Sunday, December 16, 2012

Peace and Wild Things

Today is Beethoven's birthday.
That man was never really at peace. He loved macaroni and cheese. Despite deafness and despising the philistine masses, he wrote heartbreakingly beautiful music. I cannot imagine life without him.


Here is something that has probably been said since caveman days: We live in an age of anxiety.
I wonder sometimes how any of us get out of bed and leave our homes and send our kids into the big cruel world. How do we meet strangers in the street or the emergency room, strangers who might be angry or suffering, and make ourselves vulnerable just to ease their needs?

Seriously, I wonder. But then what is the alternative? It is like when old people laying there in their hospital gowns with some age-related ailment look at me and say "don't ever get old!" Which feels sort of like a curse some Disney movie witch might make on you and the only way to break it is to find some handsome, vacuous prince who looks like he never worked a day in his life, to kiss you. Because you actually would like to get old, thank you very much! "I hate getting old" they say. I, not unsympathetically, usually answer, "well, consider the alternative."

I have no words for the recent tragedies in my community and in our nation, not to mention the whole damn world. I am not sure if more bad things are happening or if our constant and ready exposure to all things internet just makes it seem that way. Our runners. Our beautiful family. Our children in Connecticut. Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt. Downtown Eureka. The DOA in my ER, all of 20 years old. The newly diagnosed cancers in mothers of children. The bad decisions teenagers make. The political divisiveness of a country that often acts like a teenager. This country I love, to be clear.

I can cope, because of Beethoven. Also, running in places that are so lovely I can hardly contain my joy, despite achy hamstrings and elusive speed. I can cope, because of my perfectly real and delicious children, family, friends. In our world, our anxious world, lies the Balm of Gilead.

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 the 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

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