The Peace of Wild Things (Wendell Berry)

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The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
Wood drake (illustrated by Corrie Haffly)

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.
Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things” from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998.


I have had an Emperors-New-Clothes fear of poetry for a long, long time: afraid I was the only one not understanding what the poet was trying to say. But more and more, I am encouraged to dip my toes into the waters of poetry and adventure in that world a while. It’s time.

I’m dedicating this November to exploring poetry: a poem a day, each day. I’m choosing ones that resonated with me in some way: that made me smile, think, or feel. And I’d love to invite you to join me to walk into this world of worded beauty.

Here’s something extra special, my wonderful friend Corrie (who illustrated each of the posts for the Courageous One series), was looking for a theme to do a November-drawing-month herself. I asked if she’d like to illustrate each day’s poem. She said Yes. I did a jig. She did a jig. We are excited.

So, for November: each day a poem, and a drawing.

I hope you enjoy this adventure. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am 🙂

Leave a Reply:

14 thoughts on “The Peace of Wild Things (Wendell Berry)”

  1. When I got to the words “and the great heron feeds” I felt that I was back in the woods along the coast, watching the heron glide across the still waters of the marches connecting woods to sea.

    1. This is the poem that sparked my wanting to do the Poetry month. Because the lines “in fear of what my life and my children’s life might be,” contrasted with “the peace of the wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief” stayed with me long, long after the reading.

  2. Oh my goodness Bronwyn! You have described my fear perfectly!!! I am joining your September group. Hooray! I was listening to a podcast from NPR’s On Being and it was interspersed with poetry read aloud by Wendell Berry. I am ready for this. Three I have liked recently are Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Alexander and Marie Howe. Enjoy!

    1. I just discovered Mary Oliver as I was looking for poetry for this month, but I had not heard of Elizabeth Alexander or Marie Howe…. I’m going to look them up immediately! Thank you! (Do you have a favorite?)

  3. Hooray for poetry! And the drawing is exquisite! And what a first selection for this world-weary traveler. Thank you friend ! Can’t wait to read along with you every day. Poetry, you know … it sneaks in under the skin, right to bone and marrow, sinew and cell. It sticks with you long after the reading. Its going to be a teary month, I can already tell.

    1. I was kind of stunned at how many FEELINGS I felt reading through poems for this first week. I’m in for it, friend. I know you know.

  4. I’m really looking forward to this month, Bronwyn. I have been writing poetry (well, maybe “trying to write poetry” would be more accurate) for a few years now and I find it so helpful and inspiring to read good poems and poets. I also love hearing what poems are special to other people. Gorgeous painting, too — what a lovely combination of word and image.

    “Day-blind stars waiting with their light”: doesn’t that line make a chill run up your spine? So beautiful.

    1. Oh I’m so excited that you’re excited! This is going to be such an adventure. I haven’t tried my hand at writing poetry and don’t know that I will… but oh! I’m so excited to be learning.

      I hadn’t noticed the “Day-blind stars” image until the third or fourth reading… and then OH! OH! OH! Yes, chills indeed.

    1. Oh thank you for this! My plan for the last day of November is to have a poetry link-up, where readers can post their own or a favorite poem… I hope you’ll post this link again!

    1. Hannah, apart from half a dozen limericks and three end-of-year-ministry-recaps done in rhymed verse, I have NEVER written poetry and didn’t set out this month to try. I’m exploring others’ work and don’t imagine I will try my hand at poetry….. but I guess they say ‘never say never’ for a reason?

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Photo credit: Christa Norman, Mel Draper Photography, and Jonathan Summer