On Your Desk
Into the bluebell woods...

On Patience

Top of the hill

As Tilly and I climb the hill behind our house, the seasons re-wind with each step we take. We can feel Winter's touch in the cold, clear air; in the crunch of old bracken underfoot; in stillness and silence and skeletal trees motionless in the pale light of morning. But the seasons return to their rightful path as we turn and race downhill again, descending into the arms of Spring: a sun-dappled valley of scent and color...

Bottom of the hill

...of bird chatter and wildflowers....

Stitchwort in the early morning sun

...and of bluebells, marking where faery feet have trod these hills before us.

Bluebell path

The woodland behind my studio becomes Faerieland when the bluebells bloom. We'll go there tomorrow, Tilly and I. Right now we're walking the woodland's edge, its boundary wall of old tumbled stone. Magic must be approached slowly. Patiently. Or it disappears.

And once again, I find myself thinking of words written by John O'Donohue, whose books were so often my woodland companions during the long, dark winter months just past:

"What you encounter, recognize or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach," he points out. "Many of the ancient cultures practiced careful rituals of approach. An encounter of depth and spirit was preceded by careful preparation.

"When we approach with reverence," the poet continues, "great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace."

Approaching the bluebell wood.

Bluebells and stone

"Often we approach things with greed and urgency, we do not like to wait. As we wait at the vertical altar to go on-line, we become frustrated by the few extra seconds the machine needs to find its mind. Computer makers are constantly at work to cut the transition time; the flick from world to cyber-world must become seamless. We live under the imperative of the stand-alone digital instant; and it is uncanny how neatly that instant has become the measure not alone of time but of space."

At the edge of the bluebell woods

"Classically, the understanding of life, the unfolding of identity and creativity, the notion of growth and discovery were articulated through the metaphor of the journey. Virgil's Aeneid is the journey from fallen Troy to the glory of the new city of Rome. Homer's Odyssey is a great mystical journey home. Dante's Divine Comedy is an epic journey through hell and purgatory until the arrival in Paradise."

Bluebell wood boundary line

"Each human life is the journey from childhood to a realized adult life. Each day is a journey out of darkness into light. Each friendship and love is the intimate journey where the soul is born and grows. The journey is the drama of the heart's voyage into the tide of possibilities which open before it. Indeed, a book is a path of words which takes the heart in a new direction."

Tilly and the bluebells

Tilly sits at the threshold, waiting for me. Patience, I tell her. And tell myself. Tomorrow, or the next day, when the time is just right, we'll take that path, we'll enter the woods, we'll start that new story, begin that new painting, embark on that fresh new phase of life. No more racing downhill, pup. We move slowly now. Letting magic happen. Letting art happen. Letting life and health and stories unfold. And approaching all of these things with due reverence.

Patience, my little one, patience.


Irish poet, theologian, and philospher John O'Donohue (1956-2008)  is quoted from his book Beauty: The Invisible Embrace (HarperCollins, 2004).