January 4, 2011

Life's Bestowal of Riches

The Road to Clear Polyana, by Leonid Pasternak

You might notice that in some ways the effects of our winter experiences are similar. You write of a constant sense of fullness, an almost overabundance of inner being, which from the outset counterbalances and compensates all deprivations and losses that might possibly come. In the course of my work this last long winter, I have experienced a truth more completely than ever before: that life's bestowal of riches already surpasses any subsequent impoverishment. What, then, remains to be feared? Only that we might forget this! But around and within us, how much it helps to remember!

Letter to Lisa Heise
May 19, 1922


  1. In this and other poems and writings, Rilke's poetic heart and eyes seem to work on the world like a sieve: the true means of amassing riches is by letting everything go, accepting that it must all move through and pass on, never attempting to stanch the flow.

  2. Yes, like a porous bag . . .

    And still, there is a storing up of gratitude for all that has come and passed through. Enough to last through all possible future impoverishments. This is an important lesson, I think. We can't gather and keep the riches of our life, but we can keep holding gratitude within us.

  3. i appreciate that he points to the internalization of the processes of awareness and especially the qualities of sensitivity to the richness of this world during the winter months. steven

  4. I enthusiastically agree, Steven. I can't help it, I was going to quote from Wallace Stevens' poem, but why not post the whole beautiful thing:

    One must have a mind of winter
    To regard the frost and the boughs
    Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

    And have been cold a long time
    To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
    The spruces rough in the distant glitter

    Of the January sun; and not to think
    Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
    In the sound of a few leaves,

    Which is the sound of the land
    Full of the same wind
    That is blowing in the same bare place

    For the listener, who listens in the snow,
    And, nothing himself, beholds
    Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

  5. It does seem that no matter the situation life seeks balance, with privations from the outside world, our garden within thrives, tropism of the soul.

    Right now in my heart is raspberry season. I weep with the sweetness, fruit born this new day. I kiss the cold earth, the tree's skin frozen. I do not try to warm it. I allow it, and weep in celebration. I do. i do.

    I love what you do here. I love how we can share, from Rilke to Stevens, each of us here - now. Thank you.


  6. just as the pine boughs weigh and groan
    threatening the catastrophic pendulum slow demise
    of their winter civilization,
    here in my heart is born,
    through my brambled bracken,
    sweet raspberry stained lips.
    i will not lay them to the sluggish pulse of xylem flow.
    not even to the frozen bark peeled back from birch
    as though a woman revealing nature's frozen neck.
    i resist the kiss
    and instead hang like the snow laden bough,
    weep in gratitude.


  7. Startlingly lovely, Erin. Is this in response to Stevens? Rilke? Or something you had written before?

    Hanging, weeping, resisting the kiss . . . you've spoken winter.

  8. this is in response to what i read here
    and how i am living now. i left from my comment here and wrote it.

    i'm in northern ontario and i have the gift of winter. i embrace it. and every year i understand why more and more.

    thank you for letting me share.


  9. It felt that way, that you left your comment and wrote the poem. What a blessing, to live in such a place and love winter. I live in Michigan, and I love winter myself. I lived in southern California five years and felt unlandscaped . . . except when we went into the mountains sometimes, with snow. When I posted this reading, and found the Pasternak winter scene, I felt eager and happy, wondering if it would strike a winter-chord with anyone. And so it has, with you and Steven. (Perhaps with Lorenzo too, though he didn't mention that aspect.)

  10. What a lovely excerpt for Rilke's letter! To find riches in life that will always surpass impoverishment — that is the key to a happy and content life. I also love the Wallace Stevens poem, Ruth, and can think of no higher calling than to be a a listener in the snow.

  11. i lovely thought though i have a hard time loving snow being a southern girl. they talked about the cold last night and i thought to myself, in six weeks there will be flower blossoms.

  12. There is also a sense here, perhaps, that it takes many "winter experiences" to gain the wisdom illuminated in the excerpt.

    All the comments here today add a great deal.

    Erin, your poem is lovely.

  13. ..."not even to the frozen bark peeled back from birch,
    as though a woman revealing nature's frozen neck.
    I resist the kiss...

    Wow, Erin. Rilke shares a bit off "philosophy" with Catholics. That one must strive to have inner joy, even through tribulations. The things of this world can never make one happier than the interior love and thankfulness we (are supposed) to have.


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!