Tuesday, March 25, 2008


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

--John O'Donohue

I heard this poem recited by its author on my favorite public radio program, Speaking of Faith. Krista Tippett, the creator and host of the show, is a special talent. She truly honors her guests with her preparation for each interview; she really internalizes their work, and asks excellent, evocative questions.

This particular interview brought me out of my post-Holy-Week stupor today, with its exploration of the poetry and theology of Irish poet John O'Donohue. There are a number of absolutely gorgeous morsels in this interview, and I commend it to you (click the link above to access the program). Meanwhile, I'll lift up this one idea by quoting the interview directly:

Ms. Tippett: You wrote about time, "Possibility is the secret heart of time. On its outer service time is vulnerable to transience. In its deeper heart, time is transfiguration." I wonder how you are able to have—I don't know, I think a larger sense of time, because of—as an inheritor of—the Celtic tradition. I have this…

Mr. O'Donohue: Yeah, I think that's a bit of it, you know? That old Celtic thing, because, I mean, there is in Ireland, like, still even though it's getting consumerized so fast. There is still in the west of Ireland, where I live, a sense of time, you know? That there's time for things.

Ms. Tippett: Right.

Mr. O'Donohue: And that when God made time, He made plenty of it, and all the rest of it. And you see, I think that one of the huge difficulties in modern life is the way time has become the enemy.

Ms. Tippett: Time is a bully. We're captive to it.

Mr. O'Donohue: Totally, and I'd say seven out of every 10 people who turn up in a doctor's surgery are suffering from something stress related. Now, there are big psychological tomes written on stress. But for me, philosophically, stress is a perverted relationship to time. So that rather than being a subject of your own time, you have become its target and victim, and time has become routine. So at the end of the day, you probably haven't had a true moment for yourself. And you know, to relax in and to just be. Because, you know, the way in this country — there's all the different zones. I think there are these zones within us as well. There's surface time, which is really a rapid-fire Ferrari time.

Ms. Tippett: Yes, and over structured.

Mr. O'Donohue: Yeah, over structured, like, and stolen from you, thieved all the time. And then if you sit down, like, Dan Siegel, my friend, does this lovely meditation, you know: You imagine the surface of the ocean is all restless and then you slip down deep below the surface where it's still and where things move slower. And what I love in this regard is my old friend Meister Eckhart, 14th-century mystic.

Ms. Tippett: Right. German mystic.

Mr. O'Donohue: German mystic. And one day I read in him and he said, "There is a place in the soul—there is a place in the soul that neither time, nor space, nor no created thing can touch." And I really thought that was amazing, and if you cash it out what it means is, that in—that your identity is not equivalent to your biography. And that there is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.

This program was a beannacht, a blessing, to me today. I was tired and grumpy, having been a bit of a hostage to time over the last couple of weeks. And listening (twice!) led me back to my inner sanctuary. Thank you, Krista. Requesciat in pace, John.

Peace, y'all.


Cecilia said...

Oh, you've made me wish for this program to air locally...I wonder if a podcast can be gotten?

Pax, C.

Choralgirl said...

Indeed it can, either subscribing through iTunes or on an individual basis at SpeakingofFaith.org.

It is, as Mr. O'Donohue said in the program, "food and drink to me."

:-) Blessings!