Search Results for: "john o'donohue"

The Weight Deadens on Your Shoulders

Image: The Pooch, 12/26/2006-09/04/2017

[Image: The Pooch (12/26/2006-09/04/2017). Photo taken 8/21/2017. She was an unwilling photographic subject: if you held up a smartphone or camera in her direction — which you always wanted to do, you couldn’t help it — she’d turn her head aside, as here, while keeping a gimlet eye trained on you. She was a cute dog, often involved in cute activities, but the only way to document them was to shoot a bazillion shots and just pray that one would be suitable.]

No whiskey river Friday this week; I just cannot work up the enthusiasm.

The Pooch (that is to say, Sophie) died this past Monday morning, towards the tail end of a long weekend for all three of us. She was all right, and then she wasn’t.

Okay, true: she wasn’t “all right” healthwise — but then again, she never had been. Small dogs often have breathing problems of one sort or another. In The Pooch’s case, she had an issue called “collapsing trachea”: the windpipe over time slackens, just at a point where it bends. Eventually, it slackens enough to close up completely, with the expected results. One of the chief early symptoms of a collapsing trachea is occasional coughing, often in the form of so-called “reverse coughing”: it sounds sorta like a cough, sorta like a sneeze, and often has hints of a goose’s honk. So we knew, early on, that eventually the problem would take her.

(It’s not “treatable,” by the way. Oh, you can administer cover-ups like cough suppressants. Surgically, a couple of things can be done, to strengthen the trachea artificially. They all come with potential side-effects and, in some cases, the side-effects can be much, much worse than the condition itself. Even so, surgical options were out of the question for The Pooch: she was so small, and the risks bloomed proportionately.)

But knowing that something awful will happen seldom seems to fully prepare you for its, well, happening. The Missus and I have spent the week in a fog of crying jags triggered by nothing in particular except the weight of a new, awful, sudden vacancy. (I think today was the first time I’ve ever broken down while taking a shower, surrounded by nothing at all to remind me of her except, yes, that very vacancy.) We’ve lost other pets. And yes, we’ll come out of this grief eventually — but boy, this one has hit us hard.

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“The Evanescence of the World”

Monet: twelve images from his 'Rouen Cathedral' series

[Image: the twelve images from Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series, combined into a single image. Says Wikipedia: “The paintings in the series each capture the façade of the cathedral at different times of the day and year, and reflect changes in its appearance under different lighting conditions.”]

From whiskey river:

How can we ever know the difference we make to the soul of the earth? Where the infinite stillness of the earth meets the passion of the human eye, invisible depths strain towards the mirror of the name. In the word, the earth breaks silence. It has waited a long time for the word. Concealed beneath familiarity and silence, the earth holds back and it never occurs to us to wonder how the earth sees us. Is it not possible that a place could have huge affection for those who dwell there? Perhaps your place loves having you there. It misses you when you are away and in its secret way rejoices when you return. Could it be possible that a landscape might have a deep friendship with you? That it could sense your presence and feel the care you extend towards it? Perhaps your favorite place feels proud of you. We tend to think of death as a return to clay, a victory for nature. But maybe it is the converse: that when you die, your native place will fill with sorrow. It will miss your voice, your breath and the bright waves of your thought, how you walked through the light and brought news of other places. Perhaps each day our lives undertake unknown tasks on behalf of the silent mind and vast soul of nature. During its millions of years of presence perhaps it was also waiting for us, for our eyes and our words. Each of us is a secret envoi of the earth.

(John O’Donohue [source])


I realized it for the first time in my life: there is nothing but mystery in the world, how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, browbeat days, shining brightly, and we don’t even know it.

(Sue Monk Kidd [source])


The light of memory, or rather the light that memory lends to things, is the palest light of all. I am not quite sure whether I am dreaming or remembering, whether I have lived my life or dreamed it. Just as dreams do, memory makes me profoundly aware of the unreality, the evanescence of the world, a fleeting image in the moving water.

(Eugène Ionesco [source])

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Neither Here Nor There

[Image: a frame from Between Two Worlds, the 2009 film by director
Vimukthi Jayasundara. For more information, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

The search for reason ends at the known; on the immense expanse beyond it only the sense of the ineffable can glide. It alone knows the route to that which is remote from experience and understanding. Neither of them is amphibious: reason cannot go beyond the shore, and the sense of the ineffable is out of place where we measure, where we weigh.

We do not leave the shore of the known in search of adventure or suspense or because of the failure of reason to answer our questions. We sail because our mind is like a fantastic seashell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore.

Citizens of two realms, we all must sustain a dual allegiance: we sense the ineffable in one realm, we name and exploit reality in another. Between the two we set up a system of references, but we can never fill the gap. They are as far and as close to each other as time and calendar, as violin and melody, as life and what lies beyond the last breath.

(Abraham Joshua Heschel [source])


Social Security

Long ago, everyone felt safe. Aristotle
never felt danger. Herodotus felt danger
only when Xerxes was around. Young women
were afraid of winged dragons, but felt
relaxed otherwise. Timotheus, however,
was terrified of storms until he played
one on the flute. After that, everyone
was more afraid of him than of the violent
west wind, which was fine with Timotheus.
Euclid, full of music himself, believed only
that there was safety in numbers.

(Terence Winch [source])

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The Fluttering of Things Going ‘Round (and Sometimes Away, and Sometimes Back)

[Video: La Fée des Grèves, or The Fairy of the Surf, a 1909 silent film by Louis Feuillade, dubbed “film’s first fairy tale” by the Film: Ab Initio blog]

From whiskey river:

A Blessing For Absence

May you know that absence is full of tender presence
And that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.
May the absences in your life be full of eternal echo
May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere which holds
The presences that have left your life.
May you be generous in your embrace of loss.
May the sore of your grief turn into a well of seamless presence.
May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear from.
May you have the courage to speak out for the excluded ones.
May you become the gracious and passionate subject of your own life.
May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle words or false belonging.
May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and twilight are one and may your longing inhabit its deepest dreams within the shelter of the Great Belonging.

(John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes)


Today on the way home, it snows. Big, soft caressing flakes fall onto our skin like cold moths; the air fills with feathers.

(Margaret Atwood, from Cat’s Eye [source])


Days begin and end in the dead of night.
They are not shaped long, in the manner
of things which lead to
ends — arrow, road, a person’s life on earth.
They are shaped
round, in the manner of things eternal and stable —
sun, world, God.
Civilization tries to persuade us we are going towards
something, a distant goal. We have forgotten that our only
goal is to
live, to live each and
every day, and that if we live each and
every day, our true goal is achieved. All civilized people
see the day
beginning at dawn or a little after or a long time after or
whatever time their work begins; this they lengthen
according to
their work, during what they call “all day long;” and end it
when they close their eyes. It is they who say
the days are long.
On the contrary, the days are round.

(Jean Giono, from Rondeur Des Jours [source])

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It Went Right By You

[Image: “Lodz, PL, 1994.” A photo by Mark Pimlott from his 2008 exhibit, All Things Pass,
at Stroom Den Haag, The Hague, Netherlands (click for original)]

From whiskey river:

Wild geese fly south, creaking like anguished hinges; along the riverbank the candles of the sumacs burn dull red. It’s the first week of October. Season of woolen garments taken out of mothballs; of nocturnal mists and dew and slippery front steps, and late-blooming slugs; of snapdragons having one last fling; of those frilly ornamental pink-and-purple cabbages that never used to exist, but are all over everywhere now.

(Margaret Atwood, from The Blind Assassin [source])


Transience is the force of time that makes a ghost of every experience. There was never a dawn, regardless how beautiful or promising, that did not grow into a noontime. There was never a noon that did not fall into afternoon. There was never an afternoon that did not fade toward evening. There never was a day yet that did not get buried in the graveyard of the night.

(John O’Donohue, from Anam Cara [source])



Can’t get clear of this dream,
can’t get sober.

Spring breeze chilly
on the flesh: me all alone.

My orphan sail
finds the bank
where reed flowers fall.

All night
the river sounds
the rain falling:

(Yuan Mei, from I Don’t Bow to Buddhas [source])

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Look Up! Look Up! (Or Is It Down?)

[Image: “Looking Up the Yosemite Valley,” by Alfred Bierstadt.
For more information, see the Haggin Museum site.]

Note: Here for Poetry Friday (hosted today at the impossibly appealing Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)? Never before been here on a Friday? Just plain confused by what’s going on in this post? You might want to read about my “whiskey river Fridays” series, at its own “About” page.

From whiskey river:


I have had my dream — like others —
and it has come to nothing, so that
I remain now carelessly
with feet planted on the ground
and look up at the sky —
feeling my clothes about me,
the weight of my body in my shoes,
the rim of my hat, air passing in and out
at my nose — and decide to dream no more.

(William Carlos Williams [source])

…and, likewise (although whiskey river omits the first stanza):

A Blessing of Angels

May the Angels in their beauty bless you.
May they turn toward you streams of blessing.

May the Angel of Awakening stir your heart
to come alive to the eternal within you,
to all the invitations that quietly surround you.

May the Angel of Healing turn your wounds
into sources of refreshment.

May the Angel of Imagination enable you
to stand on the true thresholds,
at ease with your ambivalence
and drawn in new directions
through the glow of your contradictions.

May the Angel of Compassion open your eyes
to the unseen suffering around you.

May the Angel of Wildness disturb the places
where your life is domesticated and safe,
take you to the territories of true otherness
where all that is awkward in you
can fall into its own rhythm.

May the Angel of Eros introduce you
to the beauty of your senses
to celebrate your inheritance
as a temple of the holy spirit.

May the Angel of Justice disturb you
to take the side of the poor and the wronged.

May the Angel of Encouragement confirm you
in worth and self-respect,
that you may live with the dignity
that presides in your soul.

May the Angel of Death arrive only
when your life is complete
and you have brought every given gift
to the threshold where its infinity can shine.

May all the Angels be your sheltering
and joyful guardians.

(John O’Donohue [source])

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The Sky Calls to Us

From whiskey river (italicized portion):

The landscape opens its eyes and sits up,
sets out walking followed by its shadow,
it is a stela of dark murmurs
that are the languages of fallen matter,
the wind stops and hears the clamor of the elements,
sand and water talking in low voices,
the howl of pilings as they battle the salt,
the rash confidence of fire,
the soliloquy of ashes,
the interminable conversation of the universe.
Talking with the things and with ourselves
the universe talks to itself:
we are its tongue and ears, its words and silences.
The wind hears what the universe says
and we hear what the wind says,
rustling the submarine foliage of language,
the secret vegetation of the underworld and the undersky:
man dreams the dream of things,
time thinks the dream of men.

(Octavio Paz [source])

and (italicized portion):

If you had never been to the world and never known what dawn was, you couldn’t possibly imagine how the darkness breaks, how the mystery and color of a new day arrive. Light is incredibly generous, but also gentle. When you attend to the way the dawn comes, you learn how light can coax the dark. The first fingers of light appear on the horizon, and ever so deftly and gradually, they pull the mantle of darkness away from the world.

(John O’Donohue [source])

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[Photo above taken by the Hubble Wide-Field Camera 3 and released a few days ago by NASA. Several thousand galaxies are visible in the original, “a peek at the universe as it looked about 600 million years after the Big Bang.” More info here and here.]

From whiskey river (which excerpted from this poem, in different words, via translation):

The startling reality of things

The startling reality of things
Is my discovery every single day.
Every thing is what it is,
And it’s hard to explain to anyone how much this delights me
And suffices me.

To be whole, it is enough simply to exist.

I’ve written a good many poems.
I shall write many more, naturally.
Each of my poems speaks of this,
And yet all my poems are different,
Because each thing that exists is one way of saying this.

Sometimes I start looking at a stone.
I don’t start thinking, Does it have feeling?
I don’t fuss about calling it my sister.
But I get pleasure out of its being a stone,
Enjoying it because it feels nothing,
Enjoying it because it’s not at all related to me.

Occasionally I hear the wind blow,
And I find that just hearing the wind blow makes it worth having been born.

I don’t know what others reading this will think;
But I find it must be good since it’s what I think without effort,
With no idea that other people are listening to me think;
Because I think it without thoughts,
Because I say it as my words say it.

I was once called a materialist poet
And was surprised, because I didn’t imagine
I could be called anything at all.
I’m not even a poet: I see.
If what I write has any merit, it’s not in me;
The merit is there, in my verses.
All this is absolutely independent of my will.

(Fernando Pessoa [source])


Your beloved and your friends were once strangers. Somehow at a particular time, they came from the distance toward your life. Their arrival seemed so accidental and contingent. Now your life is unimaginable without them. Similarly, your identity and vision are composed of a certain constellation of ideas and feelings that surfaced from the depths of the distance within you. To lose these now would be to lose yourself.

(John O’Donohue [source])

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