Reading Rilke in Autumn

I am re-reading Rilke. This poem, ‘Onto a Vast Plain,’ always resonates with me, especially in Autumn. The leaves have changed their colors and the trees are ever shedding them. Letting go, knowing they once served a purpose. Letting go, knowing soon enough the light will be back and will bring the season’s colorful new wardrobe with it–emerald, olive, lime, and moss. Another season comes and goes. We, too, are like the trees: growing, budding, blooming, bearing fruit, being harvested, letting go, observing a fallow time. And starting all over again with the return of the light. May all your seasons be filled with peace, joy, and love.

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‘Onto a Vast Plain’

You are not surprised at the force of the storm—
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit:
now it becomes a riddle again
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you know
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.

~Rilke’s Book of Hours Translated by Joanna Macy + Anita Barrows

Hear Joanna Macy read ‘Onto a Vast Plain’ at On Being:

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IMG_9585Photos taken Cary/Apex NC 2017 by me.


5 thoughts on “Reading Rilke in Autumn

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