Therefore…love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you.
For those who are near you are far away…
and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast….
be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and
be gentle with those who stay behind;
be confident and calm in front of them and
don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy,
which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend.
Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them,
which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again;
when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and
be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust….
and don’t expect any understanding;
but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance,
and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing
so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
It’s been weeks since I last posted here and in those weeks, my life has shifted in so many ways that I don’t know where to begin writing. These words, from one of my favorite writers and teachers, say it better than I can even though they were written so long ago – which delights me. Rilke knew what my heart now knows, and there is so much grace in that.
I’m writing this from Madrid, a city I love and yet a place that leaves my heart longing for South Africa – like every place other than that beautiful country I am lucky enough to spend most of my days in now. And in the being away, I see how much I have grown there, under that big beautiful sky and amongst all the incredible creatures and people who roam the land.
In just a handful of months, my world has expanded – and my heart, too, in more ways than I can count. And I’m aware that if I hadn’t allowed myself to drop all the stories of what I should do and who I should be and had not followed my heart, my life would be very different from here on in. I didn’t, and I largely still don’t, know what the next decades will hold for me. I’ve given up security and a pretty cushy lifestyle in order to explore all that life in South Africa can be – and that means discomfort on many levels. Still, despite a life long fear of being rejected, I’ve been welcomed openly and warmly in this new place over and over – a gift I cannot refuse.
My own growth, yes, means leaving some of those I love behind and giving them the space to deal with that in their own ways. The resulting loneliness comes in waves and living atop a mountain in the bush means plenty of solitude even in the midst of time in community means that those waves will continue to wash over me, undoubtedly, for a long time to come. And I’m okay with that – there is room in that solitude for even more growing.
When I think back to the time when I was small and knew myself, this life is all I wanted. The wisest part of me, the knowing I arrived on this planet with, knew that what I needed was the wide open spaces, the tribal people and ancestors, the living things that fly and crawl and traverse the land and the sky. Fifty years later, it’s still true – only now I can gift myself with all of it, every single day. I can feel the love within, the love that surrounds me and allow myself to be enveloped by it, to thrive. And to be surrounded by others who do the same, every single day.
This love, indeed, holds a blessing and a strength the likes of which I’ve never known, and one so large that I expect it can hold all of us who choose to allow ourselves to feel it. Easily, beautifully and for all time.
May it be so.
A journey of giraffes I had the opportunity to observe one day at Phinda, as they slowly and carefully approached the watering hole, wary and wondering what predators might be around. In the end, they followed the young one and allowed themselves to drink, taking just what they needed.