Mary Oliver quotes the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke in her poem “Invitation.”
“You must change your life,” says Rilke.
And here is our invitation, in the middle of this muddle of Exile and Isolation and Distancing: Change Your Life. To a very large degree, it has been wrenched out of our own hands. My life has changed, whether I wanted it to or not. Out of my control.
So how can I take up this invitation, and take the pen in my own hands, the yarn, the paintbrush? How can I pick up the reins of my story and change my own life in this time?
In the two weeks since I have been home, I keep saying, every day, that I am going to get control of this wild horse of school work that will take up every inch of space in my day if I let it. And it’s been a comfort to know that I have something to do that is contributing, in some way, to the continuing work of the world in a time of shut-down. Still, I need to make my balance.
This is the first way that I will change my life. I will figure this out–that spaces between Work and Not-work.
How will you accept Rilke’s invitation?
1. Mary Oliver and Rainer Maria Rilke and the invitation to change my life.
2. Fridays are catch-up days. In school, there are Study Halls, and classes are sometimes work periods. There are spaces in the days for catch-up. Somehow, at home, it all runs together, and students and teachers can get a little breathless. Many students are being called in to work extra hours at their essential jobs, and these jobs are helping to support families in a time of uncertainty. Others are struggling with the fear and anxiety and overwhelm of the new normal. So Fridays, while still school days, are days to take a little breath, to have meetings with non-class groups, to regroup in preparation for the coming week. Breathe in. Breathe out.
3. The phoebe perched on the birdfeeder station for a moment, then flitted off.
4. I’m going to bake rolls today. Grateful for yeast and flour and work that teaches me patience.
5. Wild purple hyacinths. We always called them bluebells, and that’s how I think of them.
Take care of each other!
“We get over things. It is the most amazing faculty that we possess. War or pestilence; drought or famine; fire or flood; it does not matter. However devastating the catastrophe, however frightful the slaughter, however total the eclipse, we surmount our sorrows and find ourselves still smiling when the storm is overpast. . . . Nature heals her wounds with loveliness. She gets over things.” —Frank W. Boreham
“I believe a huge part of our collective feeling of emptiness comes from living in this self-centred phase of our evolution as a species, where everything begins with I. I want this object, I want to succeed. I want to improve myself. Even: I want to belong.
But true happiness depends upon our reciprocity with the environment in which we are embedded, and unto which we are indebted. In the same way that mitochondria work to break down nutrients and turn it into energy for our bodies, we too are but a single component of a greater biosphere that sees no hierarchy between ferns and redwoods, worms and eagles.
If we imagine an invisible mycelial network under the visible surface of things, of which we are but fruiting bodies, then we see how our lives should be in service to feeding the whole forest together. Our negligence of that reciprocity is, more than any other factor, what fosters unbelonging.” —Toko-pa Turner
“We are here to awaken from the illusion of separateness.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
“We must learn to respond not to this or that syllable, but to the whole song.” —Thomas Merton
“For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green” —J.R.R.Tolkien
“We’re all just walking each other home.” —Ram Das
“I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.”
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
—Rainer Maria Rilke