January 1, 2012

With our thanks

Rainer Maria Rilke

It seems appropriate that we, Ruth and Lorenzo, feel both sadness and joy as we close out this year of Rilke readings, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Perhaps it was not possible to read 365 days of Rilke’s poems, letters and journal entries without wholeness blooming in us out of what may have once felt separate: sorrow and joy; the visible and the invisible; transience and permanence; dread and bliss; materiality and spirituality; life and death. Has he taught us to stop resisting darkness, dread, and death? From this daily practice, we feel transformed, actually believing in the necessity, and even the beauty, of paradox—of both loss and gain—hidden within the mysteries of existence. So we embrace our sadness at the end of this year, in union with the joy of having experienced it with you, our readers.

Most importantly, we feel thankful for having Rainer Maria Rilke's incantatory writing to share here, his incomparable and often breathtaking poems, letters and journal entries that have filled the wonderful book A Year with Rilke. Over the year, many readers and participants have thanked us here and elsewhere for this blog, but we cannot help but feel that such gratitude and all accolades, though ever so warmly received, are misplaced and truly must go the poet himself and to his translators and the editors of that volume: Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy.

Anita Barrows
So let us praise here the work of Anita and Joanna. As we have noted on the sidebar of this blog, translation of poetry is a tremendous challenge, yet day after day, through their efforts, we received the wonder of what lies hidden inside words and can only truly be transposed in the heart.

Joanna Macy
We would like to direct you to their Web sites, where you can discover other facets of their work. Here is Barrows' page at the Wright Institute, about her extraordinary clinical work with children, adolescents and adults with autism, based in Jungian practice. Here is a link to some of her poetry, quite beautiful.

Here is a link to Joanna Macy's wikipedia page, including a list of her published books. And here is Macy's personal Web page, about her fascinating work called Experiential Deep Psychology, reconnecting with the earth to restore wholeness.

Importantly, and with great affection, we wish also to thank you, our dear readers and commenters, for the beautiful contributions you have made this year. Without you, this enterprise would have been far less rich and full. So often you have shone your light on passages, illuminating even greater depth and power in what Rilke wrote.

* * *
Yesterday's post brought us Rilke's Flower of Farewell, a piece that strikes us as a magnificent crowning touch to our yearlong immersion in Rilke. Three short lines that capture so much, the essence perhaps, of the life-philosophy abuzz in all his writing ...

Somewhere the flower of farewell is blooming.
Endlessly it yields its pollen, which we breathe.
Even in the breeze of this beginning hour we breathe farewell.

Here as always in his writing, Rilke unites awareness of beginnings and blooming with a penetrating perception of departing and farewell, in an intense dual mindfulness in which death is not the end of life, but precisely what makes it whole, what gives us its full measure. And the flower of farewell, endlessly releasing its pollen, summons to our innermost ears the buzz of bees, of Rilkean bees, those “bees of the invisible" he called on all of us to become when he commanded us to transform the world about us:

Transform? Yes, for it is our task to impress this provisional, transient earth upon ourselves so deeply, so agonizingly, and so passionately that its essence rises up again “invisibly” within us. We are the bees of the invisible. We ceaselessly gather the honey of the visible to store it in the great golden hive of the Invisible.

So what next, fellow Rilke readers and friends? How to heed that transformative call? Perhaps all of us, each in our own way, are seeking to answer that call on our personal blogs. And as for the two hosts of this blog that bids farewell today (and never), we would like to peel back the curtain here and give you a glimpse of where the currents of this new year's airs are taking the pollen from last year's flower of farewell ...

Fresh blooms, a new blog venture for us

Inspired by how much we have enjoyed our year here with all of you, we would like to invite you to join us at a new blog that the two of us will host. Every few days at sparks and mirrors we will share fragments and figments of writings that inspire us and, hopefully, our readers too. It is our desire that those who read will actively participate, with their own input, much as so many of you have done over the past year on the Rilke blog. There will be reprises of Rilke, as well as echoes of Rumi and other writers we admire. So we warmly invite you all to follow the pollen path from yesterday's post over to sparks and mirrors...

Postscript: You can enter a date in the search box on the sidebar and find the reading for that day.