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.





Nuestras vidas son los rios,
que van a dar a la mar,
que es el morir. ¡Gran cantar!

“Our lives are rivers
and rivers flow and move to the sea,
which is our dying.” Marvellous lines!

Among the poets I admire
I love Manrique the most.

A sweet voluptuousness of living:
tough knowledge of leaving,
blind flight to the sea.

After the fright of dying.
the joy of having arrived.

Great joy!
But – the terror of returning?
Great grief!

Antonio Machado
translated by Robert Bly

Castilian poet Jorge Manrique was meditating upon metaphors in the 1460’s when he penned Coplas a la muerte de su padre (Verses on the death of Don Rodrigo Manrique, his Father).

Life – like rivers that flow and move to the sea.

I’ve been watching rivers do that this week – keeping company with a poet of the 1400’s, and with another, Antonio Machado, who was born in 1875 and who died in 1939, and with another, Robert Bly, who translated him, and with my wife, and with friends and acquaintances, and with a host of unknown persons, flowing in their hundreds and thousands.

Flowing rivers, all of us, making intricate but temporary little artworks in the constantly washed, and shifting, and warmed white sand. All of us flowing towards the great sea from whence we came. And sometimes in the watching the heart aches for the beauty of it all, and for the poignancy of the departing. But there is to be a joy in arriving, and then, keeping empathetic company with Lazarus, we shall doubt that we want to return.

Poets across the ages unite ages unto eternity.