I find myself in the unexpected company of German poets. The other evening, as I walked about in Windsor Terrace, I saw that a neighbor had left several books on the stoop of her brownstone house. I browsed through them and selected two to bring home with me: Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hymns and Fragments and Paul Celan’s Selected Poems and Prose. They joined Herman Hesse’s The Seasons of the Soul (Hesse was a German-writing Swiss) and Rainer Maria Rilke’s Selected Poetry in my “active library,” namely, the pile of books next to my window from which I select what to read, according to my mood.
In a turn of events that surprises me, I often choose one of these German poets. I don’t know where this is going. It is an intellectual and poetical saunter, Thoreau-style. But I am enjoying the experience. I like sitting by the window at dawn or dusk, choosing a book, opening its pages, and reading a poem with care.
Now, in a rare moment when I can write, I share some verses from Rilke.
Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.Rilke, Uncollected Poems1923-1926
May we find the courage to face our challenges, and may we be graceful in acting to realize the wonders of life.