Tunes for a Monday Morning
Casting Spells

Blessing the dark and the light

Woodland 3

The books of Irish poet and philospher John O'Donohue (1956 - 2008) are ones I return to again and again -- especially Anam Cara, Beauty, Four Elements, and Benedictus.

The latter volume is a collection of "blessings" poised somewhere between poetry and prayer, steeped in the ancient Celtic mythic tradition that informs all of O'Donohue's work. The audio tracks posted here contain two poems from the book read by O'Donohue himself, recorded for an American radio program in the autumn of 2007.

"Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness," above, resonates deeply for me, for obvious reasons; and I send it out to any of you for whom it might be relevant as well.

"Beannacht," below, is a blessing for those difficult days that we all go through, sooner or later.

Woodland 2

Woodland 3


This is why I so appreciate the internet. I know no one in real life who ever mentions John O'Donohue or his books. (Not many of us are lucky enough to live in a close community of artists and dreamers!) But many of my online friends and acquaintances know them and sometimes quote them in conversation. Anam Cara is my favourite of John's books. It's such a sadness that he's gone from us now.

I hope you have blessings of strength and comfort and good health lavished upon you.


You are mending and now, I am too.
At the old building, part residence,
Part theatre, I placed my foot on
What I thought was a step.

It was not. I flew for a moment,
And a flash of old theatre tricks
Entered me, and i landed on my
Left side, like a lumpy bag
Of flour. A tall dark man ran
In and cried out, "Are you well?"

I did not know and said so.
Dozens of an audience
Waiting for a play, came.
Some said, "Her son Ted,"
(Who was in the show}
Told us not to ask to help.

An era of some length came.
Eventually I crawled to
A small wooden stool
And got up. Was there
Applause? I felt stuck
In some unexpected play.

The real show went on.
It was O'Neill's
"The Emperor Jones."
Brilliant arc of tragedy,
Timely, I was no longer
In pain. The pain was in
The life of dark men, from
Slaves to convicts to
Hope for doing the right thing.

I have a four inch purple
Bruise. Sleep in grumpily.
Time is already telling me
I will survive. Plays and art
Wiil continue to survive.
I had an accidental show
Unexpected and one can
Laugh, now. The show
Must go on and on and on.

One of the things that intrigued me about my husband the first time I met him (I was taken to a dinner at his place by mutual friends) was noting Anam Cara on his shelves (and a Garth Nix novel!) squeezed between all his theatre and puppetry books. I knew right then and there that we had a lot in common.

And yes, it's deeply sad that John left us so suddenly and so soon. Such a luminous man.

Thank you for your good wishes, Sarah, and I hope you are on the mend too. Your blog is deep soul medicine for me; I feel refreshed by Beauty every time I visit.

Oh Phyllis, if this a new poem, I hope you're okay. You have alchemized pain into beauty in this piece.

I’ve mentioned here before Terri that I’ve had several close family members face severe illness. This poem is dedicated to them and to anyone else who finds themselves in this situation. And it’s also for those family and friends who can only watch and offer support.


Strung tight on the loom
While the shuttle weaves
The warp and the weft
Of what your life will become.

And when it is done
You must cut your coat
To suit your cloth,
While those who know you,
And those who love you,
can only pray:

“May it keep you warm,
May it keep you dry,
May it never be bare of thread,
And neither may it ever
Be too thin
To keep out the cold winds
Of living your life."

Those of us who watch,
Can only find your gloves,
Button your coat
And settle your scarf
More snugly
Before you set out
On your road.

That is exquisite, Stuart. I'm going to pass it on to Howard, who has a heavy load of fear to carry whenever I fall ill, yet he carries it with strength, grace, and no complaint.

Thank you so much, that means the world to me.

Luminous is the perfect word for John O'Donohue, I think.

A Slow Wind, A Long Cloak

We all walk that path,
where the slow wind comes
and wraps us in its cold arms,
whispering endearments
that are not particular to us
but to our unwinding.
Then we must take out the long cloak
pulling it close around our shoulders,
remembering its warmth,
remembering all those hands
that sewed its seams.
That is the work, the only work
that will save us once again
till the seams of our lives fall apart.
The remembering, the sewing,
the gifting of the cloak,
the passing on.

©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

The reward for that bruise is this poem.

Thank you.

What a lovely call and response.


This is absolutely exquisite too. I feel so blessed by these gifts this morning. Thank you, dear Jane.

such a beautiful post and poetry in response
strains of Joni Mitchell's Hejira with that line "there's comfort in melancholy" echoing through

It happened last Saturday. Ted is my youngest son and an actor. He plays the Cockney who fears and mocks Emperor Jones. I wasn't sure this was a real poem, but it all came together in the way writing goes, From pain to a panorama.

Thank you. The bruise is now purple and yellow, like a flag. One no-one will see but me.

Tears in my eyes. How helpless we can be as others suffer. It is easier to manage our own pain, often in the old cowboy and strong woman of the west, who turn it into an ironic yarn.

A gathering of loss, certainly my stunned view on a bathroom floor, and so many hovering around to be of help. to being the one who has to try to help. Both sides of it.
weaving in and out.

Beautiful healing room, you make of this space Teri. The responses throughout this post woven with love and understanding. Your value mirrored in each it humbles me through the currents. Thank you. You are truly a generous soul.

My heart, this dear old organ of feeling memory,
Oh-she rejoices in the words of this great poet
who, with all true bards knew best how to bless

Thank you Terri, Jane and Phyllis.

Beautiful, Jane. It's interesting how the imagery of clothing informs these poems; covering our naked vulnerability in the presence of illness, until the fabric finally fails before the threat we all ultimately face.

It certainly is a 'real poem'! A brilliant evocation of the randomness of life, now transmogrified into art!

Thank you, Mo, Mokihana and Michelle. I'm glad you're all part of my community.

All of these poems are lovely. I have tears in my eyes. Wishing you WELL, Terri.

Many years ago I did a journal page on my pain not sure it would show as I did it , imagine reds yellows blues and purples of bruises across the page then this written on it:-
day after day I live with my pain
I work with my pain
I use it, I abuse it, sometimes I even confuse it.
I make it cower as it does me
I defy it, mystify it.
It's only pain, it's only pain.
It only has power if I let it have power.
Push it away to the back of my mind
To a little compartment all its own.
Label it Pain Headwuarters.
Make it feel important but confined.
It grows in stature by feeding on the negativity. It creates.
Lock it in its own padded cell and occasionally give it an airing.
Call it Pain day. Celebrate the awful intensity
Then lock it away until the next time.

Wrote this May 2000 still applies now sadly.
I love your writing Terri and on a bad day the words on your page help lock the door on pain for a little while. So thank you:):

Oh dear! Phyllis, I'm glad you're okay, but so sorry you had such a fall and, as you so cleverly put it, an "unexpected play". I like this poem too. The theatrical nature of such life events is truly odd and disorienting. I think you capture that quite well here!

Oh, Stuart. Thank you for this poem. You capture the inevitable here. To each her own suffering and story, and yet, we're not alone. Not at all. Well done.

Thank you too, Jane. It's hard to remember warmth sometimes, to remember, as you say, "all those hands" that made the cloak. I'm so very grateful for the warmth and loved ones in my life, but when life's difficulty hides them from me, it's poetry that "saves [me] once again". Thank you for this "passing on" in verse.

Hello ambermog. I do like the line "make it feel important but confined". Pain can be a trickster, to be sure, and I like the idea that you can play that game too. Ha! I hope your pain subsides soon and best wishes to you and yours.

Thank you, as always, Terri. Beannacht it going directly into my collection of precious lines you've given me. May you feel well and fully restored as soon as possible. Much much love.

Thank you Stuart. It was late at night when i wrote it and I was kind of shaky.

Thank you, Edith. Theatre is a large part of my life, from finding Shakespeare early on,
to deciding it would be a part of my life. I got to direct and act and ended up marrying another director and actor. All of our three children learned the love and technique of the art.

We played theatre games, slow motion fighting to let go of grumpiness. And they had to be in our Renaissance Faire plays. Just like a family who are mechanics, or dancers or good cooks. I think my head injured son benefited from this, as he still has the grace of the art. My youngest son has a day job and has ventured into many plays, still learning.

My daughter, and grandchildren are also smitten with theatre.

It's like living in a metaphor, with grace.

Wonderful, as if pain is a game of chess. Whether it is drumming always, or comes and goes, it is that part of our life we have to choose how to meet it, words, music, stories...

Ah yes, Ambermoggie, I know that dialogue with pain all too well, and you've certainly captured it with your words. Thank you for sharing this, and I wish you pain-free days ahead.

Thank you everyone for these lovely responses to John O'Donohue's words, and my own.

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