John O’Donohue, The Burren and Could-Be Obstacles

Yesterday I had the great joy of visiting The Burren, where John O’Donohue must have got much of his inspiration. I fell in love with the place just as I’d fallen in love with his books. It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been – it has a magical quality all of its own.

The stones and landscape, wells and ancient stones and places are timeless. We drove past a particularly large stone in the middle of a field, and I was reminded of what John’s brother Pat said about such stones – stones that many people would see as obstacles.

He says:

“Here in the Burren you are befriended by rocks and stones wherever you go. They only become obstacles if you can’t find your way around them. When we were being introduced to the world of garden and meadow it was natural to see a massive grey conversation piece protruding through the brown soil or the green grass. The rows of vegetables never seemed perturbed as they continued around the possible obstacle like the flow of the river meandering on its way further down the valley.

In fact, the fruits of the garden often flourished in the vicinity of this rock. The heat of the limestone warmed the seed and its size sheltered the tender young blossom. It also presented the tired back with a justifiable occasion of straightening and rest. In a mysterious way it seemed beneficial, if not necessary, to have a ‘could be’ obstacle on your path.”

I had never thought of a massive rock in a field like this. I would have been more likely to see it as something to be removed, or something that made planting anything in it’s vicinity to be a waste of time. I realised that it’s ultimately all about perspective, and about how we choose to see what is in front of us.

I don’t know what’s in front of you; I don’t know what is in front of me either! But my wish for us all is that whatever ‘could be’ obstacles might be in our paths, we find a way of viewing them that brings us grace.


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