Rise Up Rooted


Book of Hours II, 16 

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing –
each stone, blossom, child –
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

-Rainer Maria Rilke from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Rilke’s words are always so stunning to me.  I love this image of the force of gravity pulling us toward the heart of the world.  Why do we resist the earth and her invitation to stand tall and strong?  The blossom is fixed in its place among us knowing its purpose well.  The tree rises up rooted from the ground, able to sway in the wind.  But we yearn to fly far above the earth and its mundane concerns, we construct elaborate ways to avoid the life we are living. 

Imagine for a moment your own roots extending deep into the fertile ground.  We have to learn to fall again, to surrender into a wisdom far greater than our own, and to trust that in the heart of the world beats a sacred presence. 

What would it mean for you to “surrender to earth’s intelligence” and trust your own heaviness?  Where is the invitation for you to rise up rooted and strong?

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

(photos from my morning walk in Volunteer Park, Seattle)

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