Thursday, August 3, 2017

DIVINERS, DREAMERS & METAMORPHOSIS in "Thin places" - "You're grand pet!"

Writing about a trip, a journey, is a lot like the journey itself.  You want it to be perfect, full of satisfaction, fun and excitement, sunny, uncrowded beaches, you looking grand in your two piece - lots of tropical drinks with umbrellas in them. You want everyone to have a good time and think you are the life of the party. You want to fall in love and have a summer romance. (That is if you are still young enough to believe that's possible). You spin the Wheel of Fortune and take your chances.

Wheel of Fortune

I once did a voice-over for a product called "The Cocktail Genie", where I recited the recipes for around 80 mixed drinks.  One was called, "Sex on the Beach"! (don't condemn me - we do a lot of things on our search for enlightenment!)  But when you finally get to that beach, the two piece is not covering enough! There's likely sand in your crotch, a hangover and a broken heart involved in there somewhere. Those kinds of trips are "recipes" for disappointment. Holidays/vacations which usually end up in tears, sunburn, lost luggage and herpes, unless your denial meter is turned way up high.   

Yes, I still have it - my most successful gig to date - made by Kraftware.  A collector's item, sadly n/a, to you, the general public.😢

But, I wasn't on holiday or vacation, my journey was a pilgrimage back to a place, over twenty years ago, which turned my life upside down and sideways, where I met John O'Donohue, Patrick McCormack, Norin Ni Riain and Ireland for the first time.  I had already met David Whyte in other incarnations & venues, including Esalen, and his appearances in San Francisco.  The rest, as they say, is history (or herstory or their story?)

The Merry Band - David Whyte Poetry Tour - June 1996

John O'Donohue - David Whyte Poetry Tour - June 1996

Holy Places - David Whyte - June 1996

David Whyte, Patrick McCormack, Lei Ching Chou - June 1996

David & Brendan Whyte - Yeats Tower - June, 1996

Moi - Inishmor- 1996

These photos all taken with one of those throwaway cameras.  Imagine what I could have done with digital! So as you can see, the future seeds were already planted among the stones and the peat, wishes tossed into Holy Wells.  The search for the Holy Grail, begun in the West of Ireland, with peat, poets, and divinity...smack in the center of the Heart.   I thought I would be a writer (and I sort of am).  I thought I had found my calling, my "Voice", mais autre choses were in store for me.  The cards were in the wings.  I hadn't come home to myself...yet (or to France).

Lenormand Revolution - Heart & House -

These two cards were damaged in a downpour which soaked thru my pack, kindle, camera, phone, (talk about Tech meltdowns).  Rain in Ireland, surprise surprise!  How fitting that the heart will suffer in its search for its true home, and that the "House of Belonging" would also take a hit. 

There is no chronology to this story I am telling you, it is about going out and coming back...I am borrowing the words below from two priceless treasures on our pilgrimage, Owen & Moley Ó Súilleabháin: (Filleadh:  Sacred Songs, is also the name of their album recorded in Glenstal Abbey, County Limerick, 2013). 

Filleadh means to go out, but also to come back. It implies a retracing of a path already walked, a return.

Klimacdaugh Monastery - June 2017

David Whyte - June 2017

Meeha - June 2017

Wannabee Mystics, we exist in the In-Between worlds.  Like Kierkegaard said, travel is best understood backward, but must be experienced forward.  There are destinations that rearrange us, and change us, disorient us - sometimes giving us a pas de retour, a one way ticket, like Into the Wild.* 

They want a wilderness
With a map
But how about errors
that give a new start?
Or leaves that are
Edging into the light?
or the many places
a road can't find? --William Stafford

We enter the Thin Places: a term coined by the ancient pagan Celts.  Places like Hy Brasil, a phantom island, said to lie in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Ireland, appearing on maps as early as 1325 and into the 1800s.  It is the "Home" the orphaned Border Collie, Voyager, in my Celtic faerie tales, contes de fées, searched for. Poor lad is still sniffing around for that divine place between Heaven & Earth and will never rest till he finds it. 

Faerie Ring - Ballyvaughn, Ireland - One of the "Thin" places

Dr. Jeff in the Fairy Ring - June, 2017

It's good to have a map of poetry and some trusted guides to show you the way.

Odilon Redon - Le Char d'Appolon - 1906-07

Connemara - June, 2017

David Whyte - Poet, Horse Whisperer - June, 2017

Horsewoman of Spades
Visconti Tarot - Bonaficio Bembo c.1450

The great function of poetry is to give back to us the situations of our dreams 
Gaston Bachelard

Door Knocker - St. Georges St., Dublin

James Joyce Center - Dublin

James Joyce Center - Dublin

I haven't got the space to write about Dublin. I only spent two nights there, one at a hostel, with hormonally driven twenty somethings who drank till 6 a.m. in the courtyard.  I had 5 roommates in my bunkhouse, two of them men; but, hey, nobody snored, and I do, so fair play!  I spent my day in Dublin in the James Joyce Center, a few doors down, and had a fine old time with JJ and his words and artifacts; they even had his door, still intact, where he lived at 7 Eccles.  There's a death mask and all sorts of goodies.

I finally put my struggle with ULYSSES to rest.  I tried to finish that book in every decade of my life; it is after all a masterpiece, but it's so much easier sometimes to watch masterpieces on PBS, Masterpiece Theater, where nothing is left to the imagination and the dictionary.  And you can relax with Alistair and a nice glass of port.  Or listen to it on the radio, when they do the Bloomsday broadcast from the Big Apple, with professional actors, or even in Paris at the Irish Cultural Center where they actually did it in French, and I think I understood it better!  And there's always Huston's film of "The Dead."  Another masterpiece. 

My bunkhouse without the nice couch & table

Dirty, but still picturesque, Hostel Window
Hospitality is Ireland's signature dish and even heaving old Dublin was full of it.  On the Dublin city bus to find my hostel, a little old Irish lady passed up her own stop, to take me  to where I could scout out the winding way to St. George's St. with its derelict beauty and crumbling Georgian homes. Along the way she warned me about all the pickpockets and thieves and where to hide my valuables.

Earlier when one old gent got onto the bus, the bus driver said "Mick, how ya keepin'?"  (just imagine that coming from the mouth of your own city bus driver). And Mick replied:  "Still alive!"  And that's the Irish for ya, warmth and forbearance, & a way with words that I'll never be able to copy, can only enjoy and laugh at their brilliant "spirits," fueled by such historical suffering.  Good thing they have those faeries in their pockets. 

Our cottages at Ballyvaughn

Mural, James Joyce Center, Dublin


 'There's no path goes all the way'

Han Shan
David Whyte Poetry Tour June, 2017

David Whyte Poetry Tour - June, 1996

Le Chemin, The Path -  Malpertuis Lenormand

The Merry Band - June 2017

Not that it stops us looking
for the full continuation

The one line in the poem

we can start and follow

straight to the end.  The fixed belief
we can hold, facing a stranger

that saves us the trouble

of a real conversation.

But one day you are not

just imagining an empty chair

where your loved one sat.

You are not just telling a story

here the bridge is down
and there's nowhere to cross.
You are not just trying to pray 
to a God you imagined
would keep you safe.
No, you've come to the place
where nothing you've done
will impress and nothing you
can promise will avert 
the silent confrontation,
the place where
your body already seems to know
the way having kept
to the last its own secret 
But still there is no path
that goes all the way
one conversation leads
to another
one breath to the next
there's no breath at all
the inevitable
final release
of the burden.
And then 
your life will
have to start
all over again 
for you to know
even a little
of who you have been.

From RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems

Many Rivers Press. © David Whyte

Embarking on the Path - Owen serenading us - Photo Jean-Pierre

Balance -

Even if the path went all the way, it would still be hard to stay on it.  We walked and walked and walked for hours - slipping and sliding on stones, falling into holes - while holding our breath & each others hands, to lift ourselves over the stiles, human chains joining the places where the earth doesn't meet itself.  The Irish would say "it's like swimming up a waterfall; or, you can't whistle and chew corn at the same time."  But they'd say it in Gaelic and Gaelic is still spoken everywhere.  At the Galway bus depot, I overheard no English except myself inquiring for a bathroom.  

Thin places usually require some blood, sweat and tears to get there.  They are often sacred, but not always.  You lose your bearings; sense of time is altered, one moment you are standing on solid ground, the next you are crossing a threshold and another territory of spirit opens its arms to you. 

Face in the Stone - Photo David Whyte

In the daily cycle, for instance, at dawn and dusk, the Celts perceived that same momentary quality of the ‘time that is not a time’. Here too, albeit on a smaller scale, were irregular occurrences and unusual potential. Spirits could ‘get through’; consciousness was altered. Morning dew embodied a unique energy with potent healing properties – hence the benefits of rolling in it, all the more enhanced at Beltane. At twilight, the imagination is highly receptive and easily stimulated. And at both these times, the songbirds go along with this energy, abandon life-supporting activities and sing their finest choruses.  Gerry McGuire Thompson

David Whyte - The Burren - June 2017

“It’s the Burren region, which is limestone. It’s a bare limestone landscape. 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. Being a child and com-ing out into that, it was waiting like a huge wild invitation to extend your imagination. 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. I think that was one of the recognitions of the Celtic imagination: that landscape wasn’t just matter, but that it was actually alive. Landscape recalls you into a mindful mode of stillness, solitude, and silence, where you can truly receive time.”   -  John O'Donohue

John O'Donohue - The Burren - June 1996

David Whyte - June 2017

Thresholds, Blessings, Reverence, and Recognition (to learn and to know) - these were some of the gifts John gave us - And a fresh and exalted way to "see" the Soul's Journey.  His legacy is eternal.

We honored John with our own remembrances, and by walking the land he loved and shed spiritual blood for.  His great friends and comrades, David Whyte, Patrick McCormack, keeping his work and memory alive, blending it with their own grand poetry and stewardship of the holy sites, and the souls they share them with.

Gayle Karen Young - June, 2017

I want to be with those who know secret things or alone - Ranier Marie Rilke

Stone Cow - June 2017

Patrick McCormack with Hazelwood - June 2017

Patrick, David, Gayle Karen - June 2017

They ...wove a spell so exquisite that everything conspires to break it! But dear Emily Dickinson,  nothing could, especially when they brought out the Jamesons, an ancient hidden cache.

Patrick McCormack - buried treasure

Patrick's Cows - June, 2017

The Cows were spellbound! But later I saw them drinking Guiness

We think it's the rain that carries the day, but it's the music. We cry like the rain; we cry like a river at holy wells, abbeys and in The Bowl, & whenever Noirin, Moley & Owen sing.   I'm still crying while I write this blog, listening to their "Fields of Grace"  album,  Letting go of Love (siuil A ruin), same song Moley & Ian sang in Cumbria at the Standing Stones at Castlerigg, Lakes Tour, 2015. I wasn't the only one. Crocodile tears all around.  They "Bring Me Beautiful" - Size 2 Shoes.  There's actually forums on Google on how to pronounce their last name. 

Nóirín Ní Riain and her glorious sons, Moley & Owen Ó Súilleabháin

I love music. I think music is just it. I love poetry as well, of course, and I think of beauty in poetry. But music is what language would love to be if it could.  John O'Donohue

Nóirín Ní Riain - June 2017-

A front row seat for Noirin, who sang on my birthday June 6, 1996 on the David Whyte poetry tour.  She beguiled and regaled us then and now with her music & great storytelling gifts. Enchanted us all with her childhood memories of the "little priestess," who gathered the animals around her to tell her secrets to (I could so relate).  She called them the "undercover mystics," which they are indeed. She was very shy like me, but let the music overtake her, which in a way, is what my cards have done for me. She has sung with the Dalai Lama and Sinead O'Connor, and lived 18 years at the Glenstal Abbey with the monks and her music - the trials, the tribulations and the joys. 

Noirin - June 2017 - Photo, Gayle Karen or Jean Pierre?

"I believe our lives are not our own, we are being led, through the pain and through the joy," she adds. "I think this really is a valley of tears – those lines from Hail Holy Queen, 'to thee we send up our sighs, moaning and weeping in this valley of tears'.

"People don't like that any more, but I think it's right," she says, then adds, knowing well how at odds she is with the modern world in saying it, "None of us is totally unique – it's like that old Irish saying, 'my story, everybody's story'. These loves that we think are paramount, these lives, they have been lived before." For many of us, the idea is unbearable, but Noirin clearly finds strength in it, even though she adds, with a flash of mischief, "thank God we don't know what's ahead of us or we'd never get out of the bed". Interview with Emily Hourican, Entertainment Music

All she says, I believe to be true.  And it must be true, she has just been ordained as an Interfaith Minister on July 29, 2017. Now when people give me the gimlet eye, when I talk about the lives we've all lived before, and will be living again (if we don't straighten up), I shall refer them to the Celtic Goddess and Interfaith Minister:  Noirin Ni Riain. And she let us try on her Bishop's robe. I hope she doesn't get in trouble now, or defrocked!

Noirin in Bishop's robe

Jean Pierre, Carol and I, clearly Noirin favored us - we are the holier than thou!


Jean Pierre

Then we went into "The Bowl" - one of the "thinnest places" of them all.  Here is where I felt John's presence the most. His own farm and home right over the hill.  Whenever the hiking got rough, or I lost my cards, or the flood happened in my backpack, or I felt dumb as a post, I could hear his words ringing in my ear:  "You're grand pet!"  I'd see his smile that was even wider than the landscape and his laugh that went all the way across the Burren and County Clare, & I just dusted myself off.  I told my roomie Mike, the kiwi from New Zealand, and he took it up whenever he saw me flagging or losing steam.   There was yards of kindness in this merry band that landed in The Bowl and some special cards for special people, The Tree of Life and the Anchor - doesn't get much better than that. 

David Whyte in the Bowl - June, 2017

Ra in The Bowl - photo Gayle Karen Young

In the Bowl - June, 2017

In the Bowl - June, 2017

There were three heavenly Fathers there, John O' Donohue and my father, John, who keeps a close watch on me from the other side, and rose petals from roses grown in the ashes of a friend's father, which I scattered and left behind in this sacred place that held us in silence and grace.     

A precious poem for me and my father

The Bowl is a place betwixt and between - a place where you can leave things behind without losing them.

   For Martin Downey

And the earth fled to the lowest place.
And the mystery of the breeze,
Arising from nowhere, could be
A return of unrequited memory
Awake at last to a sense of loss,
  Stirring up the presences in these fields,
Clutches of thistle roll
their purple eyes,
Grasses wave in a trembling whisper,
Profusions of leaf dance slowly

On the low spires of rowan trees;
In fields and walls the granite ones
Never waver from stillness, stones
who know a life without desire,

Each dwells in its own distance
From night acclaimed by twilight
And day released through dawn.

Utterly focused in their stance
Stones praise the silence of time. 

John O' Donohue from Connemara Blues

Are you getting tired of this blog? I know I am, but we just have a little ways to go before the ink dries.  In my official capacity as Voyante, I must give a shout out to all the amazing souls I read the cards for on this trip.  Each one special and embedded forever in my memory.  I learned as much from them as they learned from me, which is as it should be.  I'm not going to post their photos for privacy reasons. 

On this Tour, I read for more men than women, which is a first.  There were so many beautiful, conscious men on this journey that I wanted to pack them up in my Tarot case and send them back to all the women I know who can't seem to find any.  Maybe there's something special in the water (or  the Guiness) that attracts them to the West of Ireland, but I guess we all know that it is David Whyte who draws the souls of both female and male persuasion, seeking deeper and more poetic answers to life's questions. It has been my privilege to witness this on three tours now, so I know it's not a one-off.  Gabrielle, my roommate will swear to it - we had two of the grandest men in our cottage.  I'm not going to tell you their names, you might try to steal them and who would make our breakfast, do yoga with us and give us leg massages next time!

Lenormand Revolution -

I met Janine on the bus from Dublin to Galway, a half-french and Italian tour guide who lives in Galway.  She needed a reading, so we began it on the two and a half hour ride and finished up at the Galway bus station.  What a great kick off and Irish initiation of the cards. Janine is coming to visit me in France someday.  Her great dilemma ended well. 

Galway bus depot - June, 2017


The Diviner

Cut from the green hedge a forked hazel stick
That he held tight by the arms of the V:
Circling the terrain, hunting the pluck
Of water, nervous, but professionally
Unfussed. The pluck came sharp as a sting.
The rod jerked with precise convulsions.
Spring water suddenly broadcasting
Through a green hazel its secret stations.
The bystanders would ask to have a try.
He handed them the rod without a word.
It lay dead in their grasp till, nonchalantly,
He gripped expectant wrists. The hazel stirred.

Seamus Heaney

Me praying I can keep my Hazelwood stick
I couldn't have dreamed this trip - my imagination isn't big enough.  But maybe my vision is because I envisioned it.  Historically many visionaries have been blind or nearsighted.  When I was nine years old, I was hit by a car, which I didn't see coming.  They didn't test my eyes till I was ten and discovered I was almost legally blind.  I operated with "second sight";  perhaps I was given the visions to make up for not being able to see what most people see.  It hasn't always been easy, but I am grateful for it now that I found my place in the world.  Johnny O' (as I like to call him) told me to be patient, "sometimes it takes a long time to find your place in the world."

I can see the water, the donkey, my cards & the people I love & that's enough.

  Ballyvaughn Cottages - June, 2017 

"The Opening of Eyes"

"That day I saw beneath dark clouds
The passing light over the water,
And I heard the voice of the world speak out.
I knew then as I have before,
Life is no passing memory of what has been,
Nor the remaining pages of a great book
Waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things,
Seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
Speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees
Before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
As if to enter heaven and finding himself astonished,
Opened at last,
Fallen in love
With Solid Ground."

~  David Whyte, 
"Songs for Coming Home"

David Whyte - June 2017

EYE - Painting, Leon Miller Trice

Paracelsus:  The Stars incline, they do not compel

The Moon - Visconti-Sforza - 1450'


Waking in the steamy dark
heat seems to rise from everywhere
in between worlds
the French mosquitoes are
small, but deft
they remind me of how much
work I have left to do in this life.

All the souls crossing my path,
I see them, their cards, their questions,
I try to reach thru time
to where the divine source pulsates
with its white light,
its presence.

All becomes feeling rather than
the air is thick with it,
my animal body sees in the dark
I know you're here:  All That Is,
you've entered my dream,
entered me.
I can't name anything,
I'm swept into the Stars,
letting go of all assumptions,
effort, even belief
all the work of "making things happen"
a different stream of being opens up...
and I fly out into the night.

RA Martin

Saint Kevin & the Blackbird -

I dedicate this blog to the memory of John O' Donohue, my own father John, my daughter Lisa, who guides me each day, David Large (and his partner Sherry Ruskin, her generosity helped to make this trip possible), and to Lei Ching Chou, my Anam Cara.

And to David Whyte, who has made it possible for so many to have a glimpse of their own divinity thru the Beauty of poetry and words.   

Have Cards - Will Travel

I'm on the move again with my decks.  This time mostly in the Southwest - Taos, Santa Fe, a stint in Marfa, Texas.  I will be on the road for awhile.  If you are in any of those locales and would like a reading, you can e-mail me at  Blessings & Bisous