Poem for a Sunday Morning

The Peace of Wild Things
{Wendell Berry}

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


This is a poem I keep coming back to, its invitation and imagery profound and applicable in even the best of times. Right now, it resonates with even greater power because of how much fear and uncertainty is loose and alive in the world, loose in our minds and hearts.

I sometimes wake in the night between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. As I turn restlessly in my bed, thoughts unfold in fearful, fast turning pages. I worry myself, not with those things over which I have control, but with those things over which I do not.

It is wasted energy, spent in the most vulnerable hours of the night, haunting in its purposelessness. Soon enough, I return to sleep but not without the presence of anxious shadows that join me in the light of a new day.

And, as much as I would love to go to “where the wood drake rests in beauty on the water” that’s not an option on most days. Instead, I find alternative ways to experience the freedom of presence and perspective; long walks with the dog, hikes that challenge my heart and legs, laughter around the dinner table, “checking in” calls with friends and colleagues and finding ways to be of use to those who are struggling more than me, more than us.

There is so much peace to be found, so much freedom from despair, but I remind myself that it will not find me, that I must go to it. Over and over, I must go.

Here is Wendell Berry, reading his poem.

depth of field photography of mallard duck on body of water

Photo by Aidan Jarrett on Pexels.com

Gifts On the Trail

Last Saturday, on my way up the Mt. Woodson trail, a Buddhist monk passed me heading the other direction.

Later, as I finally made my way back down, I came across a clutch of prayer flags placed atop a boulder. I assume the orange-robed monk left them there, but I can’t be sure. What I have since learned is that prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Tibetan Buddhists believe these prayers will be blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion into the surrounding environment.

I received peace, an appreciation of the rough beauty of my surroundings, my concerns about completing the hike abating with each step down the hill.

I received compassion, for myself and my limitations, and for my dog who was a faithful and willing companion on the trail.

I received strength, both of spirit for having spent the afternoon in a beautiful and challenging place and of body, discovering a small but steady resurgence of my physical well-being as I neared the end.

I received wisdom, having bathed in the humility of my limitations during the final hour of my ascent, a fresh awareness that my core responsibility at all times is to offer the best that I’ve got.

These timely prayers, washing over me as I passed by, were a welcome reminder of the physical and spiritual generosity that always surrounds us. They were freely given and happily received.


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Prayer Flags – Mt. Woodson Trail – Jan. 2020