Hearts broken following the loss of troubled, troublesome Ronin, named after a group of 47 masterless samurai avenging their Shogun in 18th century Japan, we chose a second Rottweiler pup and called him Tiber, after the river running through Rome, the Eternal City, said to have been founded on its banks in 753 BC, and where I’d lived for five formative years. If Ronin answered to no one, we hoped Tiber would align with the etymology of his name, Tiberis, from the Aegean tifos, meaning “still water”, and prove to be constant, curative, calm. On the way home, we stopped to pick up a cardboard box for Tiber to sleep in, and it was there, in the dark underground car park of our local supermarket, that we received an omen, a sign. Approached by a tall man in a long dark overcoat, eight-week old Tiber already seemed protective, proprietary. The stranger gently asked us his name. “Tiber? My mother had a dog named Tiber. She called him after a river she’d seen, flying over Italy.”
Wings of Desire, a 1987 film by Wim Wenders shot in sepia tones, tells the story of angels wandering the streets of Berlin, unable to interact with Berliners, listening in on their thoughts and dreams, observing and absorbing their disappointments. It was as if one had visited us that day in the Tesco car park, a herald of good things and good dogs. He disappeared up the escalator, light catching the back of his coat; we drove away with Tiber towards his new home – heartened, somehow comforted, uplifted.
Tiber turned three recently, and though he is a very good boy, the upside-down world around him is troubled, troublesome. Numbed by tragedy, we the people seek comfort in beauty – in art, in fashion, in nature, our hearts uplifted by gorgeousness. Visitors to the V&A’s sold-out Dior exhibition leave in a daze, breathless, breath taken by the remembrance of blings past. We hanker after the handmade, craving colour, peckish for pretty. An activist friend has taken to posting daily pictures of birds as an antidote to the latest political poison. Designers have responded to present ills with extravagant 2019 collections, a feast of frothy, feathery, fearless confections from Marc Jacobs, Richard Quinn, Rodarte, Gucci, Tomo Koizumi, Loewe and our own Helen Cody. The runways of Paris and New York resembled murmurations, the swooping and diving of ravishing gowns and flower crowns, trailing tulle and plumage and clouds of glitter.
Before Tesco was Tesco, it was Crazy Prices. Before Lidl and Aldi and 49 cent produce, prices were crazy in Ireland, though it’s nuts to imagine how a farmer today can earn a living bringing butternut squash to market at two for a euro.
We went grocery shopping with out-of-town friends to buy things for dinner at our cottage, and although no one remembers what we served that evening, everyone remembers my husband, a modern day Saint Francis of Portlaoise, reaching up and catching a sparrow on the fly as it flitted through the frozen food section. It appeared a little stunned (as were we – I dropped the gâteaux) but unhurt; we took turns cupping it in our hands, feeling its tiny heart beating beneath feather and bone. We felt blessed. Back then, our friend Matt’s drinking seemed manageable; his wife Jane hadn’t yet been diagnosed with MS.
I don’t believe God spares us if we pray hard enough, but I do believe every bird is a prayer. I don’t believe in heaven, but I’d like to believe wingèd angels walk amongst us; at least I hope they do.
This month’s moodboard
1. I’m swinging Loewe in bodycon citrus, with feather cuffs. 2. I’m birding at my coffee table with The Living Bird in living colour, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 3. I’m following @tariqlabrijn, for more thrilling shots like his diving kingfisher. 4. I’m collecting artful dinnerware by Lou Rota Nature Table for Anthropologie. 5. I’m shaking my tail feather in Tomo Koizumi SS19. 6. I’m tickling my fancy in an Attico feather-embellished sequined pouch. 7. I’m summering in bejewelled slides trimmed with blue plumage by Miu Miu. 8. I’m tracing patterns in the sky made by murmurations of starlings, like this one documented by the Wicklow News. 9. I’m coveting Gucci’s Le Marché des Merveilles jewellery collection, the perfect foil to this season’s feather fetish. 10. I’m cuffing an ear
with a gold feather by Irish jeweller amoc.ie. 11. I’m lighting the way with a poetic triple birdie chandelier in patinated brass and powder coated steel. To order from martinhuxford.com.
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