Meditation on Poetry – 1

Jacaranda, Shirley Kaufman

“Because the branches hang down with blossoms
for only a few weeks, lavender clumps
that let go quickly
and drop to the ground,

because the flowers are so delicate
even their motion through the air
bruises them,
and they lie where they fall
like tiny pouches of shriveled skin,

because our lives are sagging with marvels
ready to fail us,
clusters of faces drifting away,

what’s settled for is not nearly
what we are after, claims
we keep making or are made on us.
But the recurrence of change
can still surprise us, lilac
that darts and flickers
like the iridescent head of a fly,
and the tree making us
look again.”

Purple jacaranda flowers falling from their tree. “Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit, als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten...” (Rilke, Herbst). There is something bitter-sweet about these flowers. They remind us that we too will one day fall. “Wir alle fallen“. The tragic impermanence of life, and “the tree making us look again”. We rarely look, our gaze turned away from death, hurrying away into our lives.

The flow of time is most visible in the turning of seasons, in the emergence of flowers in spring, and their fall in autumn.

Flowers let go by their tree are no longer alive, although one may imagine otherwise, they dance so lovely in the air. Their honey scent is given to the winds as they pass through their final journey into the earth below, “pouches of shriveled skin“, and eventually disappear. “Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.” That is the promise, the hope. To sink, finally, into gentle, caring hands. To be caught in love, and to be held there. To separate from the tree, from all that you have known, and to fall into the deep unknown, and to know yourself to be fading, and especially just before the fall, this, the last great trauma of life, to realize that this too will pass.

Before our eyes, evanescent cherry blossoms scatter, the fireflies’ will-o’-the-wisp vanishes, and the bright autumn leaves are snatched away. We recognize these events and we find in these changes a certain relief” ~ Murakami Haruki, Speaking as an Unrealistic Dreamer

And the many faces we have known, and have been throughout the years, the many “marvels” of our lives, they too will leave us, eventually, one by one. And we will grieve their passing. “Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, So do our minutes hasten to their end” (Shakespeare). Our lives, the sea, the falling flowers, all hastens to its shore. Our lives, predetermined to fail us.

The tree and its falling flowers turns our head, we are arrested, if only for a moment. Caught, we are confronted. What have we settled for, so far from “what we are after“? So many claims on our time, so much triviality, realized too late. How easily we neglect ourselves, forget one another. The waves rush us through the years to the final shore. We live routines, and settle in. And yet, “change can still surprise us.” Every new coming of a season a reminder that life emerges, has its brief time on this stage, then bids its goodbyes. Should we not seize it while we can? Seek out the contours, push towards our outer edges?

As the flowers grow into their colours, purple “clusters” in a sea of green, so we too mature and ripen into the fullness of our days. “Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß. Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren, und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los. Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein; gieb ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage, dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein” (Rilke, Herbsttag).


“All major spiritual paths guide us to look at this truth of living and dying and the vulnerability that’s here and to discover that refuge, that formless loving nature that’s beyond. And it’s entirely natural to get caught up in habits of avoiding vulnerability and avoiding impermanence. And like the Buddha there is something in you that wants to open to reality, that knows you’ll never be at peace unless you open to reality, there’s something in you that wants to find that happiness and freedom in the midst” ~ Fear of Aging: Finding Freedom in this Impermanent World, Tara Brach

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