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.
The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
* * *
I read the news. I study the polls. I remember.
My stomach’s in knots.
I opened an old book and betook myself to Walden, far from the madding crowd, far from death counts, burning forests, and the dismal swamp. I sat in the doorway with an old friend and gazed upon the mist hovering above the pond.
He had no radio, no television, no newspaper.
The sun rose.
A woodchuck waddled by.
A loon wailed.
I spoke of my worries, anxieties, and rage.
He pointed to his garden. He pointed to the birds. He pointed to the trees. These were his neighbors, his companions. He knew each by name.
We walked around the pond and into the woods. Leaves and twigs crunched beneath our feet. Squirrels scampered. Butterflies fluttered. Flies and other insects darted hither and yon. A breeze brushed by.
Time stopped. The past, the future, the present were one. We walked through four seasons and back to his doorway.
We sat in silence.
Can a man by taking thought add one inch to his stature? he asked out of the blue.
No, I replied.
Do the birds of the air or the flowers of the field worry themselves about tomorrow?
No, I replied.
Who sees the sparrow fall?
He stood, walked inside, and shut the cabin door.
I returned home.
I knelt by our fish pond. I listened to the birds. I gazed at the woods. I watched leaves falling, the seasons turning.
The sun set. The moon rose. An owl hooted. I fell asleep.
The election ended. The president conceded.
Civility returned. Racism receded. Democracy revived.
The mountains rejoiced.
The hills skipped like lambs.
The trees of the forest sang.
The lion lay down with the lamb.
And a little child led them beside still waters.