The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up, as if orchards were dying high in space. Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.” And tonight the heavy earth is falling away from all other stars in the loneliness. We’re all falling. This hand here is falling. And look at the other one. It’s in them all. And yet there is Someone, whose hands infinitely calm, holding up all this falling. ~Rainer Maria Rilke “Autumn” translated by Robert Bly
Sometimes I wake from my sleep
with a palpitating start:
dreaming of falling,
my body pitching and tumbling
yet somehow I land,
~oh so softly~
in my bed,
my fear quashed and cushioned by
I feel caught up,
rescued amid the fall
we all will do,
like leaves drifting down
from heaven’s orchard,
like seeds released like kisses
into the air,
the earth rises to meet me
and Someone cradles me there.
Lord: it is time. The summer was immense. Let fall your shadows on the sundials, upon the fields let loose your winds.
Command the last fruits to be full; give them just two more southern days, Press them to completion, and chase the last sweetness into the heavy wine.
Who has no house now – he will never build. Whoever is alone now, long will so remain; will stay awake, and read, and write long letters and wander the alleys up and down, restless, as the leaves are drifting. ~Rainer Maria Rilke
As summer slowly winds down over the next few days, fatigue is settling like a fog over all things. After months of immense energy and growth and flourish and heat, there is now weariness and dryness and wilting.
A good rain yesterday helped ready us for the change. We who are thirsty had a good slurp and still beg for more. Restless, we are loosening like tired leaves, preparing to lose our grip and be freed to drift, landing softly wherever the next breeze will take us.
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She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen into her, so that, like an audience, she can look them over, menacing and sullen, and curl to sleep with them. But all at once
as if awakened, she turns her face to yours; and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny, inside the golden amber of her eyeballs suspended, like a prehistoric fly. ~Rainer Maria Rilke from “Black Cat”
Bobbi arrived on the farm 14 years ago after living a life of luxury in town. She couldn’t accompany her owner to life in the big city so moved in complete with a van full of her own cat furniture, a personal chair, toys, and special cuisine. When she strode out of her cat carrier, took a look around and climbed into the nearest tree, she never looked back at the accoutrements of her former full time indoor life. She became queen of the farm, undisputed and regal, watching the goings-on from a carefully calculated and royal distance, never interacting with her subjects unless it was absolutely necessary.
She tolerated other cats, but barely. They scattered when she came in view. She thought dogs were a waste of fur covering empty skulls, but when they met her needs, like on a chilly night, she would happily bunk down with them. They were astonished but grateful for her royal blessing when she decided to sleep among them: a two-dog and one-cat night.
She chose only one person to be subject to: our daughter-in-law Tomomi. On Tomomi’s first visit from Japan, Bobbi approached her and decided then and there they were meant for each other. During Tomomi’s annual summer visits, Bobbi brought her mice on the welcome mat and followed her like a puppy, coming only when Tomomi called, and deigned to allow her to touch her calico coat.
Earlier this year, nearly 16 years old, Bobbi took over the front porch bench when our black cat Jose died. She liked to stay a bit closer to us, but seemed thinner and less disdainful. When two kittens arrived to live in the barn this summer and within a week formed a coup and took over the front porch, Bobbi retreated again to her other quarters on the farm. I worried a bit that she had given in too easily with no yowls or flying fur.
Yesterday morning she lay still on the grassy slope out front – she was never one to take her naps where her subjects could see her. I knew her long life was over.
Long live Queen Bobbi. May you forever reign in our hearts.
… And now in vast, cold, empty space, alone. Yet hidden deep within the grown-up heart, A longing for the first world, the ancient one … Then, from His place of ambush, God leapt out.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
from 1Corinthians 15
We are continually overflowing toward those who preceded us, toward our origin, and toward those who seemingly come after us. It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again invisibly, inside us. We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.
~Rainer Maria Rilke from The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke
Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it. ~Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet
The sunrise this morning kept giving and giving, vanquishing the darkness through an illumination that made all things, even the sorry and the plain, beautiful.
So is the love of one person for another, reflecting the Light that illuminates us all, even to the depths of our shadows.
May we too give and give without ceasing, our plainness made beautiful, our shadows no more.
“Be patient and without bitterness, and realize that the least we can do is to make coming into existence no more difficult for Him than the earth does for spring when it wants to come.” Rainier Marie Rilke
We feel the twinges of struggling to live broken in difficult times; indeed all our days are difficult times. We won’t get out of this predicament alive.
Whether we care or not about what happens next does not alter the fact Christ dwells with us; our heavy heads bow, turning to the absolute light. The coming of spring will not be stopped by a slumbering disinterested earth.
Like Mary, we must say: “Let it be”, not “no, not me, not now.”
We are transformed, simply by accepting He has come on our behalf:
an oh so difficult faith that connects us like a filament to heaven,
like a shoot breaking through the crust of frozen earth to reach the sun in order to bloom,
like the butterfly emerging from its cracked chrysalis to try its wings,
like the snail shell abandoned because we will no longer fit inside its broken walls.