As I was preparing my breakfast this past Sunday morning, I decided to pull up Vermont Public Radio on my iPhone and listen to whatever programming happened to be broadcasting – really just for some background noise. I was listening to a segment called On Being with Krista Tippett and came into the online discussion late trying to ascertain what the focus was – clearly something rather philosophical. When I heard mention of Rainer Maria Rilke, I immediately perked up. Two women were the subjects of the interview – Joanna Macy (environmental activist, author, Buddhist scholar) and Anita Barrows (psychologist, poet and translator) – and the discussion centered on their recent new translation and commentary on a book of poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke called Letters to a Young Poet.
I was somewhat familiar with Rilke having used one of his short poems for a book art project I engaged in at my previous place of employment – Dartmouth College. We had a vintage hand-operated printing press and I learned how to use it during a 2-part workshop. The one-page sheet I created was simple and involved setting the type, rolling the ink on the typeset and moving the plate under the press for “setting” the print. The poem I chose was:
“I Live My Life in Widening Circles”
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I will give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song? –Rainer Maria Rilke
The conversation on today’s podcast captured my attention completely once I realized the women were discussing Rilke. I was so totally enthralled by the words of wisdom imparted by Joanna Macy in particular. The connection she feels and pure love she evokes for this earth we live on struck a deep chord within me.
The radio show was timely in that I had – just the day before – taken a short hike on a favorite trail – to Hunter’s Beach. It was a foggy morning and I wanted to get some exercise before starting my late day shift at work. As I walked along the forested path that winds along Hunter’s Brook and ends at the cobblestone beach in Hunter’s Cove, I felt such a feeling of peace and love for this place we call earth. The cloudy, foggy morning cast a different light on the forest – the colors were more vivid and the forest just seemed more alive. It was enchanting. All my senses were more alert – the smell of the pine needles, the songs of numerous birds calling to each other, the gentle murmur of Hunter’s Brook, the feel of the soggy path on my feet.
Sunday morning, as I thought about what photographs I would post here from my hike to Hunter’s Beach, I was struck by the discussion on NPR and Joanna Macy’s observations of the natural world. I knew then what my dialogue would include for this post. I could relate to Macy’s philosophy and musings on our beloved Earth. It made me realize how much my photography is linked to what I experience in nature and the love I have of the natural world. Rilke shared that same reverence for the natural world and the environment that is entrusted to “us” humans. I shared above a link to the transcript of that radio program. It was inspiring. In particular, Joanna Macy read a section of a poem (Ninth Elegy) by Rilke that was new to me – and her reading of the poem brought tears to my eyes. I realize now why I so enjoy photographing nature – it is what I truly relate to and I believe with all my heart that we need to cherish our natural world and protect it for future generations. I share the poem she read here. Enjoy!
Earth, isn’t this what you want? To arise in us, invisible?
Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly
there’s nothing left outside us to see?
What, if not transformation
is your deepest purpose? Earth, my love,
I want it too.. Believe me,
no more of your springtimes are needed
to win me over—even one flower
is more than enough. Before I was named
I belonged to you. I see no other law
but yours, and know I can trust
the death you will bring.
See, I live. On what?
Childhood and future are equally present.
Sheer abundance of being
floods my heart.