The Peace of Wild Things–Wendell Barry
When despair 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 for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Inbetween these days of spring rain, yesterday was a “still water” afternoon. And, even though its only 50 degrees, if the sun is shining and there is no breeze, it’s divine to sit on the bench at water’s edge, and rest, from fear or grief, or whatever weather has darkened me on a particular day. This quiet time on the lake conveniently arrives about 5 p.m., making it a lovely cocktail hour. As I spent my hour there yesterday, the Barn Swallows suddenly returned, swooping low over the dock and soaring to the top of the chimney. We tend to find them annoying, after a while, with their frenetic darting and flock mentality, but, it is a comforting flow of the Universe that they return each year at the same time. The only other sound was a pecking flicker, who has been in a nearby tree for weeks, rhythmically boring a hole in the same spot.
And, then the swallows and flicker flew away, and there was total silence. The kitties were stretched out in sleep on the dock, the water had not a ripple, and it was so quiet I could only hear the blood rushing in my ears. I had recently copied Neruda’s poem, Keeping Quiet, into my notebook, so I knew to count to twelve. Then, I heard the first spring call of a loon, which is always a sign from beyond to me that, “all shall be well, and all shall be well…”
Keeping Quiet, by Pablo Neruda
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.
The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.
What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.
If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,
if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.
Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.