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The Patterns of My Life

by Nataliia D.


The general knowledge of time on the island depends, curiously enough, on the direction of the wind. J.M. Synge

Patterns fill our lives with meaning. We live in a world of patterns - patterns of our thoughts, feelings, and desires. A frosty pattern on a windowpane on a cold, early morning in winter, makes me smile. The tracks of seagulls in the sand tell their stories. A picture of a world map, which you scratch with a coin and reveal the name of the place you have already visited, creates your own map - these are the patterns of your wanderings. Moreover, visiting small or big islands makes these patterns more unforgettable and unique. Island...Ireland.

Horoscope New Year when I was 5 years old - smells of a special festive meal, peeled tangerines, and an unpredictable future. Mother was reading aloud the first horoscope of my life, from which I found out that I was to be an artist...and more unexpectedly discovered that I lived in Ireland in a previous life. More than ten years later, my mom and I were in the teacher’s room of the Ukrainian Academy of Art. It smelled of old paper, sharpened pencils, and suspense. I was going to be an artist, but my mother was still not sure of this idea (of course she had forgotten the horoscope) and wanted the professor’s opinion. I showed him my artworks - all of them were amateur. But his speech was life changing. “If a child is keen on art, it has to be developed and this is the right place for it.” Afterwards I found out he was the famous Ukrainian artist Yuri Khymych, and his words opened a new artistic world for me. A few months later, after a long period of difficult preparation for the entrance exams, I was in a classroom finishing a still life. Smells of wet paper, watercolours, and intangible hopes. I was opening the door of the academy, fresh summer air was hugging me, a thunderstorm was coming. I ran home under the shower of rain, totally wet, shoes in my hand, smelling the wet leather...My bare feet touched the cold puddles and raised the feeling that I was an artist already...So the horoscope that was read by my mother on that New Year night was true.

Doves A kaleidoscope of green shades from the ground to the sky, endless fields and giant trees touching the sky... This is how Ireland met me in summer 2022. This freshness was welcoming - I was listening to the sounds of doves in the nests of trees. It was like past summers I spent in a children’s camp in a small Ukrainian village Nepolkovtsy, where every day, with bated breath, I waited for the sweet feeling of first love ... We never even kissed, but I always remember how we lay in the high grass, holding hands, and looking at the clouds floating across the sky and listening to doves. The sound of doves reverberated inside me even when the train took me farther and farther away from the last carefree childhood summer in my life ... After that there were many trains and planes, various events, meetings, and closures ... but they all disappeared from my memory, and only the one last train stuck in my mind which in the spring of 2022 took me away from everything I loved.

Vice Versa: The War From my grandparents, I knew what the morning of their war was like, but I never thought such a morning would come for me, in which everything would take on other colours and meanings. During the first days it seemed to me that I was on the set of some strange black and white film. I really hoped everything would end soon and return to their place. There were different plots and scenes in those days - it seemed that the productions were a little far-fetched and surreal. In a series of endless runs between the apartment and the parking lot, where the bomb shelter was located, I suddenly saw fresh snow, which had already covered everything, and continued to fall, but no one cared. I stood in a daze and kept looking at this white stream, which took me to another snowy situation. The world around me was divided into white and black. It was just light snow and dark sky above me. Mountains. I’ve never known that they could be so dangerously captivating. Those huge, sky-high peaks swallowed me up and I could not find myself as a human there inside that snowy infinity. Our usual annual winter trip to the mountains lasted four hours, and we all were exhausted by our slow progress. The snow was at an enormously high level - we were really swimming in one- metre depth. Our clothes were wet because of sweat and snow. Our muscles refused to work normally. At some point I couldn’t take another step. I lay down in the snow and watched that dark sky. It stared back at me. All my thoughts about routine and usual life were erased from my mind. For a few seconds I felt I stopped existing but at the same moment the new me was born - new power, new thoughts, new understanding of my way in the world. I stood and saw a tiny house not far from our site. There were lights in the windows, and they were brighter and more real than the stars in the dark sky above me. Snow continued to fall between the shelter and home. My decision was made. First, I collected a box with the paints and brushes for marbling. Next, I packed the knitting machine in its original case. I felt better - I realised that I could say goodbye to the house where I so loved to knit and marble, the house where I loved and lived! The new life and opportunities that were born by the war were already waiting for me at the open door, and the stacked boxes gave me a hope that one day I would come back.

Knitting Once I decided on the important things to take if a fire started in my house. In my mind only a few things were worth saving - my diaries that I’d been writing for more than thirty years and a small plastic box for storing black and white film but inside it I kept a few tiny, knitted garments for my smallest doll that was only 5 cm in length. I remember from my childhood that winter evening when my parents brought me to my grandparents for the holidays. I was around six years old. I came to a warm apartment and said, “There’s a cold snowy winter outside but my doll still is without suitable clothes.” The next morning, I woke early and was impressed that my granny was still awake. She was sitting and knitting something and near her were a few tiny things, a knitted scarf and hat, the smallest trousers I’d ever seen and a fur coat for my doll. I was so happy. But only many years later when my grandmother passed away, I understood that unforgettable moment. She sewed and knitted all these garments for my doll because of my request. But how much love was in her action - doing that with arthritis in her hands, wearing glasses and not sleeping all night just to give me that joy. After that knitting was one of my favourite hobbies and in every stitch, I still feel that big love and endless connection- joined by our family thread forever.

Aran and Dnipro islands I always wanted to meet the ocean. Not for an instant, but for a long period of time, to breathe it in, hear the cries of seagulls and be out of time and usual life. This meeting finally took place in the summer of 2022 when I lived on the island of Ireland. In my childhood, with my grandparents, I spent a summer on the island of the Dnipro River in Ukraine. These two islands have merged into one. The rain, which began early in the morning, accompanied me on my journey from island to island. The ferry was approaching Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands. Hiding from the rain, I went to a local shop, where among the souvenirs and books, there was a lot of knitwear. For many years, women of the island have been creating Aran patterns in garments for their relatives and friends from generation to generation. I felt the braids and all kinds of weaves, and it was as if I were on Dnipro Island. The island of childhood taught me to knit. After hot days filled with fishing, swimming in the river, in the late afternoon I sat next to my grandmother and watched how a ball of thread with the needles in her hands turned into a sock or hat, mitten or scarf. It was magic! There were only two types of loops, but the possibilities of patterns were endless!

Art by Nataliia Dragunova

Marbling I am standing on the ocean shore and under my feet there are green bundles of seaweed. This is what helped me create my marbled patterns for years. This is what gave a new life to hundreds of old books. I knew this smell of the Irish sea already from standing for hours at my home in Ukraine over the water in my tray filled with the Irish moss and making marbled patterns, long before I got here. White dust like flour dissolves in water – it’s powdered Irish moss that returns to its usual environment. In a few hours, a new liquid is ready. Viscous like jelly, but perfectly transparent, it fills a low tray. Fancy ponytail brushes, special sticks, and combs, and of course paints - everything is ready to create marbled patterns on the water. Producing the marbled papers for more than ten years, I’m always fascinated by the process. This is magic with several hundred years of history, which comes to my house with the first splashes of paint on the surface of the water, and bizarre and unrepeated patterns are created within minutes, and there are only a few moments to save them on paper. A simple white sheet becomes unique, colourful, and filled - the liquid gives up its colourful layer, and the paper absorbs it. It’s the same with people - marks, imprints, patterns – these are what others leave forever in us, like gifts and transformations that we accept. A cosy cafe in front of the ferry for the Aran Islands, is filled with the bitter aroma of morning coffee. I’m peering into the ocean through the perspective of patterns of rain on the windowpane. I’m taking a book from the windowsill, opening it and a range of coffee-coloured marbled patterns are breaking into the space of the cafe from the flyleaves of the book.

Endpapers Endpaper - an empty page at the beginning or end of a book next to the cover. The direction of the wind changed, and I sailed homeward on a ferry from the small island of Inishmore towards the main island – Ireland. The houses looked tiny, like toys lost on the rocky shore. But the bright strip of the purest sand was still visible. It was low tide, and I left a lot of my footprints there, when I collected shells and admired the turquoise expanses of the ocean. These patterns were licked from the sand by the waves, and so it was impossible to prove if I was there at all. A new pattern starts with a clean sheet or an empty space. It’s like turning over a filled page - getting rid of past happy and not- so-happy events, fulfilled, or forgotten desires, overwhelmed feelings and again starting to create inspired patterns in yourself and others. Patterns of my new life.

Update: The horoscope of almost a half century ago that told me my previous life was lived in Ireland was not as accurate as I believed. It turned out to be exactly the opposite – it was about my future, not my past. I’ve been living in Ireland for almost a year now.


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