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 green 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 “The Peace of Wild Things” fromThe Selected Poems of Wendell Berry
When our young grandchild visits
and I watch her discover
the joys and sorrows of this world,
I remember there is light beyond the darkness we feel,
there is peace amid the chaos,
there is a smile behind the tears,
there is stillness within the noisiness,
there is grace as old gives way to new.
Well I know now the feel of dirt under the nails, I know now the rhythm of furrowed ground under foot, I have learned the sounds to listen for in the dusk, the dawning and the noon.
I have held cornfields in the palm of my hand, I have let the swaying wheat and rye run through my fingers, I have learned when to be glad for sunlight and for sudden thaw and for rain.
I know now what weariness is when the mind stops and night is a dark blanket of peace and forgetting and the morning breaks to the same ritual and the same demands and the silence.
~Jane Clement from No One Can Stem the Tide
I did not sleep last night — my mind would not stop, my blankets twisted in turmoil, my muscles too tight. The worries of the day needed serious wrestling in the dark rather than settling forgotten under my pillow.
Yet morning dawns anew and I’m comforted by the rhythm of hours starting fresh.
Today I’ll get my hands dirty digging a hole deep enough to hold the worries, and tomorrow forget where exactly I buried them.
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The moon was like a full cup tonight, too heavy, and sank in the mist soon after dark, leaving for light
faint stars and the silver leaves of milkweed beside the road, gleaming before my car.
Yet I like driving at night in summer and in Vermont: the brown road through the mist
of mountain-dark, among farms so quiet, and the roadside willows opening out where I saw
the cows. Always a shock to remember them there, those great breathings close in the dark.
I stopped, and took my flashlight to the pasture fence. They turned to me where they lay, sad
and beautiful faces in the dark, and I counted them – forty near and far in the pasture,
turning to me, sad and beautiful like girls very long ago who were innocent, and sad
because they were innocent, and beautiful because they were sad. I switched off my light.
But I did not want to go, not yet, nor knew what to do if I should stay, for how
in that great darkness could I explain anything, anything at all. I stood by the fence. And then
very gently it began to rain. ~Hayden Carruth “The Cows at Night”
All my life I’ve lived near cows,
sitting on a bony Guernsey back
while my father leaned in close to a warm flank
to rhythmically coax milk into a metal bucket.
I’d teach a tail-switching calf to drink from a pail
by leading its mouth, sucking my fingers,
down to the milky froth.
There were always cows out back,
or in the woods,
or across the road,
or on the road,
or following the winding path
or eventually in the freezer,
their great heads bobbing and curious,
ears waggling, tails swiping,
their sand paper tongues
licking clean each moist nostril.
So much is simpler for a cow~
a meadow of dewy grass, and full udders
awaiting the relief of the calf or the milker’s hands.
Maybe this is why I ruminate on life
chewing my cud on what was and is, just
waiting for the next thing to happen.