“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 . . .”
You might recognize these words as the beginning of Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things.” I have to admit that in the last few years, despair for the world has grown in me. When that happens, I start feeling useless and hopeless. I begin to think that nothing that I do matters, and there is, in fact, nothing that can be done.
What I need at the moment of despair is to be re-grounded in my faith, and in the roots of hope that dwell in me deeply. How do I get there?
Wendell Berry points the way when he says,
“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.”
My path, of course, is a bit different, but it moves in the same direction. It does involve animals. I take a moment to stand in the barn late at night where the sheep have bedded down. I note their steady breathing and the way the lambs, after a full spring day of romping through the pasture together, have found their moms and are curled up snug beside them.
Or I stop in the midst of my early morning routine to watch my border collies race through the pasture, before we have let the sheep out. Giaco, the guardian dog, sits with a regal pose on a little rise he has found, and watches over us all.
Or I take the time on Lamb Day to see the wonder on a child’s face when she holds her first lamb, or he just stands at the fence and watches.
We all need places of renewal. We need to remember we are not on this journey alone. As the naturalist John Muir said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the bodynand soul.”
My prayer for all who are feeling despair these days is that you too might find ways to reground yourself in hope. For me, I go to the peace of my farm. I invite others there too. As Berry says,
“For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”