presented by the Irish poet, former priest and spiritual philosopher, John
O’Donohue. I’d read O’Donohue’s book of the same name some years back when if first came out. He’d since written other books that, in my shuffling about to various places and activities I hadn’t gotten to read. As yet. I watched the program after the librarian had recommended it and another friend had mentioned how much she found in O’Donohue’s writing.
In the past few weeks I’d been caught up in the multi-tasking of my days at the historical society, writing down and juggling many jobs each day to meet my obligations. I was now in a day emailing various and sundry to collection permissions and order pictures for Anahareo, A Wilderness Spirit and cobbling together press releases for Selkie Dreams and confirming arrangements for book launches. So when I sat down to watch Anam Cara I was conscious of a sense of needing some reflective time, a place to rest for my mind and my body.
Anam Cara is the Irish expression for “soul friend,”and recently, in the last ten years or so, it has taken on various shades of meanings that infer various aspects of a very close friend or lover. John O’Donohue’s program doesn’t mention the nuances or history of the expression but rather explores the
Ireland that shaped him explaining its physical geography, its fabric that made up his psyche and others too.
dolmen in the bleak landscape.
There are the reflections and connections to millennia voices and peoples. But these reflections and
voices are everywhere—in the wells and pools that dot Ireland, on Croagh Patrick, the mountain thousands of pilgrims climb every year, some barefoot, to the cliff edges of Moher or further up north.
O’Donohue also remembered a time when he left Ireland and worked in America, early in his career, presumably as a priest. When he was there he encountered an old man, an Irish man who’d left Ireland when he was 17 and hadn’t ever returned. But even in his old age he could recall every field he’d ever worked in back home. Field of the stone cats, field of the furze, and so on. He would recite them over and over again like a litany, said
O’Donohue. He carried no piece of turf, no bit of the“ole sod;”this was his way to connect to his home place.
I was fascinated by this image and asked some member of my art class about field names. They listed off many for me and I realized all around me there many field names. Just below me is Gort na Scairte field of the bushes and Barr d’Inse which is the field by the river, then Inse Mor, Inse Beag,fields by thebig river and little river and even Doire na tSaggart, wood of the priest and many many others. All of these fields and woodlands have stories. And I like that idea, to look out my window and know that all around me are these stories. It’s just a question of being still, reflecting and tapping into these stories.
John O’Donohue sadly died the year that was made at the young age of 52 (well it’s young to me). And as I mentioned that to my husband I realized that perhaps John O’Donohue’s explanation of the meaning of Anam Cara was in the whole content of the program. The ancient, original idea of Anam Cara, soul friend, is that he would be the person you confide your deepest spiritual thoughts, a confessor of some degree and a person who would guide you to the otherworld at your death. Reflecting on that meaning it seemed as if John O’Donohue regarded us, his audience, as his Anam Cara, and that we should all be soul friends.