Friday, October 31, 2008


I love the way these two leaves found each other and aligned themselves when they fell from different trees. As I walked past, their perfect shapes and contrasting colors caught my eye. I literally stopped, walked backward a few steps, and reached down to claim them. I had almost kept going, but couldn’t resist gathering them for closer admiration. I relish the way they pop against the gray patterns in the wood.

Rainer Maria Rilke had this to say about falling leaves in the beginning of his poem entitled “Autumn,” from Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from the German by Robert Bly:

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all the other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling. …

There’s something shivery about picturing that, about Rilke’s flesh and blood hand moving through the air, about all of us falling together through time.

Some days everything you read and write falls together, converges on one theme or idea. In a strange volume of photographs and essays by Jonathan Williams called A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude, there are a couple pages on Frederick Sommer. The essay ends with a quote from Sommer that cinches the falling and alignment thoughts:

I have five pebbles, not too different in size and weight, yet a randomness about them. If I drop them on the carpet they will scatter. Now we could run an experiment and we would find that we cannot put these pebbles in shapes that would be as elegant and as nicely related and with as great a variety as every time they fall. It is better than anything we could do. I have great respect for the way I find things. Every time something falls I look. I cannot believe the relationships. The intricacy. You hear a noise and you say “What is that?” Respect for the affirmation of the unexpected.


Off on another shivery tangent, here’s a photo I’ve been specifically saving for you, for Halloween. It’s the scary, mask-like face of a statue discovered on a street corner in Rhinebeck, New York.

The little candy bars are in the house.

Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke was published by Harper & Row in 1981. The full text of "Autumn" can be found on page 89. A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude was published by David R. Godine in 2002. The essay about Sommer, as well as his portrait, can be found on pages 88-89.

The leaves were found on my road and photographed on 10/26/08. The statue was photographed in Rhinebeck on 10/07/08. Click on images to enlarge.


Admin said...

I'm currently reading *Letters to a Young Poet*. I'm now deeply in love with Rilke's work, and wish to read as much as I can.

Christine said...

Enjoy it. It's a great discovery.

Deborah Batterman said...

Patterns . .. randomness . .. isn't it a blessing to see things as they are, rather than as we want them to be? Speaking of which, the Alberto Blanco poem touched me deeply. It's a book I'll have to get.

Christine said...

Random patterns can be so intriguing. I really like Sommer's last sentence: "Respect for the affirmation of the unexpected." And Blanco's book is a wonderful collection of poems ... I know you'll savor it!