Category Archives: Firhouse Zibaldone

Tomatoes 2021 (1)

Walk through the townland. Gather what is left behind. Single use coffee cups. 

Stab a couple of holes in the base for drainage. Fill with compost. Pop a seed in the middle.

Lightly cover with compost. Leave in a warm spot. Add water, sometimes.

Anticipate growth and harvest.


Words: JesseJames. Image: JesseJames.


Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems – Rainer Maria Rilke.

To celebrate Imbolc, or Saint Bridget’s Day, on February 1st, we decided to collect some local field rushes and create a traditional Brigid’s Cross.

Imbolc is an ancient Irish and Scottish festival associated with the strengthening of the Sun and the lengthening of the days in Spring. It lands about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Imbolc celebrates new growth such as buds on trees and the appearance of plants like snowdrops and daffodils.

It is also associated with the lambing season. It is believed that Imbolc translates to “ewe’s milk”. Perhaps because of this Imbolc is associated with childbirth and the fertility Goddess Brigid. Brigid is also a goddess of fire, poetry, unity, and healing.
Imbolc became a Christian celebration. The Goddess became associated with Saint Bridget of Kildare whose feast day is on February 1st.

There are many traditional ways to celebrate St Bridget’s Day or Lá Fhéile Bríde as it’s known in Gaelic.

One of the most well known traditions, is to create a Brigid’s Cross using reeds, rushes or straw. The cross is placed on the front door on Imbolc eve to be blessed by the Saint and thereby protecting the home from evil and fire.

Another tradition is to place a cloth or scarf outside to be blessed by St. Brigid as she passes by. In Irish folklore these can then be used as a cure for headaches or sore throats.

Making a fire or lighting a candle is associated with the Saint from early Christian times. Perhaps a perpetual fire for cooking was kept going in order to feed the poor at Saint Bridget’s monastery in Kildare.

Another way to mark Imbolc is by creating a feast. Traditional foods were eggs, sheep’s cheeses, fresh greens, colcannon (mashed potatoes with shredded cabbage mixed in), milk and beer. Brigid used to brew her own. Spring cleaning is another way to mark the festival, as is planting seeds.

IMBOLC by Caroline Mellor

I am the dream of awakening.
I am the returning of the light.
I am the tough green shoot pushing up through the pavestones, I am the first kiss of sunlight on the unfurling petals of the snowdrop. I am the wind which whispers the gentle pull of home to the migratory bird.
I am the drop of ice melting on the mountainside with its great dream of the ocean.
I am the sap rising in the blossom tree just before it reveals its sticky buds to the sky; I am the riotous celebration humming away beneath the earth’s mantle of frozen sleep.
I am the rousing of the bee from its winter slumber, and the soft pad of the mother-wolf’s paw on the snow as she prepares to birth her pups.
I am hope, potential, rebirth and promise. I am the kindling breath which transforms the flicker of inspiration in your creative core into a blazing torch.
Give me the silent crescent moon rising over the sea and I will build you a bridge of silver light so you can walk up and lie in it.
Give me the frost-hardened wilderness and I will breathe radiant green life over it.
Give me the healer, the writer, the craftsperson and the storyteller, and I will replenish her essence and make her new again.
I am Brigid, Bast, Inanna and Hestia. I am the fierce protectress of the sacred fire.
Tonight I bestow my gifts of power and courage at the hearth of your soul: power to step out of the shadows of self-doubt and negativity which have held you in darkness for too long, power to shed all that which no longer serves you, and courage to clear your heart and mind for the dawn that awaits you.
I am the time to honor your unique gifts for their true worth and to protect and nurture your creative self as you would a child. I am the deep longing of the spirit which refuses to be consumed by a narrative of fear and chooses instead to place itself vivaciously on the side of love.
I am the stirring in your belly which knows exactly what you are capable of — and that it’s time the world found out.
I am the fire within which will not be contained any longer.
I am the quickening, I am the serpent uncoiling, I am Imbolc.
I am the dream of awakening.

Words: Rainer Maria Rilke, JesseJames, Caroline Mellor. Images: JesseJames

Night Lights

Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness. – Leonardo da Vinci

Just as the everyday world is periodically transformed by a fall of snow, so too the suburbs are transformed each and every night.

Alert in the dark, our senses are heightened, sensitive to movement and sound. From the shadowy darkness a fox ambles non chalantly across a road before disappearing behind a bush in someones front garden. The paper fan of moth wings beat against the plastic shell of a street lamp, one of hundreds of thousands all over the city, whose orange glow lights the cloudy underside of an overcast sky. At night as I walk, pondering the truth of things, the empty streets appear almost normal.

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Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. – Carl Jung

Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

Night LightsDraft

Artificial light increase over Europe since the early 1990s. Photographs: European Space Agency/Nasa

Modern society depends on light in many forms; from high-intensity natural daylight and artificial lighting, to the glow of TV screens, computers, tablets, smartphones, and games. Light is so ubiquitous – and generally travels unseen (except, for instance, in fog) – that we often take it for granted.
We probably have more light than we need, while people are generally unaware of the amount of light they are exposed to, and of its economic and environmental costs.
Over recent decades…use of energy for lighting has been increasing and science has realized light has a significant influence on our health, he pointed out – think seasonal affective disorder, or SAD – as well as [how light is] affecting plants, animals, and insects.
A citizen science survey has been designed to obtain the first national data on the amount of night light, its influence on our sleeping patterns and local ecology, and also the general public’s perceptions of the night-time sky.

Words: Professor Brian Espey, School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin, JesseJames. Image: JesseJames, European Space Agency/Nasa.

these things themselves run through time

A Walk around the Hotel Courtyard, Acatlan, 1985 by David Hockney

Any drawing or painting contains time because you know it took time to do. You know it wasn’t made with a glance. If it’s honest work, you know it must be a genuine scrutiny of the experience of seeing.

The Japanese and the Chinese did not have the camera until the nineteenth century. I assume they didn’t because there’s no evidence of their art being one-eyed.

Here was an art that dealt with essences, not with verisimilitude, which is about surfaces.

After A Walk around the Hotel Courtyard, Acatlan, 1985 by David Hockney by Jessica Peel-Yates

The late theorizers of Cubism never say it’s about abstraction. They know it’s about perceiving the physical. Cubism is about how we see what we see.

We see everything in focus, everything, but we don’t see it all at once, that’s the point. We take time. The camera, the one-eyed camera, can be arranged so that it sees a lot in focus, but it’s difficult if there’s something very close to it and there’s something else thirty feet away.

I began to realize that I was making pictures in a very strange way, in that when I began I did not know where the edge was going to be.

An Eye’s Walk around Bray Head by Jessica Peel-Yates

Perspective makes you think of deep space on a flat surface. But the trouble with perspective is that is has no movement at all. The one vanishing point exists only for a fraction of a second to us. The moment your eyes moves slightly, it’s gone, and it’s somewhere else. In a painting, the hand is moving, the mark is being made: these things themselves run through time.

Any drawn image is moving through time because of the hand at work.

Words: Hockney on Art, conversations with Paul Joyce.

Images: A Walk around the Hotel Courtyard, Acatlan, 1985 by David Hockney, After A Walk around the Hotel Courtyard, Acatlan, 1985 by David Hockney by Jessica Peel-Yates and An Eye’s Walk around Bray Head by Jessica Peel-Yates

Moonlit Gardening

The Distance of the Moon – Ink on Paper by James Moore

“The moon looks upon many night flowers; the night flowers see but one moon.”- Jean Ingelow

One of the more fascinating things that we discovered lately is that for hundreds of years people have been planting their plants and vegetables depending on where the moon is in its cycle.

For example, they would plant annual flowers and fruit and vegetables that bear crops above ground (such as tomatoes, and courgettes, peas) during the waxing of the Moon, that is from the day the Moon is new to the day it is full. As the moonlight increases each night, they believe plants are encouraged to grow leaves and stems.

During the waning of the Moon – from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again – gardeners would plant flowering bulbs, biennial and perennial flowers, and vegetables that bear crops below ground (such as onions, carrots, and potatoes – the kind of plants known as the nightshade family). As the moonlight decreases night by night, it was believed that plants are encouraged to grow roots, tubers, and bulbs.

The thinking behind Gardening by the Moon is that …just as the Moon’s gravitational pull causes tides to rise and fall, it also affects moisture in the soil – drawing it up to the top of the soil when it is a waxing moon. This causes seeds to swell, resulting in greater germination and better-established plants. When it is a waning moon the gravitational pull of the moon is lessened. The Earth’s gravity has a slightly stronger pull on the roots of plants which helps their downward growth.

Although little scientific evidence has been found to verify such claims, it is known that moonlight affects the leaf orientation of certain plants at night. Scientist Isabella Guerrini who works in the department of agriculture at the University of Perugia in Italy, has observed that sap flow in plants confirm that, indeed, fluid flows are …fuller, faster… as the moon becomes full, slowing down as the moon wanes. This, she explains, has important consequences for plant growth and pruning.

Making Land

On Inis Oírr,  islanders cleared stones and use them to fill crevices in the limestone pavement and to build walls to create enclosed areas. Sand and seaweed were harvested and spread to make land in these fields.

JesseJames make land by composting kitchen and garden waste, enhancing it with diluted human liquid waste, forking in air and water and leaving it to mature for around six months. JesseJames use the resulting compost to enhance the soil.

My whole life had been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God’s presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that lets you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first [compost] heap – Bette Midler.

Image: JesseJames. Words: JesseJames.

Calligraphic Snow

The higher contrast of objects in snow is often very calligraphic, like a chinese water-ink painting on a white background. People trees, bushes and rivers appear almost black against snow.

Calligraphic Marks
Ink Well

These concepts inspired James to create the following mixed media painting.

Firhouse Bridge under Snow

Images: JesseJames. Words: JesseJames.

This Shortest Day

So the Shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive,

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, revelling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us – listen!!

All the long echoes sing the same delight,

This shortest day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And so do we, here, now,

This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!


Image: JesseJames. Words: Susan Cooper.