I’ve wanted to see Connemara for quite some time, longed for it, though I couldn’t say exactly why. Even the name is evocative for me. In the geography of my imagination it was a place so different that I might be a different person if I lived there. And then finally yesterday we set out to drive for hours through Connemara in the rain. We stopped in a place called Recess, where we drank coffee in a bar with a view of a lake and read poems from John O’Donohue’s “Connemara Blues” out loud. I love his work and I think it’s at least partly true that I came here looking for him, though he’s been dead these past 9 years.
Looking for the poet, looking for myself, as if I might indeed be someone else if I lived in this rocky, ruggedly beautiful land. As if that were even possible. As if there could be any other self than the one I’ve come to know in the commonplace of home, the one who loves to write sermons and fiddle with pictures on the computer and make babies laugh. Who else did I think could I be? Even if I spoke with an Irish accent, I wouldn’t be a poet, but that’s OK.
Noodling through Google, I came across O’Donohue’s blessing for a traveler, and it occurred to me that he might be exactly right. It’s not another self I came to Connemara looking for, but just to be alone in a different way, to find a new silence and hear what my heart would love to say.
“For the Traveller,” by John O’Donohue
Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:
How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.
A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.