Dum spiro spero

memento mori

My first year in university was a tough one. The course of veterinary gross anatomy had us all running like a maniac between the lecture theater and dissection lab from early morning until dark. Lab humor, only understandable to those who have actually ‘been there’, helped me maintain a healthy perspective on life no matter what. The Latin language course was compulsory, but we were expected to memorize not only the names of all the organs, but also the names describing all the specific features on an individual bone. Our teachers were experts in Latin language, and from them we learned many phrases, both useful and useless. We even sang four verses of Gaudeamus igitur at the ceremony in the beginning and in the end of academic year. On the last verse, our professors would  stand up and respectfully nod to us all.

Vivat academia,
Vivant professores,
Vivat membrum quodlibet,
Vivat membra quaelibet;
Semper sint in flore!

Which in English is

Long live the university,
Long live the teachers,
Long live each male student,
Long live each female student;
May they always flourish!

I knew a good few Latin phrases before, from a handbook I found in my grandmother’s attic. One of my favorites was Memento mori – it sounded very mysterious and somewhat sad to a ten years old curious and life-loving girl. As an antidote to that one, there was Dum spiro spero – While I breathe, I hope.


This winter was very stormy, and three shipwrecks have become exposed on Tramore beach, Co Waterford, uncovered from sand in February. It happens from time to time. When I finally went to see them ( time, tides and weather didn’t want to cooperate for me), the other two were almost gone, and this big one was half buried in sand once again. Another couple of months, and it will be immersed in the sand until the next bad storm.

I was alone in the whole strand. It was shortly after the midday (the lowest tide), and I quickly took photographs and went back to the car. The rain was getting stronger. I was sitting there, eating my sandwich, and it is when all these University memories came back flooding, must be because of the ribs of that old boat, sticking out of the sand like a skeleton of a long dead animal.

Imagine a very young girl with very little experience who finds a book in the attic of an old house, and learns that there is a strange, haunting language in the world, that no one else probably knows! It is what I thought 🙂

If you read the List of Latin phrases, you will realise that this language is still quite alive and widely used.

Since I have long ago grown out of the age when little girls pretend to be smarter and more sophisticated than they actually are, I don’t use Latin phrases without a very good reason, and don’t overuse any quotes altogether. While I breathe, I hope that my own intuition and common sense will help me out. Not that I totally avoid the internet when I look for advice. Some people’s quotes can be very valuable.


I totally agree with this one 🙂 That Slievenamon climb during which I took the picture, was not easy for me.  On the summit, there is a huge pile of stones, a possible entrance to the Celtic underworld… Some people, in hope for a good luck, bring a rock and add to the pile. I hope for a good luck always, but if I want to breathe and stay alive while climbing Slievenamon, I have to forget about taking any rocks up there with me…


On my way home, the rain eased off and I went for a walk around the Tramore Back Strand estuary. At low tide, the place is all mud and myriads of lugworm castings. Cautious birds gather in the center of the mudflat, and I only saw two Little egrets, and these four geese. I also heard a lark, invisible in the clouds. I always think of my Grandmother’s home when I hear a lark.

I came across a family of Field horsetails – their spore bearing stems come out early, and I love their sturdy look. These plants have been around millions years before the dinosaurs came in the picture. My grandmother used the green stems as a brush to clean her saucepans, and she also said that all the parts of the plant are edible and good for skin and bones.


My eyesight went down in the last two weeks. I am so sorry that I don’t visit your blogs as often these days. I will catch up when I get better, and I am working on that. The eyesight problems related to unstable blood sugar are nasty and difficult to fight. There is a natural remedy that my grandmother used – bilberry leaves, flowers, and of course berries. Look forward to Summer Solstice, the best time for gathering most of herbs. While I breathe I hope.

inesemjphotography Have a wonderful weekend!


  1. For some reason, I feel that I’ve read this post before – but if i had, I would have liked and commented. How weird is that! Well, I wanted to say how much I like Latin , although I did only a little at school in my 6th form years. Latin forms the basis of many English words. I was sorry to hear that your eyesight suffers due to unstable blood sugar levels, and can only hope you have it well under control and you’re fit and healthy again by now. Staring at a computer screen all day isn’t good for anyone’s eyesight – which I know from personal experience. Love your old photos. They must bring back so many memories.

    1. Thank you Millie! I am on holidays and do very little computer work – just our family pictures 🙂 Also, it helps that the weather is warm and sunny.
      People also used to study Greek, but somehow it didn’t stay popular.

  2. Dum spiro spero – While I breathe, I hope. Beautiful, Inese; as you are! I loved seeing your lovely university photos. May I ask what your degree was?

  3. Hello Inese,
    What a great post, but so sorry to hear about your eyesight issues. I send my best wishes for them to improve, and my sympathies for this problem. I’m guessing a lot of bloggers are of an age, where we increasingly have to deal with medical issues of one sort or another…maybe this experience is why I love reading blogs from thoughtful people – an insight into the real REAL world. Not that of celebrities and TV reality..

    I like the idea of a doorway into the Celtic Underworld…another portal??

    And I had no idea that you studied vet anatomy…. Did you use Miller’s Anatomy of the Dog, Or Sissons mega tome??? This brought back distant memories for me, of eye watering formalin soaked greyhounds…

    Don’t feel you have to respond – sounds like computer screen work isn’t such a good thing right now,

    Best wishes and take care,

    1. Thank you Julian! Miller’s anatomy was a picture of my nightmares, and the memory of formalin splashed over my face when a friend pulled a horse leg out of the bath is still fresh… Have you got a veterinary training too?

      Diabetes runs in my family, so I have to be very careful with my diet.
      Take care and have a happy weekend!

      1. Inese, I qualified as a vet and remained so for about 27 years, before I got off the wheel to do other things, and potter.
        At least that was the idea…life seems much busier than it ever was when I was working, and I can honestly say I’ve had no regrets about leaving the profession behind,
        A happy weekend to you too. And wrap up well, if you’re under this arctic air as well..
        Best wishes

      2. Inese, I qualified as a vet and remained so for about 27 years, before I got off the wheel to do other things, and potter.
        At least that was the idea…life seems much busier than it ever was when I was working, and I can honestly say I’ve had no regrets about leaving the profession behind,
        A happy weekend to you too. And wrap up well, if you’re under this arctic air as well..
        Best wishes
        PS, Diet is so important for lots of aspects of good health and avoiding disease, isn’t it? Even if many medics don’t seem to promote it…

        1. I left the profession when my daughter was born, but later I did some lab work for another couple of years. Nothing to be proud with, and nothing to remember.
          Yes, the right diet helps. My vision stabilized, at least.
          Best wishes!

  4. Take care… Sorry to hear about your eyesight. Unstable sugar levels can affect everything so do look after yourself.
    Gorgeous photos! I didn’t know you’d studies veterinary. I studied Latin at high school but they didn’t expect us to describe anything in Latin at medical school (other than the names of certain things).

    1. Thank you Olga! I think we had to study so much because, first of all, it was Moscow, and it was an old-school academy. Our professors were like 70-80 years old, well known in their field, and well-educated before the Soviets took over 🙂 By the time I graduated, things started to change, and this academic flair was almost gone.

  5. Beautiful post, Inese. Latin is difficult language, Dutchie studied it as part od Dutch curriculum and he did not remember most of it now 🙂 Wishing you speedy recovery, and hope you will get good rest this weekend 🙂

  6. I truly enjoyed reading your post, today. It made me feel like a part of your collection of warm memories. I’m so sorry to hear about your eyesight. It cannot be easy and I hope you have a good collection of songs on your playlist. Music has got me through many difficult times. It’s a great healer. I wish you a speedy recovery. Have a good week. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! Music and paper books, and a very little computer these days for me. I cannot tell that I am getting better, but not worse, anyway.
      Have a good week you too! xx

  7. I love Latin and still sing in that language from time to time. They made me give up Latin at school when I was about 14 to concentrate on French, which I hated.
    Tramore looks such a beautiful place, as I’m always saying to Jean Tubridy who blogs at Social Bridge.
    I’m so sorry about your eyes. I do hope they improve again soon.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Sarah! Oh I imagine you sing a lot in Latin. Isn’t it a beautiful gift, a blessing to all. I wish I had a great voice.
      Tramore is a gem, actually, all the coastline is beautiful.
      Thank you again, have a good week!

  8. I learned Latin in middle school, and was quite good at it. Now it’s mostly gone as I haven’t used it in years.
    Sending you good wishes, I hope your eyes can improve and you feel better.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Carolee! It is handy to know some Latin. I cannot tell how many times it helped me when I look up botanical names in Google.

  9. I never studied Latin, so the only Latin expressions I ever use are extremely common ones, such as alter ego. It might be nice to be able to wave my arms with a flourish and come out with an impressive sounding Latin phrase once in a while, but I imagine most people nowadays would just assume I was doing a Harry Potter impersonation.

    1. Yes, I am afraid 😉 I wouldn’t try to speak any Latin either these days, but we used it quite creatively in our inside jokes, as students.

  10. I really enjoyed your post and photos, Inese. I never took Latin class in school, it wasn’t compulsory but my friend joined a horticulture class some years back and there were a lot of Latin names to remember. I agree with you that it is used quite widely today, especially in the scientific and medical world. Hope your eyes are a lot better soon.

    1. Thank you Jean! In many countries Latin language is not compulsory for Veterinary students, but it is an advantage to know it because it will simply make your life easier.
      Have a wonderful Sunday!

  11. Beautiful post and wonderful pictures, Inese! I learned latin at school but was somewhat reluctant;) But when I entered university I was grateful that I´d learned it, as it was mandarotry for my studies as well 🙂
    Hope your eyesight will improve soon, my dear!! Have a lovely sunday! Sarah xoxo

    1. Thank you Sarah! I love the language, and I was very impressed with all those sayings, I still am. And even without the sayings – it is a very straightforward language, perfect for science, law, medicine.
      Have a lovely Sunday you too!xx

  12. A beautiful, touching, and fun post, Inese. I was removed from Latin, at which I was hopeless, and placed in the Geography class of my Jesuit Grammar school. May your eyes improve

    1. Thank you Derrick! Geography is more fun than Latin, I guess 🙂
      Latin was compulsory for my classmates, but because I was a student with a different language, I was only expected to know the necessary terminology, so I cannot go boasting that I speak Latin :). In many countries, veterinary students don’t have Latin at all.

  13. Bilberries or wimberries or whinberries are my all time favourite fruit for a pie. I love to se the custard changing colour. I hope the eye problem is soon a thing of the past Inese and that the bilberries help.
    xxx Sending Massive Hugs xxx

    1. Thank you so much, David! Too much time on computer, and too much stress management favorites – chocolates and such. Have to be careful in the future.
      Many hugs!!! xxxxxx

  14. Great Post !!!
    enjoyed the photos of the young Inese
    I take a supplement: LifeExtension “MacuGuard”
    really helps my eyes
    my Latin instructor always said, “anyone who doesn’t
    know Latin is walking around naked”

    1. Thank you so much Michael! I will definitely give the supplement a try. I am really scared this time.
      Your Latin instructor was right 🙂 Some things people do have to know, at least on a basic level.
      Thank you for stopping by! All the best to you!

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