A Second Love by Diane Hall

Emerald Blog: A Second Love

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Diane Hall, MFA ’22, wrote this piece at the 2018 Summer Writing Seminar. A wealth of sensory details creates a strong picture of an afternoon encounter, and reveals why the writer might fall so hard for a stranger in a strange land. The essay sprouted from no particular prompt, but rather from the actual experience, which often is inspiration enough.


A Second Love

by Diane Hall

It was love at first sight. Coarse, titanium-yellow hair softly followed a long, elegant neckline, stopping just short of broad muscular shoulders developed from years of hard work. Immense auburn eyes, highlighted by long, delicate, midnight-black lashes, met mine in a bashful way, questioning my intentions.

He smelled of the outdoors, of dirt and grass. He was quiet and unpretentious, but he caught my attention as he nervously shifted his weight from leg to leg with what appeared to be apprehension—but also interest. I had never done anything like this before. I was feeling uncertain, questioning my decision.

As I slowly inched toward him, he didn’t back away. Though unspoken, we both felt the mountain calling us. Maya, our guide for the day, held his bridle as I awkwardly stuck my foot in the left stirrup, pulled myself up with my arms, swung my right leg over his muscular back, and balanced myself in the saddle. The swooshing of the wind was getting louder by the minute, the clouds and fog settling in for what was sure to be a mighty tempest within the hour. The air felt moist against my skin and oddly refreshing.

For the next two-and-a-half hours my horse Bob and I would bond and participate in something I had never experienced before: a horseback trek to the top of the mountain in Dingle, Ireland.

Since I’d never ridden a horse before, I wasn’t sure if I would like it or be scared, but I was determined to see it through. As Bob and I started up the mountain in a group of nine riders, all complete strangers to me, I was in awe of his strength and grace.

As expected, the rain and wind picked up, and at times the deluge hurt as rain pelted my face, coming down sideways, dripping off the brim of my helmet, soaking my glasses and making it nearly impossible to see. About halfway up the mountain, a wind seemingly out of nowhere threatened to knock me off the horse. My black Swiss bag, strapped around my shoulders, was completely soaked and my Boston Red Sox T-shirt was drenched, despite my purple L.L. Bean raincoat and the hunter-green trench coat Maya gave me to wear over it. My faded jeans were waterlogged. The absurdity of the situation made me laugh.

I took a moment to savor the experience, and I focused on the feel and sound of my surroundings. The resonance of the driving rain drumming against leather, human, animal, rocky terrain, and helmet; the cadence of Bob’s hooves tapping the ground below; and the swish of the wind growing louder by the minute somehow brought a feeling of calmness mixed with excitement. The gentle sway of my body with every step Bob took, my legs clinging to his sides as I leaned forward to help with the horse’s balance while going uphill, forced me to focus on his movements, the two of us finding a perfect rhythm together. I cherished each second and was enjoying the climb to the top—until my meditation came to an abrupt halt.

I was third in the line of riders. A coffee-colored horse with a jet-black mane in front of me stumbled on the slippery rocks and mud. Both horse and rider caught themselves, but the sound of the horse’s back right hoof scraping against the rain-soaked rock sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. The inherent danger of the situation set in.  

My mind raced. What if Bob was frightened by a small critter scurrying out from under a bush and he rose up on his back legs, sending me tumbling to the ground? What if he bucked me off because he got sick of hauling me up this mountain in the pouring rain? 

I looked back down the mountain over my right shoulder and realized how far up we had come. Though I couldn’t see the sparsely populated town or Dingle Bay through the fog, I could see the angle at which the riders behind me were climbing. I became nervous, feeling any mistake could result in serious injury.

Though I was unsettled, I put those thoughts out of mind because I felt surprisingly confident with my horse. Bob never complained and never faltered. He seemed to enjoy every moment on the mountain with me. He strutted like he owned the place, and his air of confidence was comforting. He picked the paths of least resistance and navigated slippery rocks like an expert, carefully stepping over holes, dancing around short bushes and plodding through thick mud. I was in love with this horse for his beauty, kindness, gentleness, and most of all, for being my companion and guardian on that cool and rainy summer day in August 2018.

When we arrived at the top of the mountain after over an hour of climbing, I felt triumphant. Though the view of the Hobbit-like town below was nonexistent because we were standing in the midst of a low-lying cloud, the whiteness of the mist complemented Bob’s creamy white coat and created a mystical ambience. The roughness of the weather enhanced the ruggedness of the terrain.

The bond I formed with Bob was instantaneous. We were two strangers who learned to trust and love unconditionally. The plainness of his name spoke to his humbleness. After all, who names a horse Bob? I expected some fancy nonsensical name, the kind horses often have.

I guess it was meant to be though, because Bob also happens to be my husband’s name.

What are the chances I would fall in love with two guys named Bob during my lifetime?

Diane and Bob on Mount Brandon
Diane Hall and Bob

About the Writer

As a full-time professor of psychology at Bay Path University, Diane Hall teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in forensic and clinical psychology. For over a decade she has conducted a book club with adjudicated incarcerated youth and her students, and is the co-founder of the RISE-UP program, an integrated learning experience with Bay Path University students and incarcerated women at the Western MA Recovery and Wellness Center to provide students with an opportunity to gain experience while contributing to the community through service learning. After receiving her doctorate degree in Educational Psychology, she decided to pursue her passion for writing and is working towards the completion of her MFA in Creative Non-fiction Writing at Bay Path University. She participated in the Summer Writing Seminar in Dingle, Ireland in 2018 and 2019.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.

My Father's Brogue by Kim Livingston

Emerald Blog: My Father’s Brogue

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Kim Livingston MFA ’20, a four-time attendee of our Summer Writing Seminar in Ireland, wrote “My Father’s Brogue” there in 2016 on the prompt:

The Welcome:
Write about a welcome or  parting that is particularly memorable to you.

Kim captures the joy of being seen, recognized, acknowledged and named, especially when you’re looking for a fraction of any of that.


My Father’s Brogue

by Kim Livingston

In the middle of my second trip to Ireland for an annual writing seminar, I sat in O’Flaherty’s Pub with Marie, a friend from the program, enjoying some good music and one pint before getting back to the guesthouse. I told Marie about my Irish roots and how, the year before, I’d typed “Rainsfords in Limerick” into a search engine and discovered a guy in his early thirties who looked like a younger version of my brother. I told her how I’d contacted the guy through Facebook, hoping to meet him and his family while I was in Ireland.

My dad’s father was born in Limerick, Dad’s mother 60 miles away in Tralee. They met each other in Chicago around 1917 and raised six boys, but by the time I began college, all of them were dead—the grandparents before I was born, Dad when I was 13. Naturally, when I heard about a writing seminar in Dingle, Ireland, and learned that the bus from the airport would stop in two places, Limerick and Tralee, I felt an ancestral tug.

Through the 1930s and ’40s, when my father was young, his parents often hosted Irish immigrants finding their way in the Windy City. These relatives and friends, even relatives of friends, stayed in the two-flat on Roscoe for months at a time while working toward places of their own. Since Dad was the youngest, it was always his bed given in hospitality, Dad migrating to the upstairs porch, “hotter than hell,” but where he’d lie awake on the sheet-covered sofa listening to the adults reminiscing below, their stories of Ireland growing to legend in his mind. Decades later, he’d describe those nights to me and my brother in our kitchen on Saturday mornings, the Clancy Brothers singing out of our windowsill radio.

The Facebook guy and I messaged each other a few times. He said his uncle lived in a farmhouse that had been owned by Rainsfords for many generations—probably where my grandfather lived as a child. He could take me there to meet the family, he said. We arranged to meet in Limerick.

For years, assisted by lots of cheesy movies, I’d dreamed of Ireland welcoming me home: In a dark, crowded pub, the locals at first mistake me for a common tourist, but an old guy in the corner keeps staring. “There’s sometin’ about ye,” he says, eyes twinkling. Whispers throughout the place grow louder with budding recognition. I remind them of a dear friend from long ago. They knew my grandparents! Everyone gathers ‘round me and starts dancing a jig. I’m wearing a bustier and a big swishy skirt, my hair redder than ever, with ruddy cheeks to show how feisty I am. I grab the microphone and belt out “Danny Boy” in a brogue so convincing even the barmaid has tears. Then my own relatives, having heard the news, burst into the pub. “Just like your granny!” they cheer, recognizing in me her unique beauty and plucky character. It’s clear to everyone that I really, really fit in here.

In my actual life, the Facebook guy never showed up. I waited in the Limerick bus station, but he had car trouble or something. I sensed that though he didn’t want to be impolite, he wasn’t interested in connecting with a stranger from America.

It was a silly dream. That old man in the corner would’ve been at least 130 years old. Also, I can’t sing. And I’m an introvert. I have cousins an hour from my home that I haven’t talked to in decades.

I get that it’s trite to make this pilgrimage yearning for a connection to the motherland, to my family, my father. I have no real claim to this place, and with an Irish diaspora of 34 million in the U.S., the whole idea is so terribly cliché.

But John Joseph Rainsford was my grandfather, Hanna Fitzgerald my grandma. They walked these Irish streets, played in the yards. They raised my father. Even though I never knew them, they were mine.

So Marie and I were in O’Flaherty’s, listening to a fiddle-and-flute tune, finishing a pint. She’s a good one for striking conversation with strangers, and she did just that with a young Galway couple. In the process of our getting to know them, Marie mentioned that my family was from Ireland. The man studied my face for a moment and said, “Limerick?”

I was confused. We hadn’t mentioned anything about Limerick. “Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Oh,” he said, “You look Limerick.”

I look Limerick. I almost hugged him.

Dad would have liked Ireland. I think of him when I’m there, as my taxi driver tells joke after joke, twisting along narrow roads from the airport. As the old man minding a tiny shop on Main Street winks when I duck in from the dreary rain and says, “Gorgeous day now, isn’t it?”, the lilt of his voice comforting me on a lonely afternoon. 

My father’s brogue was imitation and occasional, always well timed for a punch line. In the bar after work, the laughter of his friends around him would rise and fall at his command.  They called him “Denny the Irishman,” and that’s when he was happiest.

 In the pink, freckled faces I pass on these old Irish streets, I see him. I see my grandparents, my uncles, my brother. And, yes, in some of them, I see myself.


About the Writer

Kim Rainsford Livingston teaches English at Waubonsee Community College and lives in the Chicago suburbs with her retired husband and too many pets. Now that her three kids are grown, she’s getting back to writing, happy for the new adventures and friends she found while earning an MFA at Bay Path University.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.

At the Altar of Nature by Jill Lipton

Emerald Blog: At the Altar of Nature

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Jill Lipton wrote this piece at the 2017 Summer Writing Seminar on this prompt:

At the Shrine:
From larger-than-life-sized statues along the road to hidden wells behind a hedge, holy places abound here on the Dingle Peninsula. Write about a trip to, a glimpse of, or an encounter with one of them.

Rich in images and contrasts, this short piece illustrates the writer’s trademark wordplay, humor, and hope.


At the Altar of Nature

by Jill Lipton

I pray at the altar of nature, and have found hallowed, though somewhat cow-pied ground here. Holy sheep. Sacred cows. Consecrated corncrake birds.

At home in NYC my pastoral prayer is pigeon challenged. My spirituality, squirrel subjugated. My sense of divine nature, subway rat tested.

Perhaps time to consider a country house.


About the Writer

Humorist, writer, and over-thinker Jill Lipton was born in Long Island, New York. After a tumbling life that included an MBA from MIT, a semi-meteoric rise in the corporate world, and 10 years as an entrepreneur, she’s now living her dream as a writer in New York City with her husband, muse, and true love, Charles. Her work has been published in “Tiny Love Stories” in The New York Times, in The Boston Globe Magazine, and elsewhere.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.

The Bean by Tony Sedgwick

Emerald Blog: The Bean

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Tony Sedgwick MFA ’20 wrote “The Bean” during the 2019 Summer Writing Seminar on this prompt:

The Welcome:
Write about a welcome or  parting that is particularly memorable to you.

When Tony had to miss the final night’s event due to travel plans, guest faculty member Mia Gallagher accepted the invitation to read this energetic, well-populated and well-caffeinated piece.


The Bean

by Tony Sedgwick

The Bean by Tony Sedgwick

Class starts at 10:15 a.m. in that Gaelic-sounding place where nuns once lived; there must have been a lot of them! It’s 10:05, so a 10-minute walk, 30 seconds to pop into that yellow place for a cup of coffee, find the room in a New-York minute and, Bob’s Your Uncle, I’ll be right there at the start of class.

The roundabout is nuts. Irish drivers don’t seem to understand the business of stopping for pedestrians in the cross walk. Summer crowds saunter, linger, gawk in shop front windows. I prance impatiently behind them. Finally, I see my chance and shoot on through, up the narrow sidewalk, prepare to cross the street, look right, correct myself, look left. What the hell? I look both ways, bolt across and see it there—the Bean in Dingle. I knew it was something cute like that.

I hurry in, then come to a complete stop. There are two people waiting, bovine-like, to order cups of coffee. Behind the counter, four young people loiter comfortably wearing black T-shirts and an air of peace.

As I shuffle forward, Person One makes her order, then steps around the corner where she is supposed to wait. Next up is a middle-aged fellow in a green sweater, paunchy, balding, clearly on vacation.

“Um…let’s see,” he ponders the menu tranquilly. “I’ll have one of those, and that one, and that one.” A stubby finger vaguely points out each chosen pastry.

“Um…” the gent repeats, and then again, “Um….”

“What’s that one over there?” he asks.

“Which one?”

“That one?”

“This one?”

“No, that one.”

“Oh, this one”

“Yes, that one,” confirms the gent. Then, blissfully unaware of anyone else in the store, he asks, “What is that?”

“What, this?”

No! No! I scream in silence.

“Yes, that.”

“It’s a scone.”

“Oh” says the happy gent, “what kind of scone?”

“I’m not sure,” says the young man behind the counter. He scratches his head and turns toward the fellow next to him, “do you know what kind of scone that is?”

“Fruit. That’s a fruit scone,” says his mate.

“A fruit scone,” repeats the young fellow.

If this guy asks what kind of fruit, I may have to kill him.

“No,” the nice gent says pensively, “maybe I’ll have a roll.”

“Just a roll?’

“No, I’ll have that, and that, and that, and a roll,” his says, pleasure radiating across his face.

At last it’s my turn. I step to the counter trying to control the fearsome beating of my heart.

“I’ll have a cappuccino. How much is that?” I ask.

“A cappuccino?”

“Yes, please, just a cappuccino in a to-go cup.”

Mirabile dictum! Will wonders never cease! He does not repeat my order.

“That’ll be 3 euro 80.”

“Thanks” I say and step around the corner, fidgeting, to wait.

The barista is a beautiful young woman with eyes so blue, so lovely, so tranquil that a less caffeinated swain might fall into their limpid pools. I glance nervously to see if she is making my cup of coffee.

Then another woman steps up and asks her, “Are you Julie?’

“Why, yes. I am,” replies the pretty-eyed barista.

I am…” She could be the f***ing Queen of Sheba for all I care. Just make my damn cup of coffee!

“How lovely to meet you,” says the barista.

Can this be really happening?

Her hands slow down, each coffee-making movement an accompaniment to their leisurely conversation. How can two people who have just met have so much to talk about? I watch her stir, stiiiir, stiiiiiiiir, slow, slow, slow, each round a careful dream of perfect circularity, each motion a movement of infinite care. All the while, she smiles the smile of the Giaconda, sweet and impenetrable, as she continues the inconsequential nattering with her new-found best friend.

The minutes pass. It doesn’t matter any longer. Class has started. Maybe it has even ended. I am in Dingle and this is the Bean.

I am at peace.


About the Writer

Tony Sedgwick was born in Spain and grew up in Europe and South America. After a career in international law, he returned to his family’s ranch in southern Arizona, about 10 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border. His work with the people of the borderlands served as his inspiration to obtain an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Bay Path University. His thesis, which he is currently revising in hopes of publication, is a personal vision of the evolution of that border from a gateway to a wall.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.

Brick House Redux by Kim MacQueen

Emerald Blog: Brick Ranch Redux

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Kim MacQueen MFA ’18 drafted “Brick Ranch Redux” during the 2017 Summer Writing Seminar on this prompt:

Your Backyard:
Is your backyard a refuge or unwanted work? Do you not have one and wish you did? If you don’t have one, imagine it. If you have one that’s lacking, remake it in your mind. Who’s on either side, and past it? Give a description or create a scene there. What awaits you there when you return home?


Brick Ranch Redux

by Kim MacQueen

When we first moved to Vermont from Florida in 2012, we left a house we’d bought at the height of the boom, one mortgaged to the hilt. The day after we closed on the house in 2007, something crazy happened with the markets in Europe and everything started to slide downhill in the financial world. Our house lost $60,000 worth of value in about a week.

It was a brick ranch on an acre of land surrounded by pine trees 50 feet tall. We were right downtown, only a mile from the state capitol. But I could go to a corner of my backyard, sneak around behind some cabbage palms, and be totally alone if I wanted to. Florida has palmetto bugs the size of small cats and it always seemed to be 100 degrees out, so I only did it once or twice, but I knew it was an always option. We owned the place. That land was ours.  

When we moved to Vermont, we rented our Florida house to another family. Buying one in Vermont was out of the question. We had no down payment. I had no job. We were in the rental market again in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

I didn’t work full-time anymore. We didn’t own land anymore. I hadn’t realized that was so important to me until then. My anxiety and depression shot up to Level 10 and stayed there for the next three years.

Finally, I got a job and found a house to buy. Another brick ranch. It was laid out a lot like the one in Florida. The first time I saw it, I stood at the front door looking through the living room and sunroom, out the sliding glass doors to the backyard, to the flower gardens and the lawn. In my mind’s eye, saw myself there, sitting cross-legged in the grass.

I told my Michaela, my real estate agent we’d take it.

“Don’t you want to see the rest of the inside?” she said.

I didn’t need to.

Now whenever I get anxious and depressed, I think about myself sitting cross-legged in the garden. Sometimes I even go out and sit there to remind myself that I’m home.


About the Writer

Kim MacQueen is a writer, editor, and publisher based in Burlington, Vermont. She is the author of the novels Out, Out: A Novel of Women and Apes and People Who Hate America. She earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Bay Path University in 2018.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.

The Last Visit by Susan Davis Abello

Emerald Blog: The Last Visit

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Susan Davis Abello MFA ’17 wrote “The Last Visit” during our very first Summer Writing Seminar in July 2015 on this prompt:

So Where Have You Been?
Even the moment you read this is a place you can’t revisit. Use all your senses to write about a place to which you can no longer return. *


The Last Visit

by Susan Davis Abello

The Last Visit by Susan Davis Abello
Illustration by Susan Davis Abello

Sometimes when you close a door, you say to yourself, I will never touch this knob again. Sometimes you just know. You know when cardboard boxes are packed with your belongings and your voice echoes through empty rooms of a house, that you won’t be back. You know when you take one last look around your dorm on your last day of senior year, you won’t be back. I might have known I would never see my sister or her house again when I pulled her front door shut behind me 10 years ago, but the thought was buried deep under my denial. The kind of denial you need to stay sane. The kind of denial that allows you to believe that you’ll be back.

“See you at Christmas!” is what I would have shouted over my shoulder on any normal summer visit to my sister’s house in far-away Chicago, but this was no normal visit.

I left without even saying goodbye to her beloved cat, Ricky, who must have searched everywhere for my sister after we took her to the hospital days before—searched the white kitchen with its rooster plates and collection of mismatched teacups, searched the bedroom with her medicine bottles spilling from the bedside table onto the carpeted floor, searched the bathroom where the wig and the walker and the bed pan were left abandoned. Abandoned just like Ricky, like my nieces and their father, like all of us. But maybe Ricky already knew what we didn’t know, or didn’t want to accept.

It was the last time I would ever step foot in my sister’s house, and I wish I had taken the time to look around, to take note of the home she had, with so much joy and love, created for her family. I forgot to ask her the name of the color of paint on her parlor walls or where she found that little rug in the powder room. I forgot to appreciate the way she organized her linen closet or to find out what she kept in those sweet hat boxes in the guest room, the ones with the lavender flowers that were tied shut with a wide grosgrain ribbon. I forgot to tell her how beautiful her garden was, with its deep blue hydrangea and fat orange roses that flanked the back-porch door. I didn’t mention that the bed I slept in was soft and the sheets were lovely and smooth, cool on my skin even in the heat of July nights.

Sleep didn’t come easy in her house that summer. It wasn’t because my sister hadn’t made her guest rooms welcoming. No, sleep eluded us because she cried out sometimes. Moans that carried with them the weight of loss. It was a sound that settled heavily into the air, making its way down the upstairs hall, slinking uninvited through open doors like the oppressive heat we tried to keep at bay. The night left us anxious and ashamed of how we couldn’t help her. The comfort of her rooms was eclipsed by the stabbing pain of our hearts breaking slowly as she struggled to stay with her family for one more day, one more night.

Beside her, in the dark, my brother-in-law must have propped her pillows and adjusted her morphine-soaked body on the memory-foam mattress that burned the skin off her back, buttocks, and calves. Around her was all the softness and beauty she had created, but none of us could feel it, see it, or smell it. She had become all there was in that house. Her pain, her every breath, her moans, the sight of her—so foreign except for her eyes, the lightest blue with a hint of green. In the kitchen, meals were reduced to whatever the neighbor left in the freezer. The table was a neglected space, devoid of fresh-picked flowers and the pointed elbows of family and friends.

When my stay was over, there were no farewells. There was only denial––the kind that let me have hope. Hope that the door I pulled shut might one day open again. The kind that let me convince myself if I didn’t say goodbye, maybe she wouldn’t go.

* This prompt was inspired by “Write From the Heart: Inspiration and Exercises for Women Who Want to Write” (Ten Speed Press, 2003) by Lesléa Newman.


About the Writer

Susan Davis Abello is an author, illustrator, and business owner who published her first children’s book, Pumpkin and Buster and The Right Thing to Do About a Bully (Tate Publishing) in December 2011. She particularly enjoys writing essays about family, life in New England, and her experiences working in South America (where she met her husband) after earning her undergraduate degree. Susan earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Bay Path University in 2016.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.

Forgotten Desolation by Andy Castillo

Emerald Blog: Forgotten Desolation

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Andy Castillo MFA ’19 wrote “Forgotten Desolation” during the 2017 Summer Writing Seminar on this prompt:

A Kindness:
The whirl of life frequently places us at the mercy of strangers. Write about the last time someone came from out of the blue to make a difference in your story, or that of a character’s.

I see in Andy’s piece the kindness of a stranger’s sharing of time and insight, and in the promise the writer makes to tell others what he learned that day—a promise Andy keeps here.


Forgotten Desolation

by Andy Castillo

Forgotten Desolation by Andy Castillo

Heavy is the ground that carries lost souls.

Heavier still, the voice of a man whose family is buried there.

I met him walking up Cairn Hill above Dingle in western Ireland. He’s smoking a cigarette and standing beside a small coupe on a dirt road lined with low-slung pastel houses with chipped paint and wildflowers growing in their front yards.

“Do you know where the famine graveyard is?” I ask.

“Just up the hill,” he grunts, his scratchy voice dripping Ireland. “Follow the road along about five minutes. Can’t miss it.”

I turn to go. “I’ll join you,” he says. “Heading that way myself.” He stamps out the cigarette.

We fall into step, boots crunching gravel, and talk about the weather and work. He’s a Dublin schoolteacher who grew up on the Dingle Peninsula. I don’t ask his name; he doesn’t offer it.

The road narrows, hemmed in by rough stone walls; grass runs down the middle. Green pasture sectioned with hedges and guarded by barking farm dogs rises into gathering dusk. Dingle lies behind us, a coastal city with a bar featuring live music and Guinness on every street corner.

Ahead, sheep graze as far as the eye can see. Crows squawk at us as black clouds roll in from the west.

“This has changed dramatically from when I was a young lad,” the man says, sweeping a hand back toward Dingle. “Town was incredibly quiet. No tourists. No restaurants.”

“Sounds idyllic,” I say.

Even now, despite the tourists, it’s a fairytale place. Red fuchsia wildflowers line Slea Head Drive, the narrow coastal road that winds around Dingle Peninsula. Towering cliffs drop sharply to the ocean far below. Quaint farmhouses and prehistoric ruins overlook endless blue sea, and sheep and cattle range across it all.

Modern Dingle is a picturesque snapshot of past rural life—but it doesn’t capture everything.

Famine ravaged Ireland between 1845 and 1852. One million people died in eight years; the country’s population dropped almost 25 percent. The cause of the tragedy: Phytophthora infestans, the microorganism responsible for the potato blight that destroyed the staple crop one-third of Ireland’s people depended on to survive.

“Desolation,” the man says, pausing in the road, his tone suddenly bitter. The gravel stops crunching.

“We had no control over our destiny. We were ruled from Britain and didn’t have any rights. The people who survived the famine went to America.”

Members of both our families were among those survivors. Mine sought a better life in South Boston, not far from where I grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts. The emigrants from his settled in Hartford, Connecticut.

We lean into the wind, trudging up Cairn Hill. There are no tourists here.

At the top, an iron gate blocks our way into a small stonewall cemetery.

Far below, Dingle’s lights twinkle on. Boats drift at anchor in the bay. Night has come. The man points over the city to a tower barely visible on a distant hill. It’s a famine relief tower he says, built by starving people. Across the bay is another, Hussey’s Folly, a solid structure that looks like it’s from the middle ages.

“If you didn’t work, you didn’t get fed. A lot of people died working like that. They would crawl to those places.”

We enter the cemetery through the creaking gate.

Boney hands gripping dirt, crawling up the hill; mothers screaming, clutching dead children to their chest beside a square yellow building near the burial ground. Hundreds of people crammed inside, rotting.

In my mind, I see them as clearly as I see the white, wind-tossed barley surrounding the dozens of unmarked graves, the chipped black stones sticking up from the cemetery’s uneven ground, the lone white cross in its middle. My feet sink into the soil. If I stayed, I fear I’d become a stone.

“Leaders believed the famine was God’s fate,” the man says, his voice now thick with emotion. I can’t see his tears, but I know they’re there. I can feel them drop like stones into the bay. His ancestors lie here.

“About 3,000 people were buried here in four years,” he says. “There were a lot of open graves. There might have been 20 people buried in one.”

He turns toward Dingle. “You ask the youth of society—they don’t know anything about it. We’ve collectively forgotten. Dingle’s a tourist town. The people there aren’t locals. The locals are gone.”

We stand silent in the gloom. A mist floats across distant hills and black clouds suffocate the sky. Rain comes, watering the graves, a cistern emptied out of inky blackness.

I ask what I can do.

“Best thing you can do is come back here tomorrow. Bring someone. Sit down here,” he says, pointing to a bench. Then he walks away, hitting black stones with a strand of barley as he goes.

“I’ll write about it,” I call after him.

“You do that,” he says without looking back. His gait is weary. I sit on the bench, watching him go until he’s just a speck moving down Cairn Hill toward Dingle’s blinking lights.


About the Writer

Andy Castillo is the features editor of the Greenfield Recorder newspaper (Greenfield, MA). He is an experienced editor who has worked for several publications in western Massachusetts and as a staff writer for GoNOMAD.com Travel. He holds a Master’s degree in creative nonfiction from Bay Path University and can be reached at andychristianart@gmail.com.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.

Down Brandon by Clifton "Jerry" Noble

Emerald Blog: Down Brandon

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland.

Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


Down Brandon

Words & Music by Clifton “Jerry” Noble

Down Brandon was begun on the first night of our first Ireland writing seminar in July 2017.  The town of Dingle was shrouded in gray clouds and sheets of rain. The turbulence of the storm sweeping down the slope of Mount Brandon (seen from the safety of our guest-house window) slipped easily into words and music. As the week went on, new experiences and memories made in Brandon’s shadow added themselves to the ballad.

The finished song was performed for the first time at the seminar’s final group reading session at An Díseart Centre of Irish Spirituality and Culture—thanks in large part to the generosity of Mazz O’Flaherty, proprietor of the Dingle Record Shop, smallest record store in Ireland, who let me borrow her guitar for the evening.



Down Brandon Lyrics:

The wind blows cold down Brandon
The trees bow their heads to the mountain’s shoulder.
The rain slips in like a thief in the night
And the mist folds ‘round ev’ry byre and boulder.

My dear and I lie safe and warm
Though the wrath of the Gods howl o’er us.
We’re sheltered safe in Dingle Bay
With the best of life before us.

The wind blows sharp down Brandon
The calves and the lambs turn their tails in defiance.
The fishermen pray for a calmer day
And the home-fires smoke in leeward silence.

My dear and I watch the lowering sky
And remember the trials we’ve lived through.
For now we’ll stay here in Dingle Bay
And draw warmth from the words, “I love you.”

The wind blows soft down Brandon
It ruffles the fuchsia the hedge encloses.
The clouds have lifted, a holy gift,
And the sun caresses the pale beach roses.

My dear and I take it all in stride
As we stroll toward the distant islands.
With Dingle Bay sparkling on our way,
Wishing Ireland could be our land.

The wind is calm down Brandon
The mist of mem’ry falls fast upon us.
We hold on tight to each precious sight;
Though dimmed by time, they will ever haunt us.

My dear and I heave a mournful sigh
For our time in Dingle is nearly o’er.
We’ll find a way to return, some day
To our paradise on the Kerry shore
Where the wind blows sweet down Brandon.


About the Composer

Clifton “Jerry” Noble, is a composer, arranger, performing musician, and music critic who works in musical genres ranging from art music to rock n’ roll. His work has been performed throughout the United States and in international venues from London to Jerusalem to Kolkata. He serves as the Staff Accompanist for the Smith College Music Department.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.