John O’Donohue On The Secret Landscapes Of Imagination And Spirit
The U.S. is a great country. You can live the way you want there; you can be a self-made person. But sometimes, when all our energy goes into progress, acquisition, and productivity, it leaves a huge emptiness in the heart. I think the teachings of Meister Eckhart can address that emptiness, can show us how to be patient with it, and in fact bring us deeper into it. At the heart of our emptiness, we can actually discover nourishment in the secret landscapes of imagination and spirit.
Walking into the temple compound, we walked into another world: quiet, serene, holy. Irregular stepping stones led us through a mossy garden to a steadily dripping little waterfall. Off to one side was a standing figure of Kwan Yin, bodhisattva of compassion, standing on a lotus pedestal.
I feel defined by loss, my shape delineated by the absence of those who used to surround me. The invisible membrane of love that held us together for so many years has become stretched, attenuated by time and space and death. But when I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still feel my son and my mother.
There were strange hands on me. Some were small and cold; others seemed large and rough and smelled of sawdust and cinnamon. It was my third time at the new church, but I’d seen nothing like this before. The hands belonged to male church elders, who were encircling me in front of the entire congregation.
I can understand my mother’s revulsion. My grandmother writes of the time she left my mother and her brother in a boardinghouse for six weeks while she was in the hospital with an ectopic pregnancy. My mother was nine; her brother was five.
Over the course of two years I photographed my grandmother Marjorie Clarke on my weekly visits to her home in rural Butler, Maryland. With her health declining and Alzheimer’s disease loosening her ties to everyday reality, I spent much of my time reading aloud or singing songs to her, attempting to hold her attention as long as possible.