Tuesday writing conversation: the sycamore

June 6, 2016

This is Catharine back at the old family farm in May 2016.

Dromore 014

From Polly of Bridgewater Farm

The Sycamore

On days that did not go so well, like wash-day, Polly had a special friend she could count on, the old sycamore that stood between the farmhouse and the coach road.

That old sycamore. It had been battered by many a storm, becoming a little more gnarled and bent each time, but still it stood, offering shade in the summer and a bright flash of gold in the autumn. That first winter on the farm, when she was just four, she had watched the tree gradually turning black in the late afternoon sun, a proud silhouette, a friend in the dusk, the leaves of the highest branches tipped with light.

If you stared at the tree long enough, she thought, you might gradually become part of it, reaching up towards heaven through its leaves. That never quite happened, much to her regret. But one hot August evening the following year, she was sent to bed for some minor infraction. She was leaning out of one of the two gable windows of the loft as far as she dared. Joseph had attached a hinge to it so that his grandchildren might benefit from fresh air, their one free commodity.

The summer scents were intoxicating; clover, honey suckle and new- mown hay, with a dash of pungent manure. The grasshoppers and cicadas were in full throat. A fox barked in the distance; horses’ hooves clopped on the dry roadbed. The sycamore, her friend, loomed as a dark silhouette against the western sky. Away down the slope of the nearest field a single blackbird had begun his evening song. It floated clear and high above the hum of insects, so powerful that in the end Polly heard nothing else, leaning into the song as though she had become part of it, a melody half-heard, half-remembered, going on all around her, whose meaning she couldn’t quite grasp.

And the song ended, and the evening star came out, a moment she would remember for the rest of her life.


for more information visit pollyofbridgewaterfarm.com

Tuesday writing conversation: a conversation in Dublin

June 1, 2016

Michael Lane talks with Catharine McKenty about her book ‘Polly of Bridgewater Farm’ in the gardens at Trinity College, Dublin.

Tuesday Irish photo

May 24, 2016

Here we are at Trinity College in Dublin where we did a video conversation about John Main. The setting was appropriate because John Main had taught law at Trinity – and much later Neil McKenty’s biography of John Main was launched here.

Trinity College, Dublin

In front of a lilac in bloom in the quad at Trinity, from left to right: Rosemary and Richard Rice; Catharine McKenty; and Michael Lane.

Photo: the Spire of Dublin

May 18, 2016
The Spire of Dublin

The Spire of Dublin

This image was taken today on Henry street in Dublin looking towards the junction with O’Connell street.

– –

Curious to note that the venerable Arnott’s department store has two countries’ flags flying – the Irish tricolour (which you would expect) but also the Canadian flag. Anybody know why the oldest department store in Dublin would fly the maple leaf?

Tuesday Writing Conversation: Ireland

May 10, 2016

The old church in Dromore (written about in ‘Polly of Bridgewater Farm’)

A trip to Ireland is forthcoming to gather some more material on ‘Polly of Bridgewater Farm‘ (written by Catharine McKenty) and some background on Neil’s biography of John Main ‘In The Stillness Dancing: The Journey of John Main‘ .

Check back on this page for updates.

Radio clip:

click below to hear the best of McKenty from Exchange

Tuesday Writing Conversation: “civilised, sophisticated, roguish, Irish…”

May 2, 2016

An early review of In The Stillness Dancing: The Journey of John Main by Neil McKenty.

“…an attractive and indeed inspiring account of Main’s intriguing personality and interesting life…

The author gives a full account of John Main’s method, and an engaging picture of the man: civilised, sophisticated, roguish, Irish, yet with an essential spiritual solitariness. It is a fine introduction to a stimulating teacher…”
The Church Times, U.K.


Today we are celebrating the new edition of In The Stillness Dancing being released by lightmessages.com

Journalist, soldier, barrister and Benedictine monk, John Main’s spiritual odyssey was a deep seated quest for an authentic life of prayer. The door finally opened when he met an Indian swami who taught him to meditate using a mantra, only to close again when he entered the Benedictine noviciate and adopted a more traditional form of prayer.
Long after ordination in 1963, John Main discovered that the form of prayer advocated by the swami already existed within the mainstream of Western Christianity but had fallen into disuse. From then on, he was to devote his life to restoring this form of christian meditation to its rightful place within the Church. His work began with the foundation of a meditation centre at Ealing Abbey in London and led, some years later, to the foundation of the Benedictine Priory of Montreal and the establishment of a worldwide spiritual family linked through the daily practice of meditation.
Neil McKenty paints an attractive portrait of this compelling Irish monk whose teaching and writing on meditation were to transform the lives of thousands of men and women.

Click below to hear Neil being interviewed about John Main

John Main

John Main

Some more reviews of In The Stillness Dancing:

“Neil McKenty has presented this remarkable man with enthusiasm and devotion, warts and all. The account of his last illness when he struggled against, and finally accepted, his cancer, is movingly told”.
Catholic Herald, U.K.

“This is a remarkable book about a remarkable man.

The author sees three major contributions made by Dom Main: rediscovery of a formula, a discipline for ‘pure prayer’ as an instrument of reform for the monastic life; made ‘pure’ imageless prayer more accessible to the person on the street (as St. Paul always urged).

McKenty introduces the reader to a man who made a deep impression during his too short life, a man many would liked to have met”.
The Telegraph-Journal, Saint John, N.B.

Farmhouse for sale

April 29, 2016


This is just to let you know that our longtime friend and colleague, Cynthia Macdonald, has a special property that is about to go on the market. Here is her description.

                                                                                        FOR SALE

Renovated, spacious 2 bedroom 1-1/2 storey farmhouse on 31.5 acres (2 meadows, woods, brook, lovely trails of bedrock, lots of trees, deer, and other wildlife.)  Large eat-in kitchen.  1.5 baths.  Finished attic for additional sleeping or living space.  Oil heating and wood stove.  Drilled well.  Perennial garden.  Quiet, safe neighborhood.  4 season home or seasonal hideaway.



Close to I-87, HWay 15.

–         5 minute drive to Champlain border

–         10 minutes to village shopping center, school, church, library, train station

–         30 minutes  to Plattsburgh

–         1 hr. to Montreal

–         1 hr. to Burlington
Unlimited potential:

–         Operating/Hobby/Organic Farm

–         Campground

–         Yoga/Religious Retreat

–         Vineyard

–         Winery

–         Recreation

–         Conservation

Location:  252 Perry Mills Rd., off Route 9, Champlain, NY 12919

Asking Price:  $99,000.


To view, please phone 514 485 1636 or cynthiamacd001@hotmail.com

Tuesday Writing Conversation: Discovering your roots

April 25, 2016

Your own family’s history can be an inspiration – and a good source of material for writing. In the video below Bob Fleming discusses how he traced his irish roots. This same story led Catharine Fleming McKenty to write her first novel, Polly of Bridgewater Farm.

Have you investigated your own family’s history? Have you written your memoirs?

Tuesday writing conversation: 5 years ago

April 19, 2016

Back in 2011, Neil was looking at American politics

Can you believe that the phony financier, Donald Trump, is close to the top of the GOP candidates getting ready to challenge Obama in 2012?  And not only that.  Trump’s big issue is that Obama was born in Kenya and is not really an American.  Trump also does not believe Obama wrote his first book.  Some left wing ghost writer did it for him.  There is not a scintilla of evidence advanced to back up either of these assertions.

Obama himself was asked about the ‘birther’ issue by A.P.  He replied the vast majority of Americans believe that he is an American.  And he added that if the ‘birther’ is all his opponents have got, he must be in pretty good shape.

Exactly the point.  If a joker like Trump can get to the top of the GOP greasy pole by playing the ‘birther’ card, then Obama is a shoo-in for 2012.

The ‘birther’ issue hurts those who espouse it.  It does not hurt Obama.

The issue also reveals what a jumble of mediocrities are trying to take Obama on.  In a poll published in today’s Washington  Post Obama beats every single one of his opponents.  Of the two at the top he beats Romney by six and Huckabee by four.

So much for a one-term president.  Not bloody likely.

Whom does the ‘birther’ issue hurt?

What do you think?

Tuesday Writing Conversation: Writing about the Laurentians

April 12, 2016

Catharine and Neil McKenty wrote a best-selling book about the Laurentians, a hilly area north of Montreal. In this short video, Catharine tells us about the background.

The book ‘Skiing Legends and the Laurentian Lodge’ is available to purchase here.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 99 other followers