January 31st, 2010

alan - spring flowers

One person -

 

Yesterday afternoon I went to Book Passage to hear Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows speak about their new book, A Year with Rilke, Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke.  The book contains their translations of his work.  There, I saw Louise Yahnian, the third grade teacher of both my sons. She will be 75 on May 2nd, and is truly a guiding light.  I feel lighter just thinking of her and I see how much it matters how each of us in the world.  We truly do make a difference just by "showing up" with joy and excitement about what life brings and what we bring to it.

I was most struck yesterday by this reading for February 27th.  Rilke wrote the following in a letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy on January 23, 1924.  Of course, it was written in German, but this is their translation.   Joanna said it gave her comfort last week as she read it where her husband was placed a year ago in a Green cemetery in Mill Valley.


THE SECRET OF DEATH

The great secret of death, and perhaps its deepest connection with us, is this: that, in taking from us a being we have loved and venerated, death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more perfect understanding of this being and of ourselves.  

Rilke   
breast strokes - me 3

Self-Portrait!

 

As many of you know, I love the work of Rilke.  

A few weeks ago, I went to a poetry reading where two men read the following poem of Rilke's and then, read their own Self-Portrait.  It was intriguing.  A friend of mine just did the same thing so I sat with it, feeling how rarely I look in the mirror, but years ago, I participated in a three month, life-changing experience called Eyes of the Beholder.  One piece of homework was to look in the mirror for five, ten, or fifteen minutes, just look and see the love and ancestry that is there.   Try it.  Write down what you see.  Fall in love with yourself.


Self-Portrait


The steadfastness of generations of nobility
shows in the curving lines that form the eyebrows.
And the blue eyes still show traces of childhood fears
and of humility here and there, not of a servant's,
yet of one who serves obediantly, and of a woman.
The mouth formed as a mouth, large and accurate,
not given to long phrases, but to express
persuasively what is right. The forehead without guile
and favoring the shadows of quiet downward gazing.

This, as a coherent whole, only casually observed;
never as yet tried in suffering or succeeding,
held together for an enduring fulfillment,
yet so as if for times to come, out of these scattered things,
something serious and lasting were being planned.


Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming