Autumn Day by Ranier Maria Rilke

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Autumn Day by Ranier Maria Rilke

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.

Lay your long shadows on the sundials,

and on the meadows let the winds go free.

Command the last fruits to be full;

give them just two more southern days,

urge them on to completion and chase

the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Who has no house now, will never build one.

Who is alone now, will long remain so,

will stay awake, read, write long letters

and will wander restlessly up and down

the tree-lined streets, when the leaves are drifting.

It is Spring in New York City and everywhere the lilies and lavender lilacs sing with color and light. But for some reason, this poem about autumn entered my consciousness today. It has always spoken to me but seems to have renewed personal meaning. The first sentence alone strikes some primal feeling in me. 

Religion, I realize, is passe and no longer de rigueur in cosmopolitan cities like New York. But I’ve always felt such a strong religious spirit within. It isn’t the religion most of us think is religion. That religion involves conformity and submission to a worldly mass authority like the Catholic Church or even the Dalai Lama, the one takes words and myths literally and will commit evils in the name of God. The religion I speak of is the religion of the individual soul, the religion that feels there is some meaning that is just outside the grasp of our consciousness but that we all intuitively feel like an itch that cannot ever be reached. The first line speaks to this. Everything always feels immense to me, imbued with so much. The poem seems to call to a numinous spirit in all of us. Lord: it is time. Time for what? I don’t know if I can answer that for you except to pay attention

The last few lines also resonate deeply with the place I am in. I am living alone in my apartment for the first time in 10 months and have now for about two weeks. My wife remains in Vancouver. I’ve had some offers to hang out with people but I’ve resisted them. I have chosen to remain alone. This isn’t because of depression or anything like that. But I’ve felt the need to dive into my introversion. I’ve read, stayed up, written, meditated, and mostly just wandered the streets like some existential flaneur. I’ve felt this need to reconnect with my solitude because there is something in the recesses of my Self that needs exploring. I am not sure how to put words to this. How can I put to words to something that is barely conscious but is emerging from the deep well of the unconscious? All I know that my shadow is calling to me. I’m just trying to remain as quiet as I can so I can listen.  

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