"The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
|Brooks Mountain Range|
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 to 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.
Mike and I arrived at the lake first and the quiet, after our float plane took off again, was immense. It was almost a vacuum of silence, an ambivalent lack of noise broken soon by the calls of loons. We could hear the engine of the plane for awhile and then nothing but the wind and loons in the distance, those hermitic birds that are difficult to see and whose eggs you'll find first, before you see the birds themselves. Their calls sound mournful, but I hesitate to personify them that way. This quiet--even with the loons, the foxes speaking to one another, the wind, and the outflow of water in the distance--is complete. Days later I walked up the hill while Mike and I waited to be picked up and only a few feet beyond the bear fence the music we were listening to got quieter; only a few feet further and I couldn't hear it at all. There were no distant motors, or pile-drivers, or construction noises; no people talking, doors slamming, or cars starting; there were no creaking houses, or buzzing streetlights, or helicopters, or even planes, and all of that is a good thing--this was the most silent place I have ever been.
After I have been outside I worry even more about natural things, and I understand the despair that Berry talks about. We need these silent places so that we can "rest in the grace of the world," and we need to protect this grace. When we got back to town we had dinner with a most excellent and interesting group of people--social workers, anthropologists, archaeologists, botanists, soil scientists, teachers, and more--and this was good too. At midnight we took a boat ride across the sound and as we pushed the boat into the water, there was almost no horizon line--the sky and water met seamlessly. The moon was rising as the sun was setting and both would soon circle around us. The next morning we picked blueberries for hours and as I lay in the tundra and filled my bucket with berries, I realized how free I am. I am thankful for these small moments, these days that blur the line between sea and sky.