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The On Being Project

Rest for a Moment in a Poem’s Peace

As various forms of human-made madness continue to swirl around us — occasionally catching us up in the swirl — it’s important to be intentional about seeking sources of inner peace. Only when we’re at peace inwardly can we bring some measure of peace to a violent world.

That’s why I’m grateful for this poem by Wendell Berry. He not only reminds us of the peace to be found in the natural world — he offers us the peace to be found in a poem:

“The Peace Of Wild Things”
by 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.

Most of the time, I can’t “lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.” But I can rest in the beauty and wisdom of this poem any time I want.

It’s worth noting that Berry says, “For a time, I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” With that grace and freedom in hand, we can return to the madness and do what we can to help others reclaim their humanity — until it’s time, once again, to reclaim our own.

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