“All you undisturbed cities, have you not longed for the enemy?” Rilke

  • This line of (from a Rilke poem from his Book of Hours) arrests me.  I heard it read by the poet David Whyte at the opening of our second Invitas learning experience near his home on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington State, almost a month ago.  It was evening, there had been wonderful food, wine and conversation.  This was not his first or only poem to share.  But when he delivered it, I felt as though it reached out and grabbed me by the shoulders and said…”YOU, Nancy, undisturbed Nancy, haven’t you longed for the enemy?”  It was personal and it implicated me.  It still does.   

    Why?  And what does that line mean?  Who longs for the enemy?  Hmmmm…what if I do?  I mean literally the enemy is disturbance.  Because the city of Nancy Clarie Wonders is undisturbed.   And that is true.  Other than my clients bringing me their disturbances, my city is pretty quiet, tucked in.  How did this happen?  Why did this happen?

     First question: how it happened was I arranged this life as it is.  I made all the choices so I created a life with little disturbance. Why?  Well, honestly because I had had so much disturbance for almost a decade, I think I just wanted to rest, to live in my little walled city (which is actually what the poet was seeing when he wrote the poem.).   And I am so glad I did, not just because I was exhausted from constant change and seriously needed the rest but also because I had never lived my life in this contented and calm place.  It was and is lovely.  Helps me understand why we wall ourselves off. 

    YET, I can feel something stirring deep within me, like the bulbs under the ground putting down roots and sending up shoots.  I am ready for the enemy.  I am ready for an intimate relationship again or some kind of challenge or learning that disturbs my self sufficiency and clarity.

    As the song Being Alive by Steven Sondheim states so beautifully….

     Make me alive, make me confused

    Mock me with praise, let me be used

    Vary my days…

    One can be alone within a marriage or a family.  Those folks in the walled in city had others with them but…still the poet asks them…do they long for the enemy?

    Yes, when disturbed…I fuss. But do I truly want to be disturbed?  If I am honest,  I am a house divided here.  I do and I don’t.   And yet, I know I only grow through these disturbances and I know that we humans are built for change and growth, even while we/I resist.  Likes a ship, I am safe in harbor but that’s not what ships were built for.  Nor was I!  Oh goodness, here goes!


    March 3rd, 2015 | admin | Comments Off on “All you undisturbed cities, have you not longed for the enemy?” Rilke | Tags: , , , , , ,

About Nancy


Nancy C. Wonders is an interior designer. The “interiors” she designs are psychological, not physical, space -- a client’s personal interior landscape, or the emotional barometer of a team, or an entire organization. Nancy’s office includes a “design bar” where clients have a chance to re-invent how they see themselves and/or their organizations. These re-structurings result in discovering what is fresh, new and alive. This discovery prompts profound, immediate change, on both the inside and in interactions with others. Read more»

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