An Irish philosopher poet accompanied me to Livingstone. When I left America I packed him away in my heart and in my mind. He boarded the plane with me in Virginia and together we took off into the wild. As we flew through the shape-shifting clouds, John O’Donohue leant across to me, cupped his hand over my ear, and whispered the following words:
“Often it takes a huge crisis or trauma to crack the dead shell that has grown ever more solid around us. Painful as that can be, it does resurrect the longing of the neglected soul. It makes a clearance. Again we see the horizons and feel their attraction. Though we may wince with vulnerability as we taste the exhilaration of freedom, we feel alive!”
John O’Donohue died in 2008, but I carry him with me wherever I go. He’s written some of the most poetic, compassionate lines I’ve ever read. John O’Donohue adored wild places. He grew up in one. He saw no separation between us and the natural world. I don’t either.
This Irish philosopher poet showed up again at my 50th birthday party. This time he wasn’t whispering. He was celebrating (like only those from the west of Ireland know how). John O’Donohue raised his glass of ‘uisce beatha‘ when he saw me in the embrace of renewed friendships, of a family reconnected, of long-awaited-for love. He knocked the whiskey back in one go and asked for another. Then he stared at me intently and said:
“Although there are no guarantees in the kingdom of risk, nature shows us, time and again, that it is precisely at that moment of greatest risk, the moment when everything could be lost, that greatest change happens. A new life opens out into a new world that could never have been dreamed before this.”
I have entered this new world, filled with wild places. I thank John O’Donohue for accompanying me here, for showing me that “we recover within us some of the native integrity that wild places enjoy outside.” …
But mostly I thank Chris.