The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Berry

I think we all feel some “despair for the world” right now. At least, everyone I’ve talked with lately feels it.

I like Wendell Berry’s prescription, a classic by now, which absolutely works. It relieves despair—just speaking it eases me into “the grace of the world,” “for a time.”

It can’t erase that deep tug of sadness, though, and nor should it. That’s the shadow side of caring about the world, that pain, and as much as sometimes I wish to give it up, I can’t, and I’m glad of that.

Like When I Am Among the Trees, this is a poem to which I sometimes change the words, to touch my own closely-held wild places. “…I go and lie down where merganser hunts in her beauty on the water, where the otter kits play.” Especially when I do that, I remember: these are not “wild things,” but wild beings.*

It’s a failing in the title. English is not good at non-human animacy. And still, the poem stands. I lean on it when I feel that despair.

*This is a matter of debate among humans, of course, particularly if we come of settler-colonial ancestry. As we used to debate whether non-human animals feel pain, or have emotions. Etcetera.

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