Week IV: Text-only version
is not to fly in the air,
or to walk on water,
but to walk to the Earth.
Walking the World: Stone Pine Mountain
The Earth is not everywhere old. Hidden away wherever we look are these
little places where life is just beginning anew. It is as if the Earth prefers to sing
its song all at once, with hesitant, vulnerable fresh sproutings sounding together
with the sure and steady magnificence of great age.
At the upper edge of a mature subalpine forest, where the larches and pines take
over from the Norwegian spruce, the forest canopy begins to open up with more
space between the individual trees. Here, a stone pine seedling has rooted itself
on top of a large granite rock. Just half a hand high, emerging out of but the thinnest
trace of soil covered with a small patch of moss and a scatter of fallen pine needles,
this little tree already resonates with a presence which says, "this is my place to be."
And so, a solitary seed, perhaps dropped on this rock by a careless nutcracker,
unfolds into tree out of almost nothing, itself calling forth the matrix of energies
which will create the soil it needs for future growth. Tiny as it now is compared
to the ancient thick-stemmed, weather-beaten pines which surround it, this seedling
is wholly tree, wholly present in this movement of life. A movement which, like
the shimmering high country waterfall, is forever beginning and ending, all at
the same time, everywhere, at once.
Six Metaphysical Miniatures
(0) The spring gives freely of its water, but only in freedom can we drink.
(1) Dialogue is like a journey made together on foot through unknown terrain. Where
we do not move as one, we simply stop and start over again. It is the quality of the
movement of the journey itself which is primary, and not any particular content,
or predetermined destination or goal.
(2) In Art as well as Nature, there is a necessary complementarity between
the conservative tradition which embodies and safeguards the knowledge of the
past and the revolutionary insight which reveals the new. One is mechanical
in a subtle way, the other is creative. The dynamic balance between the two is
crucial. Too much stubborn repetition and the source of fresh meaning goes dry.
Too much of the new and we lose all the skill needed to make the new manifest.
A creative tradition is then at once both constant and changing, like the solid bed
of rock which allows the river to flow free.
(3) A potential danger of poetry is that we may develop the habit of giving
too much significance to words, to language, to thought. The poem which
has its source in words and not in deeply lived experience is much like
the water of any large city; it may seem perfectly clear, but we somehow
sense the drop of poison added to keep us from getting sick.
(4) We shape the world and the world shapes us. To degrade the world is
to degrade ourselves.After destroying the river and building the dam, we quickly
lose the sensitivity of ear that once heard the music which is now no longer there.
Children who grow up in a world of straightened and muted rivers will themselves
never know that no one ever taught them how to sing.
(5) The most insidious of all degradations is the loss of something
vitally important for which we do not yet have a name.
(6) Sometimes the shift in the usage of but a single word reveals a deeper,
unseen, yet potentially radical transformation of the way we perceive the world.
New words in this sense are not invented, but rather emerge out of a need --
sometimes an urgent one -- to manifest in clear form new meaning. The practice
of metaphysics is in this sense by no means merely an intellectual exercise, but
is, like a yoga we do every day, a space both public and private in which we
can step back from the pressures of the present moment and look at life as a living,
moving whole. That is why poetry, when we come to see it as the energy of insight --
or of new meaning or essence -- made manifest in the singing, speaking voice,
stands at the very center of this endeavor like a mountain of pure light.
(1) On Simplicity, Complexity and Human Design
(2) On Art, the Artist and Nature in Flowing Movement
(3) On the Twelve Primary Confusions
(4) On the Possibility of Change
(5) On Truth, Freedom and the Commercialization of Communal Time and Space
(6) On Love, Learning and the World-wide Tragedy of Public Schools
A world without light or
sound is thinkable,
but not a world
4 or 5 digits -- the splayed fingers
of an outstretched hand,
driven to the peripherique of tightly
cropped, well-fed urban meadows...
How the violets and yellow flowers
of spring wish to return, sure signs
that someone has given up all the fighting,
letting their hair go wild again, gestures
shaped, even if ever so slightly,
by much sun, sparse rain, and the curious
lithe ways of a fickle wind.
always moving, and
living inside movement. Not the
artful, cyclic, back
of the migratory birds, but
of a tongue finding its way down
streets of peregrine
the fountain's smooth, continuous,
laminar flow, nor
the fractal exuberance of
but a broken movement of stops and starts,
our passageway to the wayside,
these necessary crossings
of arbitrary borders...
Taking refuge among the trees.
The rhythm, of cautious walking,
of the unfamiliar and half-
picking up songs as we go like
so many seeds
moving from home to
the fur of our pants.
Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Let thine shadows upon the sundials fall,
and unleash the winds upon the open fields.
Command the last fruits into fullness;
give them just two more ripe, southern days,
urge them into completion and press
the last bit of sweetness into the heavy wine.
He who has no house now, will no longer build.
He who is alone now, will stay alone,
will awake in the night, read, write long letters,
and will wander restlessly along the avenues,
back and forth, as the leaves begin to blow.
Rainer Maria Rilke
(tr. Cliff Crego)
(For more Rilke poems in translation, go to
The Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke )
Every Valley Has Two Sides
A cluster of stone
together like sheep in a storm;
of the split
slabs of granite rock, some still whole,
broken, but all speak
of a time when time moved more slowly
and walls were built with a care
that carried the snow of two, three,
perhaps five hundred winters.
One old couple
is all that remains,
children grown, married, gone to town;
Two cows, a calf and
three goats keep
and warm their house
on-top-of barn on-top-of rock.
The town is
to this place;
has been built,
and other huts bought and restored,
for summer... . .
That time of
year when the mountains bloom with full-
goat-girls, barefoot, flowers
in their hair.
The tourists, do not
when the earth-energy
from the crowns of trees
back down to their roots,
and the sun goes away for months
at a time; It is
this movement, made round and
ripened with wet hay, dead calves
and avalanche springs
from the old man's bloodshot eyes
as he gives
and tells me --
"You'll get lost,
Sometimes, a poem
wanders about the world
in search of its
To learn it lovingly
by heart is
to walk with it;
To offer it freely
to bring it home.
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(Created: IV.7.1999; Last update: III.4.2002)
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