In the fall of 2018 I took a two month sabbatical and I am still trying to figure out what this has done for me, or to me. For part of my time away from Seedleaf duties, I took a long walk on the Sheltowee Trace. What follows is one reflection from my time on the trail.
I owe a debt of gratitude to an Irish poet/priest called John O’Donohue. His words through a book called To Bless the Space Between Us narrated and motivated my walking. Many mornings I would be up, rested, but not quite ready to emerge from my hammock. O’Donohue’s words would be there to greet me, to welcome and frame the day and all it held.
This book is not poetry, but rather a book of blessings. They are existentially poetic in the way the author blesses objects, situations, journeys, and characters in a life. These blessings and reflections came to be pretty personal, as if the book were reading me at points, as if a certain blessing was just the thing I needed to hear at the start of a long day.
In one called “For Courage",” O’Donohue challenged me to tap into an inner strength, one on which I had seldom called. Maybe I hadn’t needed to lately. With that strength I could look beyond logistics and enjoy an openness to the trail and my surroundings. Difficulty and inconvenience were becoming my teachers. I learned to thank mud for slowing me down. I thanked the rocks in the trail for helping me to take mindful steps. I was becoming teachable, at last.
On some days I would reach for this book at midday, or while I was awaiting a resupply. This had the effect of giving my day depth, context. A blessing called “For Equilibrium” came to be one of my midday touchstones.
Ha! What a gift for a day of poor footing, or disappointing mileage! Wasn’t my Creator there laughing too? The journey need not be so serious after all. This helped me to imagine and enact more play along the way.
And in the evenings, before sleeping, all the end-of-the-day tasks completed, here was another chance for a blessing. Here is what the poet would say then:
I had a relationship with this book and these blessings. I would search by title and read whatever grabbed my gaze—”For Freedom,” “For Presence,” “For an Interim Time,” “For Loneliness.” I would land on one and read it several times. And then I would breathe and look up, as if the forest all around me concurred.
Some blessings I still haven’t read. Some of them shine with use. Some are friends I can catch up with quite easily on a winter weekday morning.