Winter 2020 - 2021
Letter from the House
Events with David Whyte
New from Many Rivers
David Recommends
Friends and Family
Walking Tours
Cover photo: Tree, Borrowdale. ©David Whyte
Letter from the House
Outside the kitchen window veils of rain and wind are bringing in the au-
tumn weather from far across the Pacific. On the animated satellite map
glowing from my laptop, the earth looks gorgeous, hues of blue and green
and corrugated brown appearing and disappearing under spiraling patterns
of rain and cloud. Those same great spirals of rain and wind have made their
way from the subtropics of the Philippines or the Northern islands of Japan,
finally turning to a white that signifies snow as they cross the Cascade moun-
tains and sweep inland across the American continent.
Beneath all this magnificence, it is sobering to think humankind has decid-
ed it might allow itself to be bullied into tiny, dead-end conversations where
we are made to turn into one another’s adversaries. Indeed, we have been
bullied into bullying one another by our own technologies and by unbridled
political money; not only into forgetting the miraculous nature of life that
sustains us all, but into hating one another over nothings spun into some-
things that turn us into mutual enemies.
I don’t often say this out loud, but even though I consider myself a deeply
religious person in an unnameable, elemental sense, I often find a person’s
Living Without Enemies:
Refusing to Name as the Essence of Kindness
I know the truth — give up all other truths!
No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.
Look — it is evening, look, it is nearly night:
what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?
The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,
the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.
And soon all of us will sleep beneath the earth, we
who never let each other sleep above it.
- Marina Tsvetaeva
trans. Elaine Feinstein
declaration of specific religious or political beliefs the most tedious, unin-
teresting thing I could ever know about them. Uncompromising religious
or political beliefs are almost always a declaration of where we have stopped
paying attention, where we refuse to have a conversation and where we want
to manipulate others into our way of thinking.
It is impossible for a human being to simultaneously have all the answers and
pay real attention to anything other than their own manufactured thoughts;
it is almost impossible to be kind when carrying fixed beliefs. It is especially
impossible to be vulnerable, and because all conversation ends when vulnera-
bility ends, it can be almost impossible to hold a real conversation.
And that is probably as much true for me in regard to the activist left as the
conservative right, no matter how righteous the cause. Most specifically,
when the person lacks that timeless, abiding diagnostic of true ‘religious’ or
‘political’ experience: a deep and abiding kindness for others. We actually
live in a time characterized by a deep and abiding distrust of strangers, and
an unmerciful unkindness to those who do not fit our ideas, on the left and
the right. Evangelical Christians may be deeply unkind to those who do not
share their beliefs, but politically correct University campuses can be just as
unmerciful in a very Old Testament way, casting out demons into the intel-
lectual wilderness.
Strangely enough, this distrust and unkindness toward others creates a sym-
metry of distrust inside the distruster themselves, who must always meet the
next version of themselves in the form of someone they probably would not
agree with, therefore distrusting any new thoughts dawning even inside them-
selves, distrusting most tellingly the part of them courageous enough, gener-
ous enough and I might say in today’s world, kind enough, to live without
easy answers.
From a scientific point of view, all of our surrounding reality is ‘conversa-
tional’, that is, nothing can exist without meeting or cooperating or exchang-
ing elemental nourishment with something else. Our present times and
ever-present technologies have made worse a very ancient human failing, the
Letter from the House - 2
willingness to make up stories when we do not understand things fully, and
most tellingly, to become afraid of where that understanding might lead.
Whether we lived hundreds of years ago in a tissue of contradictory religious
beliefs, or thousands of years ago under broad unknowing skies from which
the gods seemed to descend to punish us; whether we live now in Silicon
Valley or struggle to get by in a corrugated shanty on the far edge of Cape
Town, individual human beings have always had to, and still must, find their
way through a fog of stories that other people want us to believe. These sto-
ries have always taken semi-ridiculous forms, which everyone is then made
to believe, and made normal by the powerful, the rich and the influential:
strange religious superstitions, fraudulent religious leaders, power-mad politi-
cians, and most sadly of all, all of those once original and precious authentic
religious revelations now turned into manipulative mis-information, by those
who wish to profit by our confusion.
Confusion may be one of the great hallmarks of human history, but so is
misinformation. We have always, collectively and individually since the dawn
of conscious time, been seriously misinformed, either scientifically or psycho-
logically or religiously; most especially misinformed as to what really contrib-
utes to our happiness and where the limits of our knowledge lie.
The only thing we can be sure of, and this truth is now being crystalized by
the crazily self-magnifying power of the internet, is that human beings have
a foundational difficulty in having any real conversation with the unknown.
With or without an internet they are always supplying easy answers too early
in the process before they ever have the experience, the understanding or
even the right to know what is actually happening. From a collective point of
view this dynamic grants an evolutionary advantage of course, as a portion
of any given population will at least have got the possibilities right ahead of
time by mere chance, thus ensuring survival of the species as a whole, but it
is has disastrous consequences from the point of view of individual human
Our foundational difficulty is that we human beings find it difficult to live
with what cannot be yet understood, with what we are powerless to under-
Letter from the House - 3
stand or name. Therefore, we will believe in all kinds of wild notions and
nonsense so long as we can proclaim that we believe in something or any-
thing at all; especially if we can form a tribe around that fictitious something;
most especially if we can advertise through those beliefs, turn the advertising
into dogma and then coerce and defraud the other members of that newly
gathered tribe out of their money or their integrity.
Thankfully, deep in the inherited understanding of all of our great contem-
plative and artistic traditions, deep in the original religious revelations that
always seem to morph so strangely into religious or political priests in black
gowns walking about the place, there lies an understanding of where true
happiness lies, both individually and collectively.
Happiness and the kindness that arises from happiness lies in paying pro-
found attention to people and things other than ourselves. This attention
leads to rest and most particularly to resting into the breath, which is the
essential and tidal give and take of our physical essence. This living, breath-
ing sense of rest allows everything else to rest into itself - the mist wreathing
at the forest’s edge, the way a spade lifts black soil, the way bread rises or a
daughter’s face breaks into a smile; even the comforting noise a laptop might
make when it glows into the wan morning light.
With regard to other people, happiness lies not in forcing others to believe
what we believe, but in attempting to believe the unbelievable essence of
another human being’s spirit, and equally the spirit of the natural world with
which they co-inhabit. To see the essence of another is to see the way they are
made to shape the world and the way they are made for the world to shape
them, even if they cannot see it themselves, without naming without label
but through a kind of attention which by itself is a kind of encouragement.
It is the gift of being able to have that other person, or that created world,
speak back to us in their own voices, unmediated by our agreement or wheth-
er we think they are right or wrong.
Happiness comes from an unmediated, unmanipulated and many times
unnameable appreciation that is born and flowers from profound attention.
It is difficult to understand because it is so foundational to our hearing and
Letter from the House - 4
Letter from the House - 4
seeing, and thankfully unprocessed by our strategic minds. As T.S Eliot said, it
is ‘a condition of complete simplicity costing not less than everything.’
What it costs is the giving up our illusory control over others by naming and
labeling - in a marriage, in a community, in the secret conversations we have
with our own mysterious self in the mirror. To stop seeing ourselves and others
as this or that, ‘Right Wing’ or ‘Liberals’ or Christians or Atheists, as strugglers
or as winners in a way that makes us fearful and distant.
What we gain is at first a puzzlement at not having easy answers, a puzzlement
which turns slowly into beautiful questions that begin to transform us from
the inside out. We navigate a temporary sense of disturbance at not being able
to relate to people through judgment, followed by a sense of silence and space
in which other people can move without our monitoring their every move; we
allow ourselves to breathe, and as we rest into the miracle of breathing easily, we
can let others breathe too.
This is not political naivety; we can still make our choices at the ballot box out
of this silence and spaciousness; there is still a place for a temporary righteous
anger at injustices and a wish to work toward their end. We simply mediate our
identity through a deep, a priori state of attention rather than temporary judg-
ments; we allow change through paying attention - an attention that stays with
the heart of the matter, and the heart of those whom we are addressing, that
looks to drink from a deeper well and understand what lies underneath what is
being said.
This world has always been a very fierce place in which to live for individual
human beings. The stakes have always been very high, both from a psychological
and a physical point of view: you can mistake someone else’s life as your own,
you can mistake someone else’s religion as your own, particularly if you have
grown with it. Most seriously, you can mistake someone else’s anger and hatred
as your own. You can be hoodwinked by those who would gain from your anger,
your money and your time, into feeling you are surrounded by enemies.
It is time for each of us to claim our life back through a deeper, more wordless
attention to this world we have been gifted to inhabit, and to cultivate a deep
Letter from the House - 5
form of attention to those who inhabit it with us, an appreciation which
might be the essence of kindness itself.
We are always larger, grander, more deserving than the names we have given
ourselves or that we have allowed others to put upon us. We all of us always
deserve a daily experience of the nameless and the timeless, because in that
timeless domain we find both rest and true animation, and a possibility of a
true name emerging to catch us off guard with its sudden truth. In its boun-
tiful sense of presence, that place where we do not name things too early,
when carried inside us out into the world, can be relied upon, like a good
friend, to come back and name us every day in ever kinder and more merci-
ful ways.
Letter from the House - 6
Our life like a breath, then, a give
and a take, a bridge, a central movement,
between singing a separate self
and learning to be seless.
- David Whyte
from A Seeming Stillness, in ESSENTIALS
Letter from the House - 6
events with DAVID WHYTE
10am PT
This 75 minute session will look - appropriately enough for the holiday season - at the
art and practice of gift giving, and the art of getting the gift right, both for ourselves
and for the recipient. I will look at giving as a kind of art form and something that
must be practiced, where we must risk giving too much or too little or, as we have all
experienced, the wrong thing altogether. This understanding applies not only to tan-
gible gifts to others, but also the way we give our creative gifts to the world.
JANUARY 10th, 17th
& 24th
Join David Whyte for Three Sundays in January to look at the phenomenon of giving
up in order to go on; of finding new promises by letting go of old ones, and remem-
bering those vows that seemed to have been made on our behalf at our birth.
by David’s friend and acclaimed
book designer, Edward Wates.
Printed in the traditional meth-
od from the original wood en-
graving and raised metal type.
the United Kingdom’s leading
wood engravers and past pres-
ident of the Royal Society of
15” x 20.5”. Each print is
signed by the artists, Hilary
Paynter and David Whyte. $95
THE PERPETUA PRESS was established
by Vivian Ridler and David Bland in 1931.
In 2020, it was taken over by David’s close
friend, Edward Wates, a book designer and
lettering artist whose work has been widely
exhibited and is included in a number of
international collections.
Includes an introduction by Maria Popova and
one new essay.
Consolations arose out of an almost instinctual
need to write while traveling; it seemed to appear
organically out of fleeting thoughts made real
through writing - in trains, on boats and planes,
in hotel lobbies, on mountainsides and in cafes
all over this wide world. The book made its own
mark in the world, and somehow has sold over a
hundred thousand copies.
After a good few years of revising the essays,
through posting and commenting on many of
them online, this second edition is, I feel, a
AUDIOBOOK available on Audible.
Listen to these beautiful essays as they
were meant to be heard, read by David
sharper version. It has one new essay added, which has become one of my favourites,
called Close:
To consciously become close is a courageous form of unilateral disarmament, a chancing of our
arm and our love, a willingness to hazard our affections and an unconscious declaration that
we might be equal to the inevitable loss that the vulnerability of being close will bring.
Available exclusively from davidwhyte.com
These handcrafted limited editions of The House of Belonging and The Bell and the
Blackbird are a joy to hold, to read and most especially for me, to sign. The fine covers
are embossed with lettering designed by my stone carver friend John Nielsen at his
hillside cottage just over the Welsh Border from England; there is a colour illustration
of the orginal cover design inside and a ribbon page marker. Made to endure, to ad-
mire and above all to read.
Come with me now,
along the beckoning path,
silvered in mist
toward the glimmering lake,
bring every grief
you have not said
and every tear
you have not shed
This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where I ask
my friends to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love
David Recommends
I am in the midst of reading, or have read, five very different books recently.
The Prelude: William Wordsworth
Newly Edited from the Manuscripts and fully Illustrated in Colour.
A magnificent labour of love on the part of the editors of Wordsworth’s mag-
num opus and perhaps my desert island choice for a large, inexhaustible read
through the timeless voice of poetry.
Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know:
The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce
by Colm Tobin
Tobin had me from the very first paragraphs of his introduction as he walks
around literary Dublin, invoking the ghostly residences and ports of call of the
authors’ fathers. A foundation for beginning to understand, how each seeming-
ly independent writer’s talents were inextricably linked to their fathers’ inheri-
tance, for good and bad.
The Neapolitan Novels
by Elena Ferrante
Beginning with the first book in this quartet, ‘My Brilliant Friend’ I have just
begun this odyssey of fierce friendship and heartbreak and I can tell already that
I am in for a very wild and at times very harrowing ride into the future of two
girls, growing into the post war world of Naples.
Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard,
and the Reinvention of American Taste
Something a little different, to feed my love of cooking, food and all the inher-
ited cuisines of the world. The book circles around a pivotal dinner held in
Provence and the lives of the influential cooks and food writers who gathered at
the table. Most especially it follows the life of MFK Fisher: a fascinating figure
who influenced many of the approaches we now take for granted in food writ-
ing. A very evocative read and very well done.
Early Music
by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin
I am so proud of becoming a publisher, and giving a young poet a chance to show
his work to the world, particularly with Mícheál who I have known and nurtured
for many years as he has grown into his artistry. I delve into the book at least once
a week to see how he is getting on, and I would say, in my humble opinion, he
is doing very well indeed, at the beginning of his poetic life, with his eye and his
voice and his inviatations to a very fine quality of insight.
If you’ve joined us on David’s walking tour
in Italy, you’ve experienced the grace and
culinary expertise of Lori De Mori and Laura
Jackson, proprietors of the Towpath Café, a
place of extraordinary hospitality on Regent’s
Canal in London.
Filled with stories, recipes and inviting pho-
tographs, TOWPATH reflects the hearts and
talents of two remarkable people committed
to feeding body and spirit.
- Friends and Family -
Instrumental compositions by Troy Chapman,
inspired by CONSOLATIONS
“When David asked me to compose music to accompa-
ny the audiobook version of his best-selling book “Conso-
lations”, I knew it had to be personal and evocative, yet
also conversational. I set out to create a score, of sorts,
for the insights and imagery that resonate throughout
the essays.”
Instruments featured include lute, baroque guitar,
Uzbek rabab, resonator guitars and ukuleles - a
soulful odyssey of stringed instruments.
EARLY MUSIC illuminates deep themes of hu-
man experience with a profound, unwavering eye.
With chapters titled Admonition, Love, Belief,
Water and Myth, the poems display a true virtu-
oso’s ear for rhythm and language, leading the
reader through joyful, mythical and surprising
Often times
the step backward,
lets the soul catch up.
So that all our happy
hindsights harmonise
and wisdom builds…
- from Turas d’Anam
Walking Tours
WEST OF IRELAND - JUNE 12th - 19th, 2021
David’s tour to the west of Ireland is a celebration of Ireland’s Celtic culture, both tra-
ditional and emerging, set on Galway Bay in County Clare. The tour offers an intimate
experience of Ireland from the inside out, with morning poetry sessions setting the stage
for afternoon walking pilgrimages. You will have the opportunity to hear world-class mu-
sicians and experience why County Clare is renowned for carrying the soul of traditional
Irish music.
In a fit of optimism, I have decided to act as if it might be possible to roam out into
the world again in the latter half of next year and run a few tours. It is hard to con-
template another year without the fresh Atlantic breeze in my hair, or hear the pipes
wending their unstoppable way through the sea air of County Clare; I thirst most
thirstily for a pint of Guinness in Margaret’s Bar in Ballyvaughan, I long to return to
forest temples of Japan, and I pine for the back roads of Tuscany calling me to their
pilgrim ways.
But most of all I am interested to see what this person who has enjoyed staying at
home so much, makes of the wide world once he is let loose again! And I look for-
ward most heartily, to whoever joins me. All the refund policies are very generous,
taking into account the possibilities for an extended bout of Covid.
Walking Tours
Join David Whyte and Gayle Karen Whyte for this mountain and forest trail through the
landscapes and villages of central Japan, walking in the footsteps of Japan’s most famous
poet: Basho. Our tour begins in Kyoto, followed by train into the mountains. Once on the
trail we will stay at traditional Ryokan Inns, bathing in their hot-springs by night and by
day walking past temples and shrines, along forest paths and through tiny hamlets. David
will work with themes of the moment, with Gayle adding to the content and facilitation.
From the first evening standing on the threshold of an ancient Etruscan tomb with the
light slanting across the stone, imagining centuries of mothers, fathers and children mak-
ing their lives amongst the olive groves, to the closing night’s celebration under the stars,
the week in Italy is a moveable feast both literally and imaginatively; a true celebration of
the senses; a shaping of the mind and the body through walking, seeing, listening and tast-