Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things”
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.
I was flipping through pictures on my phone recently (the modern family photo album) and lingered on some shots from the spring of 2020, early on in the pandemic, when I had taken the boys one morning to a local trail for a hike and picnic.
As I remember it, this was part of our pandemic homeschooling plan, to get them (and me) outside.
We made sack lunches, packed our bags, grabbed the leash, piled in the truck with the dog, and drove out to the trails at the Industrial Children’s Home off of Mumford, a favorite spot for local runners, mountain bikers, hikers, and dog walkers.
It had rained the night before, so the grass was still wet, the trail a bit muddy, and the trees a bright and lively green.
We only walked a couple of miles that morning, but it was just enough for the boys to get through their initial complaints and settle into the rhythm of the woods. Our pace slowed. There were extended moments of silence. Each of us retreated inward at times, losing ourselves in puddles of water, stray walking sticks, and the sound of bird calls reminding us we were far from alone.
About halfway through, we stopped for lunch on some logs used in an old ropes course. As we crunched on our baby carrots, Billy asked me,
Daddy, Do you like to look up or look down?
What was that? I asked, not knowing what he meant.
Do you like to look up at the sky or down at the ground?
That’s a really good question, I said back to him. I’ll have to think for a moment. What about you?
I like to look down at the ground, he said. If you’re always looking up, you miss what’s going on down there.
Yeah, Sidney chimed in, There’s a whole world down there!
So much then, and now, continues to feel up in the air. There are many ways to ground ourselves—in relationships, in meaningful work, in service, in prayer. And then, there is simply the ground. The world itself. The earth we live upon and within, the dirt scripture tells us is whence we came and where we will one day return, reminding us that it, more than the clouds, is the home of God. Right here.
Praise be to the little ones who are closest to the ground, and so much else that is grounding, and who in our worry call us downward.