Thinking to share something from my recent trip to the southern Republic of Ireland, I read Seamus Heaney’s poem “Postscript” as Chalice Lighting words for the monthly meeting of the Worship Associates last Saturday. I was struck as I read his brilliant words how much his description of the dramatic landscape of western County Clare also describes what happens when worship works the way it is supposed to. The beauty that comes toward you out of the mist is there for you only for a moment. The more you try to capture it, the more distance you put between yourself and the revelation that is seeking to enter you. That moment best takes you off guard, as the poet notes, so that your heart, blown open, takes in the experience while it is alive, still pulsing with the mystery of that particular collision of shapes and colors, textures and sensations, memories and meaning. No photograph can hold that slow tide of wonder. If you give your attention to creating a record of the moment, you miss it. But we took photos too.
Postscript (Seamus Heaney)
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
Donnchadh Gough, uilleann piper (L); Robbie O’Connell, guitar; WGBH Boston’s Brian O’Donovan clapping. The Cliffs of Moher.
Thank you for this precious time away.