The Peace of Wild Things

Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve. Photo by Holland Colvin/Blueline

I woke up this morning, turned on NPR on my way to feed my dog and make coffee as usual, and was immediately stricken with news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Like all of us, my heart went out to the victims, survivors, and their families. And all the people who have experienced this in the past and continue to be traumatized by history repeating itself.

Whenever something like this happens, I recall a poem by Wendell Berry called “The Peace of Wild Things.” I hope it helps you feel just a bit calmer today:

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.

I first discovered this text when I performed a setting of it by Bloomington composer Malcolm Dalglish as part of his song cycle, Hymnody of Earth. It’s a beautiful piece that enhances the meaning of the words. Click here to listen to a recording made by Voces Novae, a Bloomington-based choir that I sing with.


– Abby Henkel, Communications Director