Preparing for Iona

One of the guides I turned to when I was preparing for my pilgrimage to Iona was John O’Donohue. One morning, I opened his book of poetry, Conamara Blues, and I found one of my favorites, “Inner Circle.” In that poem, he refers to life as “a festival of vivid presence.” I thought that this is a lovely way to describe the day to day journey of the body, the heart and the soul. He suggests that the heart holds the wisdom we tend to look for in God, scripture, even in time and the reward – and the consequences – of our doing-ness. Instead, the poet suggests that we lighten the burdens of mind and body by being still and listening. By practicing “vivid presence,” we learn to hear what is true.

Here is John O’Donohue’s “Inner Circle” followed by a poem I wrote that was inspired by his vision.

Inner Circle, John O’Donohue (from Conamara Blues)

Stranger sometimes than the yellow crochet (*)

Of glimpses that civilize the dark, or the

Shelter of voices who stall the dead

Silence that longs to return to stone,

Stranger is the heart, a different scripture,

Weighed down by thoughts of gods

Who will never emerge, to recommend

One way above another to anywhere,

Lest they distract from the festival

Of vivid presence, where journeys are not

Stretched over distance, and time

Is beyond the fatality of before and

After, and elsewhere and otherwise

Do not intrude on day or night.

*crochet: a small hook; an odd, whimsical or stubborn notion


Vivid Presence, Linda Mastro, March 4, 2010

There are no vendors

or carnival rides

at the festival of vivid presence.

In the hush of the cornfield,

flattened by amusements

come and gone,

another image shimmers

on the horizon.

Down the gravel lane

a man walks toward the

setting sun

unafraid of the red glow

at the end of the day.

He welcomes the solitude

and the graying darkness

on the shoulder of the quiet country road

where no traffic disturbs the stillness.

The man turns east and walks

to a new day.

One step then the next

marks the present.

The psalms of each heart beat

carry him home.

This entry was posted in John O'Donohue, poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s