It’s a gift to come across poems that, when you read them, sound familiar, in a ‘I-know-this-experience-I-just-haven’t-had-words-for-it’ sort of way. I’ve been living with a few of these during our pandemic times, and they make sense of things to me in ways all the commentators and news broadcasts fail to do. Here’s one that describes both my nighttime fears, and the consolation I then experience walking in my local park:
The Peace of Wild Things
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.
A neuroscientist, and perhaps a physiologist too, could explain why it is we find it soothing and consoling to walk in, and attend to, nature. Something about our neural pathways and nervous systems, no doubt. Indeed we are learning more all the time about the science of what poets and prayerful people have known for millennia: that our bodies are ultra sensitive to our environments and the different experiences we are subjected to … and that it does us good to live close to the earth. Mother Earth is a good mother. When we allow her to hold us close, when we allow ourselves to walk barefoot on her grass, to swim in her sea, to honour and wonder at the diversity she nurtures, we are soothed and nourished, and our souls find rest. As another, ancient, poet put it: “You lay me down in green pastures, you lead me beside the still waters, you restore my soul” (Psalm 23).