The Cosmos Cares for and Catches Us

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 - 5:30 am

The Cosmos Cares for and Catches Us

I love fall. The season always creates a powerful mix of feelings in me — aliveness in the crisp cool air, awe and wonder at nature’s beauty, melancholy as another season of flowering life ends, and so quickly!
I also love this Rilke poem about falling, loneliness, tenderness, and being held. Rilke was alienated from traditional, organized religion. But he clearly had a sense that the cosmos somehow cares for and catches us, even as it makes falling a natural part of life.
This translation of “Autumn” is by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows, from their book, A Year with Rilke. In another book they did together, Rilke’s Book of Hours, they say, “Of all the seasons, Rilke most loved autumn. He found it released his creative powers.”

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Leaves are falling, falling as if from afar,
as if, far off in the heavens, gardens were wilting.
And as they fall, their gestures say “it’s over.”

In the night the heavy earth is falling
from out of all the stars into loneliness.

We are all falling. This hand here is falling.
Just look: it is in all of us.

Yet there is one who holds this falling
with infinite tenderness in her hands.

Share Post


is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. His book On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old will be published in June.

Share Your Reflection


  • RachelInCalifornia

    How different this feels, here on the California coast where autumn ushers in the rains and the rush of life returning, and late spring is when the water fails and the trees hold on, waiting for next year’s rains!
    I still remember the fall of the year in the East Coast. I guess it must be the same in Germany.
    The cycles of living and dying, going and returning, happen everywhere… but differently.

  • Pingback: The End of Summer Is the Space Before What Could Be | On Being()