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.
-Wendell Berry Peace of Wild Things from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry
I saw a meme the other day about quarantine that said “I now understand why the people in Jane Austen novels were always taking long strolls in the woods.” Not only is walking a way to connect body and mind together in a way that nurtures the spirit or simply a way to pass the time, but walking in the woods or walking in general is a way to simply be alive in the world. The natural world, for which many of us are profoundly disconnected on a daily basis holds insight into the impermanence of things, the stillness of creation, the ease at which life can unfold and even the struggle of living a life alive in the world.
For me, this classic Berry poem reminds me that there are places in the world and touchstones in my faith that can give rest from the worry and peace from the anxiousness. That there is grace, not the soppy, weak grace that comes from the cult of positivity and claims “all will be alright in the end” and “there will be a blessing in all this” as much will not be alright. Instead I am reminded of the rich and sturdy grace that reminds me that there is stillness and mystery and a steadiness to God’s presence in my life. That the long thin cord of God’s presence in my life, that stretches back to my ancestors who came before me and that will stretch into the future holds me steady. That presence of a steady presence is grace.
So this week I will take long walks and be reminded of the steady presence of God.
To Find a Steady Center is a daily poem and meditation to offer a short, good word to those who are anxious, fearful or lonely and who might need a gentle word of hope, encouragement or perspective during social distancing.