There is a verse from Rilke’s Book of Hours that I often think about. The symbolism is complex and enigmatic but the words speak to me about the many ways in which Chris reached out to the world and beyond as she developed an ecological and then a cosmological sense of herself.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
It feels very appropriate that this translation is by Anita Burrows and Joanna Macy. Chris and I both met Joanna when she ran a workshop at Hawkwood ten years ago and Chris visited her at her home in San Francisco where, at Joanna’s request, she ran a clown workshop.
Chris regarded Joanna – who used the image of Widening Circles as the title of her autobiography – as an inspiring role model. Like her, Chris had a mighty intellect, a loving heart and a deep commitment to the well being of the planet; both devoted themselves to education for sustainability; both lived artfully.
At 85, Joanna is still writing and publishing new works (in conjunction with some of her chosen students). What might Chris have achieved if she had lived as long? An academically inclined friend let slip the thought soon after she died that given 20 more years she would have been “bigger than Bateson.”
The verse and the picture above put me in mind of the widening circles of love in which Chris was held during her illness: the intimacy she and I shared; the visits of her family and close friends; the messages of love and support she received from well-wishers; the candles lit in her memory in dozens of countries round the world when she died.
And the circles continue to widen as we are joined by with those of you who read this blog; those who will be taking part in the celebration of her life at Matara next month; and all those who have been touched by her work or who will be touched in the future.