with her parents who were doing a huge shopping so they wouldn’t have to go out again for a while, she said. When Ryan set the water, meat and potatoes down inside the door of my building, I in mask and gloves made my way down four flights of stairs and we greeted each other with a dance bow from opposite sides of the glass door. That afternoon I happily boiled and mashed potatoes to top the chopped carrots and onion mix that turned into a tasty shepherd’s pie.

The columnist admires the efforts being made by Governors Cuomo and Murphy during the pandemic.

Besides cooking, baking, dancing, writing and reading, one of the blessings I cherish in these trying times is Radio Station WQXR. Classical music keeps me feeling hopeful and I leave it on most of the day and listen for who composed a beautiful piece. Brahms is up next and as I sit alone at the kitchen table I thank him for his company. It reminds me that those who are gone are still with us and I revisit the late John O’Donohue’s beautiful poem, “On the Death of the Beloved.” Here is an excerpt:

… “Let us not look for you only in memory,

Where we would grow lonely without you.

You would want us to find you in presence,

Beside us when beauty brightens,

When kindness glows

And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,

Darkest winter has turned to spring;

May this dark grief flower with hope

In every heart that loves you.”

Maura Mulligan teaches Irish language at the New York Irish Center, LIC, and Céilí Dancing in Manhattan. She is author of the memoir “Call of the Lark.”