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.
“The Peace of Wild Things” is a lovely poem by Wendell Berry. To me, it so perfectly epitomizes what I love about yoga, teaching, taking a walk – and just being and breathing.
He writes, “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” The experience of freedom is an aim of yoga. Do you feel in this moment the peace of wild things? Barry writes, “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,” Do you know this feeling? Dis-ease or dis-quiet.
One of my cats has a tendency to cry when my husband leaves the apartment. Sometimes he doesn’t realize that we are in the other room, and his anxiety is evident in his confused meow. Then his brother jumps down from his perch on the refrigerator and bites the back of his neck in a sustained manner. He holds the scruff of fur on the back of his brother’s neck like a mother cat would when she picks up her kitten. This calms our anxious kitty down within seconds. The peace of wild things.
“I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.” Forethought. But what about now? When my cat holds his brother, it is as if he is saying “feel this now.” And apparently studies have shown that a kitten’s blood pressure can drop within seconds of being held in this manner. It is so beautiful to witness this dance of the peace. The peace of wild things, even if they are technically domesticated animals. What are we? Domesticated animals/wild things?
“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.”
Sometimes at night I listen to the sweet sounds of my cats purring as they sleep, along with the sound of my husband’s snorring. These sounds make me profoundly happy and contented. These boys, who sometimes have trouble resting, are at peace. And I rest in the beauty of this sound, their sounds, the peace of wild things.
“I come into the presence of still water and 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.”
When I listen closely to the flowers in the park, the luscious pinks, and vivid reds and oranges, the cool inky blues and purples, I hear a vibration. Yes, colors have sound, and they move, and breathe. Everything breathes and vibrates and pulses. Many hearts beating, many organisms breathing, all at once. A cacophony of sound and color that is at the same time peaceful, for it is as it should be. Peaceful and wild.
In yoga we are taught to ask the question, again and again, “who am I?” and “who is the breather?” In practice we can observe that the body breathes itself, the heart beats itself. We might observe, extend, condition or even stop our breath for a time. We can affect the rate and quality of our breath, the rate and force of our heart, our vital energy, our life force. We can watch and affect the flow of our thoughts and observe their stoppage for time. And yet the body will breathe itself, the heart will beat itself and the life force will pulse at a certain frequency – until it doesn’t. But the breath, this breathing, beating wide world of wild things goes on. And the peace is in the watching, the witnessing, the widened view, that takes in the wild things. And the peace that they are.
“For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
May we all.
Categories: Carrie Owerko