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Yesterday I returned to journals from my time in the Burren, roughly 6-7 years ago. The writing varies: at turns scrawling, crabbed, elegant and neat - the handwriting of a profoundly unsettled woman, groping for insight into a situation she did not expect. A stranger, an outsider, a foreigner.

Some passages are smeared where tears mixed with the ink. I remember that woman. I remember her, turning into salt in the presence of the embittered man she once thought the love of her life. Observation of everything external to that relationship became paramount for a qualified deliverance from despair.

The output is a fragmentary miscellany, appropriate for a diffusely poetic inclination: odd conversations overheard in a tiny dim cafe; names of the Burren's mix of arctic, mediterranean, and 'native' flowers; notes on butterfly and bird behavior; forking paths offered by lists and exhortations; unrealized ideas for stories and essays; details of trips to noisy Western metropolises, ancient smoggy cities balanced on the slopes of vertiginous, dark-firred mountains, border cities where men stared at the sea for hours; and always: the incomplete and imperfect remembrance of places and people past.

Interspersed are passages about my marriage, its breakdown, the things he said and the things I regret. The tone changes over time, deepening into despair, even as the prose matures into complex sentences. I knew the ending, even then, but ignored it even as the evidence accrued, even as I wrote it down, everyday, amidst the pressed flowers, quotations, and newspaper cuttings. The passages, read sequentially for the first time in years, divulge the writer's transformation, a subtle, slow movement toward freedom, which I link to the admonition: pay attention.


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