dark tree and skyThe forest is emptying itself

Releasing a brown canopy

Leaving bare stems pointing

To a dark sky.

We do not come easily as the forest to such a time

Putting down, letting be,

And dying to what has been

So what may be will come in its time

Which is not yet.


We fuss, cling, wail, hold onbrown leaf and rock wall

To what has been

And is no longer.

Spin out in endless “what if”…

We had only done it differently

Worked at it more

Been better people

Made better decisions

dark sky and twigsThat it might not have had to come to this.

As if this emptying were our fault somehow

That we could and should have prevented it all.


No, we are not at peace.

Do not want it this way.

So aware of who is not herebetter yellow leaves

All that has changed

The deaths and loss we see and bear

The futility of fixing or escaping any of it.


The forest does not suffer as we do.

It did not fail at keeping summer.

The earth rotates,

The axis tilts,

The forest releases into its emptying

That must come before all filling.

limbs and dark sky

Truly this emptying

Makes room for everything

That yes, will come,

In its good season.


Peter Ilgenfritz


grasses and water 


brown leaf on bush

15 thoughts on “Emptying”

  1. Peter, the poem that makes up the majority of this post is beautiful – heart-breakingly so. Thank you for this & for the Longest Night service, as well.


    1. Thanks Kathy for writing and yes I think there is something about these final days of fall and the coming of winter that is about the connection and interrelationship between beauty and emptiness, heart-break and hearts broken open. In it all, I think it is the stripping away to what is true, essential, real, and all so human. Yes in all that, all so fully Present of all that is God. So I pray today for walking with hearts open – willing to be broken and broken open, and as we walk between the two, to walk in grace, knowing we are remembered, and that Love truly does go within us and before us always.



    2. Peter,

      I don’t want anyone I’ve come to love, to leave, either in either life or death. But to cling would be wrong, when it’s time to say goodbye. Thanks for giving us so much time to come to say farewell.


  2. Peter, You are, among many wonderful things, a beautifully sensitive astute prose poet. Thank you for that gift. You have me thinking more deeply about my forest walks and the leaves I bring to work.


    1. Denis thanks for your note. And being a fellow writer, observer, feeler of life along the way – and sharing that with me and others. May we all keep walking with our hearts, eyes open in the forest walks we are on these days,



  3. Hi Peter, I am always encouraged when December 21 rolls around because the next day is a few seconds/minutes longer and the light is emerging into the long dark tunnel. Yes, December 21 is the longest night and it is important to acknowledge that darkness. But soon, very soon, there is new life/light among us.
    Thank you for your poetry – truly a gift to us.

    Judy Strausz-Clement


    1. Thanks Judy – and yes, for the reminder that yes, December 21 is truly a turning into the light. An important reminder when we get caught in the spiral of grief as you said so well, “But soon, very soon, there is new life/light among us.” Thank you for that word of hope and faith this night,



  4. I have to laugh a little about “being emptied out” since our house was just burglarized and that’s exactly what happened – I now have room for new things (especially in the jewelry drawer!)


    1. Dear Gina – My heart goes out to you both in this loss and violation. A robbery is a terrible thing to bear and in it I pray for compassion, healing for you both and for you to know you are and will be remembered by me and all of us here,



  5. Peter. you are so succinct. My heart responds to the feeling of darkness and, emptiness that I’m feeling today. But yet, there is a spark of hopefulness, that i have found the dance of life and am able to dance with you and others on this path. It is beautiful, this journey through the darkness to be able to see the spark of light in that darkness. Hard to find the words in the darkness…


    1. Dear Ida – thanks for writing and you put this so well – “It is beautiful, this journey through the darkness to be able to see the spark of light in that darkness.” May we all keep our eyes, hearts open to seeing the light that even now sparks and shines,



    1. Dear Jim – So good to see you and visit with you yesterday. I truly stumble into poetry when there is no other way to express somehow what is in the depths of our hearts – and yes, we could go on and on in prose – but never get to the simple point as a few poetic words can. I have been gifted by the poets in our congregation and in my life who have shown and reminded me that it is not about having to “do” poetry in any set way – but just to speak honestly, truly, leanly from your heart as a way to get at the very heart of it all,



  6. How prophetic to have written this poem and now repost it in 2018! Maybe prophetic isn’t the right word, as you are so beautifully writing about a human experience which is repeated many times throughout our lives. I know your heart and soul will be renewed and filled as you go through the (metaphorical) winter and emerge into a new season. Having just moved across the Sound, and having to adjust to so many new and different rhythms of life, I feel like it has been a longest night for a while, and wait for what will come in the new season.


  7. Peter is has been a true privilege to have been your friend, colleague, and parishioner for the past several decades. We will all miss you but we will never forget you and our love for you will continue without interruption.

    Please stay in touch with us as you can. I’m praying that God will lead you to a new challenge for your ministry. In fact, I am CERTAIN that will happen …. God did it for me and my ministry so I have firsthand experience with God’s gifts and presence. You will remain in my daily prayers! 🙂


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