Journeys in Dublin

???????????????????????????????I was recently recovering from surgery, a position in life that necessitated frequent perambulations around my neighbourhood. I don’t want to discuss the surgery, and I am absolutely fine now, thank you! With nothing on my mind except trying to keep my stitches in place so that my insides would not fall out, I was free to observe everything and everyone around me in great detail. As much of my recovery took place during the cold months of winter, I frequently found myself outside wrapped up like a sumo wrestler and doing my best to stay upright against the onslaught of ice and snow. Brim full of warmness, there I would be, walking along in my locality, delighted with new discoveries after nearly twenty years in the place. In my delight I might venture to say hello to a passerby. On this particularly cold afternoon I was out and about, thrilled with myself that I was fully intact, not too sore, fed, watered, and about to do my mileage for the day.  Darkness had not yet fallen, and there was a lovely wintery smell in the air –  hearth fires, warm dinners, combined with wet leaves sort of smell. Along the road I observed a figure advancing before me, and I thought to myself to make sure to say hello. To be friendly. To smile. After all, a smile goes a long way. I had been alone all day, and I wanted someone to smile back at me. It took a few minutes for the person to pull up alongside me, but just beforehand I observed a large pair of earphones under her woolly hat. ‘Hello’ I said to no avail. She didn’t even look at me although she was literally a footstep away. She was clearly hell bent on doing her own miles for the day. But I was surprised at her deliberate solitude, eyes straight forward, not even a gaze to right or left. I may as well have been invisible. Maybe she was thinking, or sad, or worried, and didn’t want to engage with the world. So, I thought to myself, I would do a little experiment, and while walking my local park I’d say hello to whoever passed me, because we are a friendly nation. We like to talk to eachother, to reachout. The following day I walked the boundaries of the park opposite my house. It was a little earlier in the day; the winter sun was casting playful rays through the trees and turning their trunks a strange shade of purple in the shade and shadow. I said hello to eight adults that afternoon, all of whom were wearing earphones, and none of whom even made eye contact. ‘No wonder’, I thought to myself ‘that the world is such a lonely place. Earphones have taken the place of conversation’ for some anyway. I wondered whether all of those people to whom I had said hello were thinking, or sad, or worried, and didn’t want to engage with the world. Wouldn’t a brief ‘hello’, or even an eye smile with a stranger have helped?

The photograph above was taken by myself on St Mark’s Place in New York City in the summer of 2013.

About Dr Éimear O'Connor

Art historian, curator, author, lecturer, visual artist, arts consultant. Insomniac. Early morning writer. Late night reader.
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