The presence of still water

I dedicate this poem today to anyone who is in the midst of fear, anxiety, or uncertainty:

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 I am free.

I wrote yesterday that to be human is to be complicated, frustrated, uncertain, inarticulate, passionate, and afraid. In The Peace of Wild Things, Wendell Berry confesses his fear and confronts the despair and “forethought of grief” that continually plague us all.  In yet another poem that features birds (what in the world is it with poets and birds?), Berry suggests the antidote, at least for a time, is to seek the peace of wild things, who cannot imagine the future and therefore cannot worry about it.

For me, that is the key. Stillness and silence can be helpful, of course, but the real trick is to find a place (literal or metaphorical) where you can ground yourself in the present. So much of my time over the last six years has been consumed fretting over what might happen to me. I’ve struggled to find ways to let that go and focus on the beauty of the moment. Take a run at sunrise. Drink a glass of wine at sunset. Go fishing. Yoga works for me (seriously, there’s nothing like tree pose for focusing your attention on the here and now; otherwise, you fall down). Whatever clears your mind so that you can see the light that always waits for you, like Berry’s “day-blind stars.”

Finally, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in literature to hear in this poem echoes of Psalm 23:

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.

Even if you are not a person of conventional faith, I can’t see these words as anything but darn good advice: lie down in a pasture, or where the wood drake rests.  Come into the presence of still water.  If you are afraid today, seek out that which will restore you today.  In the meantime, the light in me honors the light in you.  Namaste.

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