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.
Wish I could claim authorship of this beautiful passage since it so aptly describes my love of the Great Outdoors, but the words belong to American novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer, Wendell Berry, from his The Peace of Wild Things.
If you’ve never journeyed where a vast wilderness still remains in America, I urge — no implore — you to do so. Yellowstone, Glacier and the Grand Tetons National Parks — put each and every one of them on your bucket list. Travel back in time to when this country was a vast wilderness filled with wild things, each a perfect cog in the marvelous wheel of life.
I feel very small in this big land with its big sky and towering mountains. The wilderness gives you perspective. It reminds you that you are only significant in your own mind and in the lives of those who love you. In the wild, you are no more or no less than the other creatures in it — each a connected part of the whole.
I saw a young buffalo a couple of days ago that had somehow broken its left, front leg. He was thin and struggling to stay with two other bulls who trod along in a continuous quest to graze. Watching the trio, I realized that the hurt bison probably won’t make it through the winter. Three legs won’t push through the deep snow to keep pace with the herd. He will lag behind and likely fall prey to wolves.
Harsh in its reality, the wilderness is sublime in the interrelation of all things. It reminds us of an eternal truth about the Creation. One life is often sustained by another’s death. Death is an integral part of the circle of life.
When I gaze upon the glory of the Creation, I face my own mortality. Life goes on with or without me. The only universe I am the center of is my own conciousness. Rather than disturb my soul, this truth calms it.
There’s reassurance in the natural world. It’s strangely comforting to gaze upon Old Faithful and know, with certainty, that the geyser will shoot skyward every 35 to 120 minutes. Few events of such power and magnitude in life are so predictable.
But it’s the uncertainty of life, combined with the inevitability of its end, that join to create our joy. Would we appreciate the miracle that is life as much if it was infinite?
Therein lies the peace found in wild things. An exuberant participation in the Creation with no thought beyond survival. Each has its season with no expectation of more and no knowledge of less. Existence is the moment.
Turn, turn, turn.