Apr 16 2014

Wendell Berry – The Peace of Wild Things

Published by at 7:45 am under Poetry

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.

— from Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, by Wendell Berry


/ Photo by TheBroth3R /

My wife and I have been going for walks recently in an area called Roger’s Grove. The park has a small lake with a couple of islands at its center. It is a favorite spot for Canadian geese this time of year. As we stroll around the lake we sometimes see a gray heron standing in meditative stillness among the reeds along the banks. Most recently we noticed some new visitors: one and then two bright white pelicans, looking a bit awkward in form but moving with the grace of swans upon the lake’s surface.

Yesterday, we had an unexpected sight: Those two pelicans had become thirty pelicans! The lake was filled with these bright white beings! We walked around the lake in an awed daze. We watched as these stunning birds paddled around the lake in groups, tacking together in their movements, like a synchronized drifting dance, all gliding to the left and then, with some unseen signal, all turning right again. They even dipped their heads beneath the water all at once, sometimes several times in a row, down and up and down and up, a quiet undulation rippling through through group. They seemed to revel in this sleepy synchronicity of movement beneath the warming sun.

It was a magical moment. A healing moment. An encounter with the peace of wild things.

That’s just it– these, like all living beings, experience struggle, trauma, death, yet they continue to reside in the present moment and celebrate the bliss of a sweet afternoon when it is upon them. And in this way wild things are teachers to us all.

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

I want to acknowledge what a potent month this is. We just had a full moon with an eclipse. Major planetary alignments occurring too. We are in the middle of Passover. And, for Christians, it is Holy Week leading up to Easter this Sunday. A time for renewal and reformulation of self and society.

Sending blessings and peace…

Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wendell Berry

US (1934 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Wendell Berry

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “Wendell Berry – The Peace of Wild Things”

  1. Lillia Langreckon 16 Apr 2014 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful poetry. This poem helps us to know that God is so alive in all things. I love the poetic description of the dance of the pelicans. I am acquainted with the writings of Wendell Berry. I was unable to open any poems by him. My computer said access blocked.

    Thanks again and Happy Easter.

    Sister Lillia Langreck

  2. ellenon 16 Apr 2014 at 11:37 am

    thanks for sending this poem and telling about your walk and the birds you saw.

    perfect for this time

    when there is also conflict too

  3. Frankon 16 Apr 2014 at 1:12 pm

    The bridge of language and logic over the waters of said poetry collapses never to entirely reconstructed except by pretending its not a dream .

    See you at the tomb , Frank

  4. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 16 Apr 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Yes, this was a perfect poem for us now–so much cause for sadness in this battered world and so much to be grateful for when we stop and be present to what feeds our spirit. Your walk and observations with your wife–Wendell Berry’s peaceful– resting in the grace of the world. . . I want to stop everything right now and do likewise. Thank you and blessings
    during this time of celebrating the good that is here for us no matter what!

  5. maria robsonon 16 Apr 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Oh I agree, this poem is timely & well-chosen to help calm
    the wave of fear that just seems to choke the joy & peace
    quietly growing. like the violets of spring after an endless
    winter here in the north.
    Your commentary too is a ray of sunshine on the daffodils.
    Let’s celebrate the life-force of renewal, in all its sacred expressions
    & rituals…and throw in a few chocolate bunnies, just for fun!!

  6. Nasseron 16 Apr 2014 at 9:50 pm

    It was a very wonderful poam and equally a very wonderful account of your personal experience and impression. Hisingen is an islande in west wing of Gothenberg in Sweden were I used to live on for a while and there was a lake where I used to visit at dawn and be alone with God.

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  8. Karenon 17 Apr 2014 at 2:46 am

    Welcome words for sleeplessness in the small hours. This one inspired me to go out and enjoy the still moonlight in rural Alabama, to hear a stream and frogsong.

    Thank you, Ivan, for sharing. This and always.

  9. Frederick Nazarethon 17 Apr 2014 at 5:33 am

    Thank you, I absolutely loved the poem and your commentary. “The peace of wild things” – I admit it is not a phrase I would have thought of, but it so fits the serenity and beauty of the mood Wendell Berry created and you enhanced with your excellent commentary. As a city dweller, but one who at heart is a dedicated nature (and animal) lover, I truly revel in my infrequent forays into pastoral surroundings. The rest of the time, when that is not feasible, I survive stress by retreating mentally into the remembered peace of nature ramblings. I would like very much for you to include me in on your Poetry Chaikhana newsletter. I am grateful to Moeen Faruqi for sharing!

  10. Pegon 17 Apr 2014 at 6:43 am

    I found this poem several years ago and fell in love with it. I almost read it at my father’s life celebration. He resurrected in February. So much of life is about material accumulation. However, one must crucify oneself from materialism and its twin, fear, in order to reach resurrection and ascension. In death, there is always life.

  11. bharation 23 May 2014 at 2:54 am

    Peg’s commentary could continue thus:
    …in life, there is always death.

    On one day last week i learnt two friends had cancer too far gone for treatment. One,smiling, chatting, had a bit of trouble breathing and gently passed on.
    The other is hanging in, trying to set in order her children, her dreams, her papers, with increasing weariness of body, bathed by waves of love (and healing?) from all around.

    We desperately need peace of the wild things within us:
    pelicans, day-blind dreams and calm, reflective waters teach us, yes, as do these beautiful poems and commentaries, but will i accept my wildness, and allow my self to glide the tides? Will i become the Peace i seek?

  12. Jennyon 03 Jun 2014 at 5:35 pm

    I find myself returning to this poem quite often. Just to read it helps me to rest in the “peace of the wild things”.

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