A weekly collection of inspiration and resources for the journey, gathered from websites, books, and pass-alongs that have been shared with us. From The Wisdom Years – Spirituality for the Last Third of Our Lives.
by Rainer Maria Rilke
The leaves fall, fall as from far,
Like distant gardens withered in the heavens;
They fall with slow and lingering descent.
And in the nights the heavy Earth, too, falls
From out the stars into the Solitude.
Thus all doth fall. This hand of mine must fall
And lo! the other one:—it is the law.
But there is One who holds this falling
Infinitely softly in His hands.
This poem is in the public domain. From Poems (Tobias A. Wright, 1918), translated by Jessie Lamont.
Reflection on the poem
from Parker Palmer
I love autumn on my patch of the planet—it evokes a wide range of feelings in me. The beauty of the leaves lifts me into wonder. Then, as the leaves fade and fall, I drop into melancholy. So many metaphors, so little time!
In this poem, Rilke takes a deep dive into melancholy, then surfaces in a place of hope. Given all the “falling” of 2020—all the brothers and sisters who’ve had to say “it’s over,” all the loneliness we’ve known—I’ll follow anyone who lives into hope without blinking hard truths about how we got here and what’s required to set things right.
That’s what Rilke does for me in this poem, as long as I understand this: the hands that appear in the last line “holding up all this falling” are OUR hands. There’s no magic trick here, no cosmic sleight-of-hand here. This is about US.
If we allow 2020’s death and loneliness to animate us to care for ALL our brothers and sisters—and for the natural world on which we depend—then what has fallen to the ground among us will seed the flowering of new life. Fail at that task and 2020 will never end.
As we enter the last quarter of a year of crushing and avoidable tragedies, our job is to do what we can to help assure that 2021 will mark the start of a new era in our common life.
—Parker J. Palmer
FROM The Center for Courage and Renewal
Parker Palmer is author of several books, including On the Brink of Everything, which the Wisdom Years will be studying beginning October 15.
On The Brink of Everything
by Parker Palmer
A new book study from
The Wisdom Years – Spirituality for the Last Third of Our Lives
Thursdays, 4 p.m. (Central time) on Zoom
8 weeks starting October 15
In essays, poetry, and reflections on life gathered over his 80 years, master writer Parker Palmer invites us to travel this last season of our lives with courage, clarity, and an expectation of joy and peace. Our format will be reading and reflecting on a chapter each week on our own, then gathering in small groups to process what our souls have revealed to us. We will not offer advice or pronouncements, but will glean insights by listening to each other. Groups will be gently structured to allow each person time and space to offer reflections.
And stick around after the study each week for Happy Half-Hour, 5 to 5:30 pm. Bring the beverage of your choice.
For more details and to sign up, email Marjorie George at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Teen and a Senior Citizen Forge a Beautiful Connection Using the Internet
Through the DOROT project, which works to alleviate social isolation among senior citizens by helping them forge positive connections, 14-year-old Oliver Hollman spent his summer creating a documentary about a 96-year-old named Ted Comet. Comet, a humanitarian who helped traumatized Jewish war orphans after the Holocaust, says that the project with Hollman was an “energizing” experience that has allowed him to leave a legacy for descendants he will never meet. Through their conversations, the pair have formed a wonderful friendship that has enriched both their lives.
FROM Happily Daily
To learn more about the DOROT project, click here
Hearing from Julian of Norwich for Today
In the 14th century, the Black Plague ravaged Europe, wiping out a third of the population. Into this, Julian of Norwich spoke words she had heard from Jesus as she lay in a coma. How can a woman whose family and community was ravaged by the Black Death say, “All shall be well?” And how does that compare with our current world situation? Pastor and Renovaré board member Mimi Dixon opens up the world of Julian of Norwich, a Medieval Christian with a surprisingly contemporary voice.
Coping with Complexity
By Fr. Ron Rolheiser
Holiness and wholeness are, ultimately, the same thing. To be holy is to be whole. That shouldn’t surprise us, grace builds on nature. What’s problematic is achieving wholeness. Why?
Because we’re all so pathologically complex that we spend most our lives trying to figure out who we really are and trying on various personalities the way we try on different clothes. Allow me an example:
If you have something to add to Gathered Wisdom, send it to Marjorie George at
Gathered Wisdom is from The Wisdom Years, a ministry that invites older adults to deepening spirituality in the last third of their lives. If someone forwarded this to you, learn more about The Wisdom Years and subscribe to the site at