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the magnificent space

Summer Day (14 of 27)

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Ah, Women, that you should be moving
here, among us, grief-filled,
no more protected than we, and nevertheless
able to bless like the blessed.

From what realm,
when your beloved appears,
do you take the future?
More than will ever be.
One who knows distances
out to the outermost star
is astonished when he discovers
the magnificent space in your hearts.
How, in the crowd, can you spare it?
You, full of sources and night.

Are you really the same
as those children who
on the way to school were rudely
shoved by an older brother?
Unharmed by it.

While we, even as children,
disfigured ourselves forever,
you were like bread on the altar
before it changed.

The breaking away of childhood
left you intact. In a moment,
you stood there, as if completed
in a miracle, all at once.

We, as if broken from crags,
even as boys, too sharp
at the edges, although perhaps
sometimes skillfully cut;
we, like pieces of rock
that have fallen on flowers.

Flowers of the deeper soil,
loved by all roots,
you, Eurydice’s sisters,
full of holy return
behind the ascending man.

We, afflicted by ourselves,
gladly afflicting, gladly
needing to be afflicted.
We, who sleep with our anger
laid beside us like a knife.

You, who are almost protection
where no one protects. The thought of you
is a shade-giving tree of sleep for the restless
creatures of a solitary man.

I happened upon this poem yesterday. I was sitting in the sun with my poetry and my journal trying to make sense of my life and my place in this world. I am finding it so hard to wade through this period of transition in my life–in the middle of my life, single, mother of two children, feeling somewhat used up on some days. I feel like I have been pouring my love out into the world for so long and have allowed people to take what they could get and just move on. I have been that bread on the altar.

This is, of course, one version of the story. There are other versions–the one where I’m the user, taking what I could get because I didn’t think I deserved more than eating the crumbs off the floor OR taking for granted the outpouring of love and grace that was being freely offered by others and always looking for more elsewhere. I’ve been on both sides of that equation. Love is tricky. Sharing power is tricky. Forgiveness, compassion, truth–all of it! Life is tricky. It trips us up.

When I look at my life through the lens of the Rilke poem, I have a much deeper appreciation for my journey and my place in the world. I see myself in his eloquent praise of women and the Divine Feminine. My ability to love so deeply, to keep coming back to people or situations who have hurt me because I can forgive and keep loving. I can honestly say that I still love people who have wounded me terribly. I’m also learning, thankfully, to love myself enough to be more discerning and move on when needed.

I know I can be that shade-giving tree for people. I am finally learning to look for Her, the Divine Mother, in other people and allowing myself to rest in that shade also. We all–men and women alike–have the capacity to channel this energy to love, heal and nourish and we all have the opportunity to receive (and look for and appreciate!) the abundance of Her gifts as well.

More and more, I am astonished be the “the magnificent space” in my own heart and am starting to really appreciate the magnificence of the hearts around me. What a blessing.

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