river | sonja langford | photo at Snapwire


I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

John O’Donohue
Conamara Blues

You’re like the hymnal on two legs! – a schoolfriend told me long ago. It’s a lovely thing that having loved poetry for a long, long time, a flow of perpetual encouragement and inspiration lives deep in heart and soul.

I’ve lost count of the number I’ve known of wonderful elderly people, and sick people – my own dear Dad presently among these – who, though sometimes unable to remember what they want or had for breakfast, can recite dozens of poems, psalms and songs. At his prompting Dad and I sang Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins, in the hospital earlier this week. That singing – and that message – will stay with me for the rest of my days.

… All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you …

The late, great, John O’Donohue speaks to me for weeks on end sometimes. One of the joys of my life is meditation, shared with a worldwide community – some of whom, myself included, are in the habit of sharing a line or two of reasons for gratitude, or hopes for growth, with one another. Time and again the image of a river is expressed, together with surprise, unfolding, and real attempts to live life fluently.

Oh Dad! You’ve known a thing or two about Wisdom:

Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you …

Thank you: for being so … fluent.




Westport Harbour | Photo Sjaak Kempe at Flickr

Before the beginning

Unknown to us, there are moments
When crevices we cannot see open
For time to come alive with beginning.

As in autumn a field of corn
Knows when enough green has been inhaled
From the clay and under the skill
Of an artist breeze becomes gold in a day,

When the ocean still as a mirror
Of a sudden takes a sinister turn
To rise in a mountain of wave
That would swallow a village.

How to a flock of starlings
Scattered, at work on grass,
From somewhere, a signal comes
And suddenly as one, they describe
A geometric shape in the air.

When the audience becomes still
And the soprano lets the silence deepen,
In that slowed holding, the whole aria
Hovers nearer, then alights
On the wings of breath
Poised to soar into song.

These inklings were first prescribed
The morning we met in Westport
And I was left with such sweet time
Wondering if between us something
Was deciding to begin or not.

John O’Donohue
Conamara Blues

This world is full of exquisite beauty. Some of it lived in the soul of the late poet John O’Donohue, and he embodied it. If I had to name one literary hero, this is my man. I repeatedly turn to a film of the gentle giant, seated in his armchair beside a peat hearth, notebook and pen in hand. His poetry is so exquisite it’s painful sometimes. Familiar, it catches me unawares.

My eyes open with new willingness to see the world afresh – open to ‘Before the Beginning’ and everything that comes after it. Some days I regret I can’t head down to The Burren and find him there, attentive, laughing, listening, warm and knowing. And then I chance again upon his work and find myself in his company here and now. Poised to soar into song.