Tag Archives: Rilke

After The Day of the Dead

Be ahead of all departure; learn to act

as if, like the last winter, it was all over.

For among the winters, one is so exact

that wintering it, your heart will last forever.

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Die, die through Eurydice – that you might pass

into the pure accord, praising the more, singing

the more; amongst the waning, be the glass

that shudders in the sound of its own ringing.

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Be; and at the same time know the state

of non-being, the boundless inner sky,

that this time you might fully honour it.

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Take all of nature, its one vast aggregate –

jubilantly multiply it by

the nothing of yourself, and clear the slate.

*

Rainer Maria Rilke

From ‘Sonnets to Orpheus’

Images:

Austin Wright’s ‘Limbo’

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Not a handful of earth

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For when the traveller returns from the mountain slopes into the valley,

he brings, not a handful of earth, unsayable to others but instead

some word he has gained, some pure word, the yellow and blue

gentian.  Perhaps we are here in order to say: house,

bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window –

at most: column, tower?…but to say them you must understand,

oh to say them more intensely than the things themselves 

ever dreamed of existing.

From Rilke’s 9th Elegy

It’s over a week ago that the garden at Moorbank closed its gates and I’ve hesitated to write about it, unable to find the words.  The place was still being ransacked even as we held our final fling amidst it all.

IMG_7116I felt as if I was at a funeral, the funeral of someone I loved, my legs hollow and shaky, stomach fluttery and taut.  I still can’t quite believe we won’t be able to go back but whatever happens, depending on the course the Freemen decide to take, it will never be the same.

IMG_7109I’m pleased I have so many full notebooks and photographs to return to and summon the garden, its plants and trees, from a mixture of memory and imagination, what I’ve managed to salvage from close observation and what I hope is a reliable, authentic notation.

IMG_7113The Director of Moorbank, Dr Anne Borland, made a wonderful speech celebrating the Garden’s significant legacy.  Here’s a small but striking extract, highlighting the University’s shortsightedness in deciding to cut such a valuable resource:

Moorbank has been an important resource for Plant Science research at the University since 1923. Trevor Walker amassed a unique collection of tropical ferns and the discovery of a new pathway of photosynthesis in the 1950s by Drs Ranson and Thomas relied on plant material raised and maintained at Moorbank.  Whilst the number of plant scientists employed at Newcastle has declined over the years, Moorbank has continued to support the work of postgraduate students from countries as far apart as Thailand and Nigeria as well as undergraduate project students on a whole range of topics from bird behaviour to plant genetics, important research on Alzheimers (the work of Elaine Perry) and on a personal level Moorbank has been home to my collection of the tropical trees of Clusia, probably the most diverse collection of the genus in Europe, a genus which is now at the centre of a $15 million dollar research program funded by the US-DOE to improve drought tolerance in tree species used for biofuel production.

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The Country They Call Life

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You, sent out beyond your recall,

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

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Flare up like a flame

and make big shadows I can move in.

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Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going.  No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

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Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.

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Give me your hand.

IMG_5224Poem from The Book of Hours, Rilke

(Translated by Anita Burrows and Joanna Macy)

Images from Glasgow Botanic Gardens – Kibble Palace and Main Range Glasshouses

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Spring at Moorbank

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It was very good to be back at Moorbank again this week, reassuringly unchanged despite its uncertain status.  Newcastle University’s support will come to an end on 30th November this year.  A detailed Feasibility Study has been submitted to the landlords, the Freemen of the City, and we are currently awaiting their response.

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Meanwhile work continues, tidying beds, mowing grass, seed lists exchanged with other Botanic Gardens around the world and seedlings being reared in the glasshouses.

IMG_4467The four surviving renga lilies I’ve reared from seed are thriving much better on a bench at Moorbank than in my draughty cold conservatory.

The garden will be open during the upcoming Late Shows on Saturday 18th May 7 – 11pm and for the NGS on 22nd May 4 – 8pm.

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It was very satisfying to see one of the cherry trees in bloom, squaring the circle of my time away.

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Prunus kurilensis ‘Brilliant’

We’ve never, no, not for a single day,

pure space before us, such as that which flowers

endlessly open into.

Rilke, ‘The Eighth Elegy’

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