Tag Archives: Rainer Maria Rilke

Love against all odds: celebrating the Season of Creation

Loving earth: Fairy lantern (Chalocortus albus) along the Independence Trail in Rough and Ready, California by Betsey CrawfordThe dying down of the zest for life is the greatest danger to the whole human venture and to the whole venture of the planet.
~Thomas Berry~

This is my fourth celebration of the September-long Season of Creation, and a year when keeping zest alive and well is profoundly challenging. Yet I agree with Thomas Berry: losing it is our greatest danger. When it’s hardest to muster, we need it the most. It will heal the world as it carries us through the decisions, tasks, and changes to come. Zest is loving the earth we emerged from, loving our fellow creatures, loving the green world, the rocks and soil underneath us, the mountains above us. Loving the rain, the clouds, the wind. Loving trees, grasses, flowers.

A love that recognizes the limits that time and urgency place on us. Recognizes how hard the changes will be for so many, likely including ourselves. A love fierce and gentle at the same time, to energize us through the challenges, to reach out to hearts that need it, to power us with strength and joy.

My first two celebrations paired photos with quotes from Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si, one of the most important and comprehensive environmental statements of our time. In it, he covers everything from treaties between nations to family dinners. He says the need to change from our current course is the moral challenge of our time. The whole rests on the belief that all livings beings and natural forms have dignity and worth beyond their use to humanity.

The third celebration widened to religious leaders from many traditions. This time I am turning to poets, philosophers, scientists, activists, though starting with one of my favorite quotes from Laudato Si

One leaf onion (Allium unifolium) in a private garden in Marin County, California by Betsey Crawford

One leaf onion (Allium unifolium)

If these issues are courageously faced, we are led inexorably to ask other pointed questions: What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us? It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one that dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.
~Pope Francis~
Laudate Si

Pitkin marsh lily (Lilium pinkinense) in Cunningham Marsh, Sebastopol, California by Betsey Crawford

Pitkin marsh lily (Lilium pitkinense)

Together these vanishing remnants of Earth’s biodiversity test the reach and quality of human morality. Species brought low by our hand now deserve our constant attention and care. Religious believers and nonbelievers alike would do well to sacralize God’s elegant command given in the Judeo-Christian account of Genesis: Let the waters teem with countless living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of heaven.
~Edward O. Wilson~
Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life

Celebrating the Season of Creation: hillside morning glory (Calystegia collina) along the Arroyo Hondo Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore by Betsey Crawford

Hillside morning glory (Calystegia collina)

We are also, whether we like it or not, the dominant species and the stewards of this planet. If we can revere how things are, and can find a way to express gratitude for our existence, then we should be able to figure out, with a great deal of hard work and goodwill, how to share the Earth with one another and with other creatures, how to restore and preserve its elegance and grace, and how to commit ourselves to love and joy and laughter and hope.”
~Ursula Goodenough~
The Sacred Depths of Nature

Fairy slipper orchid (Calypso Balboa) in Mount Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley, California by Betsey Crawford

Fairy slipper orchid (Calypso Balboa)

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that
to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not
at all — nothing
before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.
~Marie Howe~
from the poem ‘The Singularity’

Celebrating the Season of Creation: California poppy (Eschschlolzia californica) in a private garden in Marin County, California by Betsey Crawford

California poppy (Eschschlolzia californica)

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the Universe about us, the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.
~Rachel Carson~
Speech accepting the John Burroughs medal

Bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata) in the Sierra Nevada, California by Betsey Crawford

Bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata)

Our task is to take this earth so deeply and wholly into ourselves that it will resurrect within our being.
~Rainer Maria Rilke~
Letter to Witold Hulewicz

Celebrating the Season of Creation: western blue flax (Linum lewisii) in the Sierra Nevada, California by Betsey Crawford

Western blue flax (Linum lewisii)

I try to remember that it’s not me, John Seed, trying to protect the rainforest. Rather, I am part of the rainforest protecting itself. I am that part of the rainforest recently emerged into human thinking.
~John Seed~
Rainforest Information Centre

Loving earth: yellow mariposa lily (Chalocortus luteus) along the Independence Trail in Rough and Ready, California by Betsey Crawford

Yellow mariposa lily (Chalocortus luteus)

People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.
~Iris Murdoch~
A Fairly Honourable Defeat

Celebrating the Season of Creation: marsh grass of parnassus (Parnassia palustris) in Saint Hilary's Preserve, Tiburon, California by Betsey Crawford

Marsh grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris)

The ecological age fosters the deep awareness of the sacred presence within each reality of the universe. There is an awe and a reverence due to the stars in the heavens, the sun, and all heavenly bodies; to the seas and the continents; to all living forms of trees and flowers; to the myriad expressions of life in the sea; to the animals of the forests and the birds of the air. To wantonly destroy a living species is to silence forever a divine voice.
~Thomas Berry~
The Dream of the Earth

Loving earth: Point Reyes checkerbloom (Sidalcea calycosa ssp. rhizomata) at Bull Point in the Point Reyes National Seashore by Betsey Crawford

Point Reyes checkerbloom (Sidalcea calycosa ssp. rhizomata)

Living away from the earth and the trees we fail them. We are absent from the wedding feast.
~Thomas Merton~
When Trees Say Nothing

Loving earth: scarlet gilia bud (Ipomposis aggregata) in the Sierra Nevada, California by Betsey Crawford

Scarlet gilia bud (Ipomposis aggregata)

In this moment, is it still possible to face the gathering darkness, and say to the physical Earth, and to all its creatures, including ourselves, fiercely and without embarrassment, I love you, and to embrace fearlessly the burning world? 
~Barry Lopez~
Love in a Time of Terror

Celebrating the Season of Creation: jewel flower (Streptanthus toruosus) in the Sierra Nevada, California by Betsey Crawford

Jewel flower (Streptanthus toruosus)

We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.
~Joanna Macy~
World as Lover, World as Self

Loving earth: fragrant pitcher sage (Lepechinia fragrans) in a private garden in Marin County, California by Betsey Crawford

Fragrant pitcher sage (Lepechinia fragrans)

Appreciation and gratitude create beauty. Gratitude transcended is joy. Pure joy heals the world.
~Monica Gagliano~
Thus Spoke the Plant

Celebrating the Season of Creation: western columbine (Aquilegia formosa) in a private garden in Marin County, California by Betsey Crawford

Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa)

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The Bowl of Roses

Bowl of Roses: Peach colored David Austin rose in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington by Betsey Crawford

Since my brother’s death in June, words have been hard to come by, for writing, speaking, even reading. Poetry has been a companion; so much meaning in so few words. And, on these bright, blooming California days, the tender mercies of beauty have been deeply consoling. Perry, who started his landscaping business in college, told me while he was still able to contemplate such things that he was profoundly grateful that he could spend his life making the world more beautiful.

My daily life takes me past a garden where the quintessential June flower — roses — are still blooming in profusion. Their intricate, soft voluptuousness reminds me of some of the most luscious words ever strung together: Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem The Bowl of Roses. For this post, I am floating on his words. I’ve coupled them with photos of roses from the gorgeous Rose Hill in Spokane, Washington’s Manito Gardens.

Bowl of Roses: Yellow and pink rose in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington by Betsey Crawford

The Bowl of Roses

Rainer Maria Rilke

You saw angry ones flare, saw two boys
clump themselves together into a something
that was pure hate, thrashing in the dirt
like an animal set upon by bees;
actors, piled up exaggerators,
careening horses crashed to the ground,
their gaze thrown away, baring their teeth
as if the skull peeled itself out through the mouth.

Bowl of Roses: Three gorgeous David Austin roses in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington by Betsey CrawfordBut now you know how these things are forgotten:
for here before you stands a bowl full of roses,
which is unforgettable and filled up
with ultimate instances
of being and bowing down,
of offering themselves, of being unable to give, of standing there
almost as part of us: ultimates for us too.

Beauty: David Austin roses in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington by Betsey CrawfordNoiseless life, opening without end,
filling space without taking any away
from the space the other things in it diminish,
almost without an outline, like something omitted,
and pure inwardness, with so much curious softness,
shining into itself, right up to the rim:
is anything as known to us as this?

Bowl of Roses: Peach David Austin rose in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington by Betsey CrawfordAnd this: that a feeling arises
because petals are being touched by petals?
And this: that one opens itself, like a lid,
and beneath lies nothing but eyelids,
all closed, as if tenfold sleep
had to dampen down an inner power to see.
And, above all, this: that through the petals
light has to pass. Slowly they filter out from a
thousand skies the drop of darkness
in whose fiery glow the jumbled bundle
of stamens becomes aroused and rears up.

And what activity, look, in the roses:
gestures with angles of deflection so small
one wouldn’t see them if not for
infinite space where their rays can diverge.

Yellow David Austin roses in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington by Betsey CrawfordSee this white one, blissfully opened,
standing among its huge spreading petals
like a Venus standing in her shell;
and how this one, the blushing one, turns,
as if confused, toward the cooler one,
and how the cooler one, impassive, draws back,
and the cold one stands tightly wrapped in itself
among these opened ones, that shed everything.
And what they shed, how it can be
at once light and heavy. a cloak. a burden,
a wing, and a mask, it all depends,
and how they shed it: as before a lover.

Yellow rose in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington by Betsey CrawfordIs there anything they can’t be: wasn’t this yellow one
that lies here hollow and open the rind
of a fruit of which the same yellow,
more intense, more orange-red, was the juice?
And this one, could opening have been too much for it,
because, exposed to air, its nameless pink
has picked up the bitter aftertaste of lilac?
And isn’t this batiste one a dress, with
the chemise still inside it, still soft
and breath-warm, both flung off together
in morning shade at the bathing pool in the woods?
And this one here, opalescent porcelain,
fragile, a shallow china cup
filled with little lighted butterflies,
and this one, containing nothing but itself.

Bowl of Roses: Peachy petals of a David Austin rose in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington by Betsey CrawfordAnd aren’t they all doing the same: only containing themselves,
if to contain oneself means: to transform the world outside
and wind and rain and patience of spring
and guilt and restlessness and disguised fate
and darkness of earth at evening
all the way to the errancy, flight, and coming on of clouds
all the way to the vague influence of the distant stars
into a handful of inwardness.

Now it lies free of cares in the open roses.

Two yellow David Austin rose in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington by Betsey Crawford

Translated by Galway Kinnell & Hannah Liebman

I’d love to have you join me! If you add your email address, I’ll send you notices of new monthly posts.

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