I want to share a poem with you this week, from Wendell Berry. There is a line that keeps coming up for me, expressing just the way I feel lately when I’m in nature. I am forever grateful to artists of all kinds, musicians, writers, actors, etc., because they really study life and find ways to deliver the richness of their exploration to all of us. I’m always moved by words or images that connect me to a part of myself which I had not yet named or entertained.
Just this week, when listening to a favorite podcast, the speaker said, “I’m afraid to go back to work.”, and I recognized that I share that sentiment. I hadn’t admitted it, nor used the word “afraid”, but I’m not ready. I’ve gotten used to this stay-at-home life and the world feels way too shaky to risk a misstep right now. My previous life, of work outside my home, feels too busy and bright, calling on skills I have shelved for now. I felt relief in having permission to admit that I am afraid. Of course, I don’t like to be afraid, but I have time now to sit with it. It’s pretty vulnerable, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m a slacker or a fraidy cat. But this is what is real right now.
I believe that I am also feeling the pull of the dark winter, and I don’t have to fight it as much now as in the past. I am not biking through the chilly rain, managing my lunch tubs and absent-minded drivers. There are no parties, no airports, no family gatherings, no plunging into the cold puddle in the fancy shoes, arms laiden with aioli brussels sprouts and foofy packages. For once, time off will mean more slumbering, more lounging, free of the clock and the pressure to chit chat, to be kind and present and good. There is less pressure to have so much fun! If I can behave skillfully, my break will also mean freedom from the news of the world, which too often ushers me smoothly into a great hall of despair, or at least worry. I am so ready to rest from the childishness that is still dominating every stage, trying to frighten everyone and keep us on full alarm, indefinitely.
This brings me to the poem, 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.
The “forethought of grief” reminds me of “anticipointment”, which means that I somehow know what is going to happen, and that it won’t be good! It also sounds like I am living in that reality instead of the one given to me, now. It’s quite egoistic to dream that I know all about the future, and thankless to choose this fantasy while ignoring this lovely overcast day, that is my present. The wild things, the mushrooms, moss, and ravens are my teachers. Yours may be children or your dog. I truly want to lie down now, and drink in this time of darkness. I feel trusting of nature’s inarguable truth – it’s dark, so get some more rest!
Everyone seems ready for a true rest. Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, would encourage warmth, truly nourishing meals, and grounding practices. We are told to surrender to the heaviness, to receive and embrace the darkness, to rest in the grace of the world. We can enjoy stews, golden milk and healthy fats. We can cuddle more, turning to the loved ones we can cuddle, and take long pauses before doing anything else. Restorative yoga, pranayama and meditation are excellent quieting activities. We need this time of growing downward, like deep roots, to sustain us in the coming year.
Take advantage of this unique holiday season, when you may establish some new traditions, like taking a nap every day! I whole-heartedly encourage you to cultivate slowness, calm and doing nothing.