The Peace of Wild Things | A Poem by Wendell Berry

Fatherhood has brought with it some profound truths and terrifying moments of self-reflection. In the quiet moments lying in my bed, I find myself playing a mental game of fateful table tennis with myself. The realization that my character, my work ethic, my morals, my politics, and my faith will directly influence my children is both selfishly exhilarating and terrifying. It is in these late night contemplations that my trust in my Creator is tested. Do I know/trust his plan for my life, for my kids’ lives? Do I truly know him deeply? Does he know me?

Wendell Berry has captured this profound thought in one of my favorite works. In one simple verse he rips open the young father’s heart and exposes his deepest fears. This piece is a beautiful breathing in and out of man’s tragic desire for legacy and his paranoia that he is somehow inadequate, the inhale of panic and the sweet exhale of allowing grace to wash over him and bring him into the rest of his Creator.

The Peace of Wild Things

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.

Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things” from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press.
Source: Collected Poems 1957-1982 (Counterpoint Press, 1985)


Add yours →

  1. Love it…

    “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.”


  2. Justin Fortney July 20, 2015 — 8:31 pm

    One of Berry’s best. Good thoughts, sir.


  3. I struggle with leaving a legacy. I know most fathers deal with that, but it’s Nice to know I’m not alone.


  4. I’ll soon be needing more wild things. Always good for perspective.

    Reminded me of this poem. Though, more about manliness than fatherdom.


    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

    If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with triumph and disaster
    And treat those two imposters just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
    And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breath a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

    – rudyard kipling


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