Blessing for the path

I didn’t know, when I went to Ireland, that my primary reason for going was to visit John O’Donohue’s grave. Who could know such a thing? It’s not as though I even knew exactly where to find it. Or that when I found it I would feel such a powerful homecoming.

Two years on, that day stands out from all the other Irish days. Each was a blessing, a joyous adventure. But our day on the Burren is the one I return to in memory again and again.

John O’Donohue described the landscape he was born into as “waiting like a huge wild invitation to extend your imagination.” That’s what Lone Wolf and I experienced that day.

“It’s a bare limestone landscape.” John O’Donohue

“And I often think that the forms of the limestone are so abstract and aesthetic, it is as if they were all laid down by some wild surrealistic kind of deity.” John O’Donohue

“And it’s right on the edge of the ocean as well, and so there’s an ancient conversation between the ocean and the stone going on.” John O’Donohue

Once you’ve climbed to the top of the ridge, the land sweeps out toward Galway Bay, the Aran Islands, and the distant Connemara hills.

In this gorgeous short film by Andrew Hinton, David Whyte takes me back to that day. The path he is walking is the path we walked. It is the path John O’Donohue walked as a boy. The path that extends a huge wild invitation.

May you hear an invitation, as David Whyte says, even where there is no invitation.

May your path be blessed.

20 Responses to “Blessing for the path”

    • commatologist

      I’m a bit jealous of your proximity, Liezel! And although I haven’t visited yours, I hear it’s equally beautiful.

  1. carin

    Oh my. I want to listen to this every day until slivers of it become a mantra. You lead me to the most beautiful things. Always feels serendipitous too. Thank you. (I was reading Anam Cara all summer, diving into it willy nilly and always finding exactly what I needed to find at that moment. But then, the answers are always there, all around us, aren’t they…) xo

  2. Denise

    There is something about Ireland that really does invite a deep awareness of life as gift. It’s one of the “thin places” that connects heaven & earth. I have been fortunate enough to experience that!

  3. Karen J. McLean

    What an incredible landscape and such an intimate sharing of it. Thank you for this gift of a distant, resonant land, especially in a time when my physical world seems so small.

    • commatologist

      It is an incredible landscape, Karen. I’ve never seen anything like it, though it reminded me a bit of parts of Newfoundland. The idea of ever going back seems like a dream now. Blessings to you.

  4. Marion Shukin

    Thank you for taking me down this beautiful path today, Leslie, and transporting me to such a beautiful, inviting space.

  5. Dana Knighten

    Dear Commatologist,

    First, thank you. For this post, and for the sensibilities that led you to conceive it and share it. There is so much about this Irish landscape, John O’Donohue’s beloved Burren, that also resonates deeply for me. I have never yet visited Ireland, though I have for decades been drawn there. And I have long been an admirer and reader of O’Donohue’s work.

    I too am an editor and writer. I’ve been an editor for the whole of my working life, now some 35+ years, and a journal writer for the past 20. I saw this blog post thanks to a Facebook friend’s sharing it, and I am so glad of that–I had not known of your blog before that, and I’m so glad I know about it now.

    By avocation I’m a spiritual director who now lives in northern Maryland, USA. But my heart and soul have always belonged to another limestone landscape, that of north Florida, where my soul mets its mirror image in the land and my heart still resides. I grew up in nearby Alabama, and I spent many summer vacations in north Florida. I finally got to live there for four glorious years, in my late twenties and early thirties.

    This morning a friend sent me an excerpt from JOD’s writing about the Burren. In reply I wrote her of my own lifelong love affair with the landscape of north Florida, also one that is limestone based. Practically the whole of central and north Florida rests on what geologists call “the karst plain.” The whole of it is pocked by sinkholes with water the color of blue morning glories, formed when water wore away the porous limestone bedrock and the ground caved in to meet the aquifer beneath. The land is threaded through with blue-green spring-fed groundwater rivers that rise straight out of the darkness to meet daylight. It is populated by plants and animals found nowhere else.

    And it, like JOD’s beloved Burren, is a place of severe, sere beauty like nowhere else. A place of folded stone where bright lichens take hold and wear down rock to grains of sand. Of barren sandscapes where sage green moss carpets the ground under stunted evergreen scrub and crunches underfoot. Of swamps where the scent of sweetbay magnolia and tupelo permeates the air. Of thousand-year-old cypresses that stand with swollen boles in tea-dark water and send up knees to probe the air.

    I hope to visit Ireland someday. And in the meanwhile, I thank you for taking me there. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  6. commatologist

    Thank you so much, Dana. You write so beautifully about the landscape you clearly love – I could almost see and smell it from your description. I visited Florida once about 30 years ago, but I didn’t see what you’ve described. I was on the east coast, in Daytona Beach and St Augustine – I fell in love with the latter. And Flagler Beach, where the “sand” was entirely little red shells. I found Florida’s flora very beautiful. I couldn’t believe the enormous rhododendrons growing wild!

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you make it to Ireland one day and walk the Burren.


    • Dana Knighten

      Thank you, Leslie! I never visited the part of Florida you describe, but I have a friend who lives in that area and it sounds as if there’s much to love. I would so love to see that sand made of little red shells someday–and I too hope to walk the Burren one day myself!

  7. Diane

    Oh, it had me entranced as I watched and listened. I feel like it’s something I wish to listen to each day. Almost like a prayer. Thank you.

    • commatologist

      Diane, it’s the same for me. I listen often. The music haunts me as much as the words and images. Thanks for connecting.

    • commatologist

      Diane, I just visited your beautiful blog and learned you live in Qualicum Beach. I spent three months there this year, walking my mother home. Your photographs are wonderful. Glimpses of home – I spent most of my life on the island. It’s good to “meet” you. Leslie

  8. Diane

    Oh Leslie, that is so wonderful. Now I’m doubly pleased we connected. And thank you for your kind words about my blog.
    I’m on a bit of a high at the moment. Just came from a socially distanced walk with a brother whom I didn’t know I had. A whole lot of magic going on.


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