Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
If your everyday life seems poor to you, do not accuse it;
tell yourself you are not poet enough to summon up its riches;
since for the creator there is no poverty
and no poor or unimportant place.
― Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
~Mary Oliver from “When Death Comes”
As a child, I would sometimes spend long rainy afternoons languishing on the couch, complaining to my mother how boring my life was.
Her typical response was to remind me my boredom said more about me than about life; I became the accused, rather than the accuser, failing to summon up life’s riches.
Thus convicted, my sentence followed: she would promptly give me chores to do. I learned not to voice my complaints about how boring life seemed, because it always meant being put to work. I decided to live a life of nearly too much work and activity, missing much I could have slowed down to notice.
Some things haven’t changed, even sixty-some years later. Whenever I am tempted to feel frustrated or pitiful or bored, I need to remember what that says about me. If I’m not poet enough to recognize the Creator’s brilliance in every slant of light or every molecule, then it is my poverty I’m accusing, not His.
So – back to the work of paying attention and being astonished. There is the rest of my life to be lived and nearly always something to say about it.
Night has come:
for one whole day again I’ve loved you so much,
It’s beautiful to see.
But: to feel in the lining of closed eyelids
the sweetness of having seen …
~Rainer Maria Rilke
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
With a love like that,
It lights the
~Daniel Ladinsky, from “The Gift”
A book of astonishment in words and photography, available to order here:
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