The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.
-Ranier Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus 1,4
More beautiful and thought-provoking words from the lovely blog, A Year with Rilke. Isn’t Rilke, in his characteristically simple but powerful imagery, talking about growing up, letting go, trusting – all of my favorite themes? Isn’t this, in essence, what I was looking for when I jumped off a high platform into thin air?
I love Rilke’s assertion that the “trees” from childhood, those epitomes of rooted, solid stability, are too heavy to carry into adulthood. In midlife I have begun to realize that the tools I used to understand and navigate my earlier life simply did not work anymore. Furthermore, I’ve started to understand that the resolute permanence on which my worldview was built is evanescent anyway. The trees are too heavy now. Maybe they were never real, though that I don’t dwell there. That they are not now is what matters.
And so into midlife I walk, trying, every single day, to let go of those illusions of certainty. To release my hold on the tree branches that so effectively sheltered me for many years. What is left is the open air, something ineffable and beyond logic: the deep trust that something will catch me, keep me from harm. Trying to have faith in what I cannot hold. In a contradictory way the more effort I exert here the more this elusive faith evades me. So, yet another truth of right now: it is in loosening my grip that safety lives.
Once again I will remember that life itself lives in the open air, in the surprising buoyancy of the trapeze, in the untrammelled, unasked-for joy in my children’s smiles, in the startling incadescence of a blaze of light in the cloudy sky. Life is in the design so vast it cannot be seen up close. Life is in the space that dwells beyond the power of my rational mind; it cannot be categorized and beaten into submission by the intellect. It is as insubstantial and essential as air.
I will remember that I must give myself over to that which I can neither hold nor understand.