Here’s a great suggestion for summer travel from today’s guest poster Cathey Capers of Austin Texas: memorize a poem as you drive. I don’t know Cathey but I have a whole movie in my head of her driving along the coast and reciting Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things,” sometimes getting the words right and sometimes having to start over until the poem is all hers, forever connected to that that time in her life, to that highway, to the views outside her window.
The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry
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.
During National Poetry Month (April) I erected a poetry fence in my front yard where I and anyone can post poems. I decided to keep it up during the pandemic as its clear that people enjoy and perhaps need this relief. Your invitation has brought me farther afield . . .
“The Peace of Wild Things” was the first poem I voluntarily learned by heart as an adult. I was traveling to the coast and brought it along in the car to relieve the depression I often feel driving past mile after mile of big box stores! It has been such medicine through the years that I can take myself or offer others.
During these pandemic weeks, I’ve noted many community members, families, taking advantage of a hike and bike trail along Ladybird Lake (Named for Ladybird Johnson). This lake runs right through the heart of our town (Austin, Texas) from East to West and has portions of boardwalk above the water. There are also green lawns on both sides of the lake this time of year. It attracts such a diverse population that I thought it would be the perfect place to post the poem. I hope to catch a heron feeding but alas, only missed one flying by.
Short bio of Berry from a previous post:
Poet Wendell Berry (b. 1934) is an interesting fellow and prolific writer. Link here for more details. The short version: he’s a poet, novelist, essayist, environmental activist but not wholly a traditional one, and full-time farmer. He was friends with fellow Kentuckian Thomas Merton, the famous monk who wrote Seven Story Mountain.