Visit the Abbey of the Arts online retreat platform to access your programs:

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)

You might also enjoy

Monk in the World Guest Post: Kate Kennington Steer

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Kate Kennington Steer’s reflection Heart of Stone. I arrived at February 2023 in a post-viral fatigue fug, feeling beset by depression, with

Read More »

Soul of a Pilgrim Video Podcast Day 2

Blessing for Packing Lightly*Winnowing God, you ask us to release, let go, surrender, and yield all that we canin service of making space for what is most essential. The more we set aside that which burdens us and takes up too much spacethe more room

Read More »

Monk in the World Guest Post: Mary Camille Thomas

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Mary Camille Thomas’s reflection Sitting in Paradise. “Sit in your cell as in paradise,” St. Romuald says in his brief rule for

Read More »

7 Responses

  1. Thank you so very much Kayce! Rilke’s poem was very inspiring!

    Thank you too Sally, questions to hold within you. I am delighted I could make your day.

    Blessings to you both, Christine

  2. Christine, such deep questions- what does it mean to be rooted- to be vulnerable-and Rilke’s words + your photos made my day!

  3. christine–your words have always been stunning, but your photography continues to take my breath away. i was torn between the tension of being firmly rooted to the earth and one of my favorite images of flying free among the clouds. then i looked again at the title of your post and saw the symmetry. “rise up rooted”. i love it!!! thank you!

  4. In “surrendering to earth’s intelligence”, to me is to meditate upon the profoundly beautiful objects of Nature and dicipher the emotions I receive from it, and then putting it all together in art and poetry.

    Looking up into the tree in your lovely photo above is like a seeing personal encryption from God.

    and not to ignore your lovely winter pansy! such ecstacy.