Belfast – Honest and Alive

I had no idea that this trip would take me to Belfast, until Monday last week when I woke up and knew I had to come here. And I am so glad, I did come here. From Barmouth, I travelled to Dublin and felt so unsettled there that I did not know for a while where to go and what to do. Although getting to Dublin had been quiet enjoyable, by bus through the West and North West of Wales, then on the train from Bangor to Holyhead and via ferry to Dublin. In Holyhead I had a few interesting encounters, one after the other, one with an Irish couple who were waiting for the train to Birmingham, while I was getting ready for the ferryride. In our conversation we somehow landed at betting as a passion of the Irish. The gentleman had an interesting theory about the passion having been born during the hardship of many centuries of many an Irish man, creating the need to believe in or bet on an opportunity that would come their way.

Travelling to Belfast was enjoyable too, a 2.5 hour bus drive to the North from Dublin. My heart opened again when I caught a glimpse of the Mourne Mountains in the East before coming into Northern Ireland. Belfast was my home for two years, in the late 1990s. A bit of story here: In the mid 90s when I first came to Belfast for a project meeting, while working in a European project with partners in Northern Ireland, I fell in love with the place, completely taken by the beauty and aliveness. I followed my bliss and moved here after the project in Germany ended, found a new job as research assistant at the Queens University of Belfast and enjoyed a very alive and rich time here. I somehow had forgotten about that phase of my life, which now feels like a time full of opportunity, dreams fulfilled, fun and social activity.

While being here in the 90s I trained and ran for a marathon – the 1998 London Marathon – which had been a dream of mine from back when I was 17 when I started to love long distance running. Some of what they call cross training for the marathon, I did walking in the Mourne Mountains with my friends from the university walking club. Also I had a racing bike made to measure to do some of the endurance training on the bike. And there was lots of music and language learning. I played my viola in the local university orchestra, one very interesting experience was as part of the orchestra, to perform a piece by John Cage called ‘Ocean’, finalised by his assistent Andrew Culver who rehearsed with us, in the then brand new Waterfront Hall. The orchestra players encircled the audience, way up high in the hall, each player with a clock that started to run backwards when the piece began, there was no conductor, we played according to time, on no notes either. As we played our sounds, on the circular dance stage the Cunningham dance company performed movements which had been defined by dice throwing and the I Ching. The Waterfront Hall attracted other famous artists, I remember being in the audience for a performance with Philipp Glass. Language: I started learning Irish for fun and went to weekend classes in the West of Donegal where I met another inspired linguist from Belfast and we henceforce met up in the lighter parts of a pub to read Irish poems and little stories with the help of our dictionaries. The same friend helped me to revive my Russian before I travelled to a conference in St. Peterburg where we presented the findings of the university project. I in turn helped him to bring information about the party program and plans from door to door in North Belfast when he stood for the Green Party. In the beginning of my stay, violence as part of the troubles was still escalating, soldiers and tanks on the street were part of the daily picture, also helicopters circling certain areas in observation flights. Other parts of the city were clearly not adviced to go to. And during the marching season, around 12th of July, when a group of protestants are still celebrating their victory over the Irish in 1690, one either bought enough food and stayed in the house for a few days or left the city. On coming back the odd burnt car or bus could be seen. Then in April 1998, after the Good Friday Agreement, things calmed down. But you would still not go to certain areas and I changed the route I was taking on my bicycle to visit a friend, when a group of children threw stones at me when I was waiting at a traffic light. There was something about the violence around which I had the privilege to avoid easily enough, inspiring aliveness and openness for activity, creation and innovation as an expression countering the fear maybe. While all the memories of my time here are slowly coming back to me as I am walking the streets of Belfast, visiting cafes I used to frequent and going to the university cinema and reconnecting with friends I had not seen for 15 to 18 years, I enjoy feeling the aliveness of this city again.

I wonder what let to me somehow forgetting this fruitful and inspired time I had in Belfast. Maybe a difficult time in Belfast, when I had a job offer from a computer training company in New Jersey and spent a few weeks waiting for my working visa, the difficult energy of waiting, not knowing if and when I would be able to move? Or later in 2009 when I turned my back to my career in computer training and e-learning and had to somehow make that part of my life to be ‘not so good’ to allow myself to dive into connection to myself and nature. Anyway what is happening now feels like a late honouring of that phase of my life, accomplishments and friendships. And maybe here in this still torn city a coming together of two big parts of me is possible. That is my wish for todays new moon to help me integrate the more goal oriented and very capable part of me with the part that feels and loves, enjoys intuitive living, following her impulses, is drawn to the mystical and magical, to trees and mountains.

Below photos from my hike onto Belfast’s Cave Mountain on my first day here. The mountain felt full of energy and joy that day, or maybe it was me. And below also a photo of the rose garden as part of the Botanic Garden which I visit often.

2 thoughts on “Belfast – Honest and Alive

  1. Dear Anja, thank you for pointing me here earlier… I breath the calmness, the openness, the deep joy of the land in the images and phrases… I was delighted to read about places in Belfast that I know and love, and in which I too have memories, and I feel you bring up for me again in a new way what it was that made me love it, in those (for me) not so easy years of my youth….I bow down to your late honouring here, it feels very timely though… .


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