Sunday, January 5, 2014


Shortly before his early death in 2008, John O'Donohue wrote a lovely book of blessings for the various passages and experiences that define the lives of most people. Among my favorites is the poetic blessing he wrote for those of us who have an irrepressible passion for travel.  As you will see, O'Donohue understood that there are spiritual dimensions to every journey, that encounters with strangers and strange places always hold the possibility of transformation.  He also understood something deeply important that I have learned from my own travel experiences, specifically, that travel can "touch that part of the heart that lies low at home."                                                   

                                                   For the Traveler
                      To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

                                       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 a 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 
                                       You needed
                                       To illuminate
                                       Your way.

                                       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.


  1. I call it drifting since I take my home with me, but bottom line it is the same adventure that lets you see people and things differently and most of all, seeing yourself differently. Transformation, yes.

  2. Thanks, Rubye Jack. I agree; it's primarily about seeing people and things differently, and, hopefully, learning something about oneself. James Baldwin once said: "I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself." I can relate to that experience.

  3. These were my feelings exactly George in the days when the farmer and I could travel far and wide.
    Now that my health is not up to it we have our memories and our photographs. Also we do travel in this country - Northumberland (which is not too far) Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex (lovely countryside)
    -this year it will probably ne Northumberland again - and I know how much you love that.

    1. Travel is travel, Pat, and, as you recognize, the attitude and receptiveness of the traveler are far more important than the distance or destination. And, yes, I would love being in Northumberland on almost any day.

  4. Beautiful. There is nothing like going to a new place to find out more about oneself and identity. Listening and honoring new spaces in silence is essential to a sacred experience and connection.

    I am guessing that is you in the photo, taken by Robert, perhaps?

    1. Thanks, Ruth. No, ce n'est pas moi. I took this photo of a fellow walker on my coast-to-coast walk across the UK a few years ago. This view is from a section called the Cleveland Way.

  5. This book is one I return to again and again. It's wonderful.

    1. Thanks, Maureen. Glad you liked this — and happy new year!


  6. This is a great John O'Donahue poem. I wish I had read it before I headed on my latest journey across the breath of the US. I'm 73 and my old friends still can't understand the perennial gypsy in my soul. -- thanks -- Donahue is sorely missed but fortunately I have several of his books -- barbara

  7. Hi, Barbara, and thanks for the comment. Glad you liked the poem, and I'm sure there is a connection between what O'Donohue says and the gypsy in your soul. Yes, it's sad that we lost O'Donohue at such an early age (52!), but the insights and gifts he left us will be with us forever.

  8. There is a huge difference between a traveller and a tourist.
    The traveller takes time, the tourist takes a guide book.

    1. Well said, Friko. I think of myself as a traveler, but I confess that I have carried a guide book from time to time. The operative word, of course, is "time" — taking the time to experience what is before you, the vast majority of which will never be mentioned in guide books.

  9. I see I missed some of your posts. Are you yearning for travel, George? I think sometimes I've traveled and hurried through the experience, trying to "see" everything that might be considered "important" to that place. Age has helped slow me, and I think I've gained new appreciation of wandering without purpose.

  10. I'm with you, Barb. "Wandering without purpose" is a far more fruitful way to travel. When we try to see everything considered "important," we usually end up missing what the heart had really hoped to find.