TWO SEPTEMBERS… by Orla Jones

I remember as the anticipation of the pending Sicilian trip approached, my busy packing and checking of passport expiry dates the general organizing of kids, house and pets for my impending departure day. Leaving the September of Dublin with the falling leaves and winter coats behind to the other September of scorched earth and sunshine, so unreal to the Irish traveller.

Arriving at Catania Airport for a week of dramatic landscapes, Sicilian culture and glorious food of Noto ,Scicli and Ragusa Ibla. With a picture to be drawn at every turn of a street corner from the baroque buildings to the intriguing faces of the gathering local Sicilian men at the local palazzo, discussing intently what ever daily topic arose for that morning or evening assembly. The feeling of your expanding soul as you get your daily fix of Sicilian life. I once heard a visual description of a soul, it is like a large water tank with a small tea cup of water removed from it, this would represent the amount of creative soul energy you can t into a human body, so too the creative water tank of an Artist is very like that (or one of the same) and a trip like that? The very question I have been ask- ing myself since my return, long after the suitcase is unpacked the “other September “seems like a distant event in my mind with only the quick snap shots and sketches taken while enjoying the street side cafe espresso or gelato, capturing a moment of Sicilian life tumbling past you down the forever steps and hills of Sicily.

As I am watching the Tesco delivery van out side my window I remember the sounds of the Sicilian streets in the early mornings usually as the church bells start ringing, the shrill of the fruit and veg man’s ampli ed bellows of his daily deals on tomatoes or seasonal fruits, with the enthusiasm of a political broadcast or the arrival of a circus to town, the morning rituals had an element of performance you might get in the Gaiety theatre with a Christmas Panto!

The warmth of the Sicilian people was evident in everything, and even the little dogs tied outside the dwellings in the morning time had a friendly energy about them, as curious as their owners about the group of Artists arrival to their neighbourhood. With the bene t of our Italian speakers among our group at the time, the curiosity of the local people evoked great conversations of genuine interested of the traveling group of Artists from Ireland and sometimes we got directions and local information to an unusual curiosity often missed by the busy traveller.

One such trip was a visit to the hills of Scicli to see a cave dwelling formally the residence of our tour guide’s grandparents who were among the two thousand people who had lived there in former years. Our enthusiastic tour guide took great pride in his telling and demonstrating the tools and way of life so beautifully preserved in his grandparents’ cave an experience we will not easily forget from our September trip. The Sicilian way of life is by no means an easy one, which can be full of labour intensive tasks just to survive cave dwelling life and yet the joy of the simple ways and the love of beauty either made by nature or created by the many skilled artisans of Italian towns people is wonderful to see and experience. I think the visiting Artists in September felt this strong connection while absorbing the amazing baroque style buildings and exhibits in each town we visited. How after a trip like this does a returning Artist de compress again to life , how do you squeeze your expanded creative soul back into the tea cup of ( normal life? ) and routine.

On your return the demands of work, family life await your attention as usual, how do you keep that creative sparkle going within that daily march of the everyday things? I have been asking myself this question since my return, maybe it is similar to how an astronaut feels on their return to earth after space travel, but on a smaller scale of course, the mind returns to the sights and experiences of the trip away. I turn to my blank canvas sitting at my kitchen table in Dublin with a little longing look at my passport I try to keep my toe dipped firmly in that soul tank of creativity as I pick up my paint brush again with a smile… until next time ciao!