Two short pieces from Seamus Heaney, probably the greatest writer of modern Poetry in Ireland or indeed anywhere in the English language, who died yesterday. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam. Both are about space.
Because there is “constant movement” in our lives, as Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck once said, “with lots of things going on, lots of people talking, lots of events taking place“, we need meditation which in its essence is “simplifying space“, One way of doing that is to simplify the chatter in our minds, creating the space to simply be with each moment, without always running a commentary. We practice to get closer to pure awareness and less caught up in our judgment, criticisms and interpretations. We too try to stay very close to the music:
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens.
The second is just one of my favourite poems, written after the death of his mother. Her passing leaves a gap in his life, reminding him of the space in the front hedge when they chopped down a tree. When we simplify the situation through meditation, we create an inner space for ourselves, removing ourselves from the ringing phone, the television, the constant running. As the poem suggests, this inner space is not completely empty, but is also a source – a “bright nowhere” -
I thought of walking round and round a space
Utterly empty, utterly a source
Where the decked chestnut tree had lost its place
In our front hedge above the wallflowers.
The white chips jumped and jumped and skited high.
I heard the hatchet’s differentiated
Accurate cut, the crack, the sigh
And collapse of what luxuriated
Through the shocked tips and wreckage of it all.
Deep-planted and long gone, my coeval
Chestnut from a jam jar in a hole,
Its heft and hush become a bright nowhere,
A soul ramifying and forever
Silent, beyond silence listened for.
The Haw Lantern
photo noel feans