Beauty and terror, part I


There are about six of us sitting around one of the large dining tables at a retreat center in the Shenandoah Mountains. We're eating breakfast and sharing dreams from the night before, allowing our imaginations to wonder about the ways in which these dreams can speak to us in our waking lives. "Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror" is a line that one of the elders of the group used as he reflected upon his recent experiences and discoveries. I was moved by his sharing and recognition of the ways in which "wild wanders" on the land have a way of drawing out the wisdom of our dreaming lives and placing it very realistically and practically into our daily life choices.

I feel the potency of this line in my own life and questioning. Over the coming weeks I will be sharing some of the ways in which this line has been living in my life. The full poem is offered below.


Go to the Limits of Your Longing

by Rainer Maria Rilke*

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

*From Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God; translation by Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows

photo credit: me, while on a "wild wander" in the mountains of WV.
note: this spider was so small (and moving) that my phone's camera couldn't find it long enough to focus, except for one brief delightful second in which I was able to take the picture!