“Blessedness is within us all,” Patti Smith wrote in yet another century as she contemplated life, death, and love. (Which might, in the end, be one.)
Even for the unchurched among us, who worship at the altar of reality, blessedness can be a beautiful concept unbaggaged from religion. For me, blessedness is a feeling-tone of grateful wonder. That feeling-tone can come as symphonic as a total solar eclipse or as quiet as the rising tide. It can bless with the surprising cymbal of a robin’s egg out of time and out of place or with the murmuration of a moonlit tree. It can bless with Bach.
Blessing Sound, Blessing Light: David Whyte’s Poems for the Small Miracles of Presence that Awaken Us to the Wonder of Being Alive
That feeling-tone of grateful wonder is what poet and philosopher David Whyte celebrates the “Blessings & Prayers” suite of poems found in his altogether vivifying collection The Bell and the Blackbird (public library).
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from The Bell and the Blackbird by David Whyte
Complement with Whyte on courage, anger and forgiveness, and his soul-slaking poem about the pathway to true love, then revisit Ronald Johnson’s transcendent prose poem about sound, science, and the soul and filmmaker Andrew Dawson’s tree-inspired visual poem based on Whyte’s lyric reflection on the meaning of closeness.

“Now I will do nothing but listen,” the young Walt Whitman resolved as he pressed his ear against the eternal song of being a century before Aldous Huxley found in the transcendent power of music a portal into the “blessedness lying at the heart of things.”
from The Bell and the Blackbird by David Whyte

I thank you,
for the smallest sound,
for the way my ears open
even before my eyes,
as if to remember
the way everything began
with an original, vibrant, note,
and I thank you for this
everyday original music,
always being rehearsed,
always being played,
always being remembered
as something new
and arriving, a tram line
below in the city street,
gull cries, or a ship’s horn
in the distant harbour,
so that in waking I hear voices
even where there is no voice
and invitations where
there is no invitation
so that I can wake with you
by the ocean, in summer
or in the deepest seemingly
quietest winter,
and be with you
so that I can hear you
even with my eyes closed,
even with my heart closed,
even before I fully wake.
Two of these poems — “Blessing for Sound” and “Blessing for the Light” — come alive as a ravishment of Irish landscape and music in Whyte’s collaboration with filmmaker Andrew Hinton and composer Owen Ó Súilleabháin for Emergence Magazine.

I thank you, light, again,
for helping me to find
the outline of my daughter’s face,
I thank you light,
for the subtle way
your merest touch gives shape
to such things I could
only learn to love
through your delicate instruction,
and I thank you, this morning
waking again,
most intimately and secretly
for your visible invisibility,
the way you make me look
at the face of the world
so that everything, becomes
an eye to everything else
and so that strangely,
I also see myself being seen,
so that I can be born again
in that sight, so that
I can have this one other way
along with every other way,
to know that I am here.

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