Who is not in favor of peace? I don’t just mean those periods that sometimes break out between wars. No, what I mean is more like tranquility. Peace may exist in an external circumstance, such as our Torch Lake morning moments shown in Kim’s photos, and it may also exist as an inner emotional or psychological state, which often occurs, not coincidentally, at the same time.
“This is heaven,” Kim said.
“Yes, it is.”
“That doesn’t mean there isn’t any yardwork to do in heaven . . ..”
Yesterday afternoon I was working down by the shore while Kim was planting groundcover plants in the front garden. My job was to remove weeds, roots and all, from the stretch of dirt and sand just above our beach. The work involved taking a large shovel-full of dirt, dumping it on a screen that may have been used for catching minnows, sifting it through the screen while pulling out weeds and roots, then returning the clean dirt and sand to the future beach-side garden. Shovel by shovel-full, row by row, I made very slow progress, but my tub of weeds and roots grew. My back was to the lake, but I could hear the waves, sometimes intensifying minutes after a boat had passed by unnoticed. There was a satisfying rhythm to my work – digging, kneeling, sifting, standing, shoveling back – and it helped that the temperature was a perfect 67. Peace . . .. We were both at peace, making our home.
Wendell Berry wrote:
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.
Or make it. Sometimes I have to create my sense of peace. I take a moment or two. It might be in a favorite place – down by the lake, or in my leather Stickley chair, or on the porch where I can see the lake and the birds. This may be like meditation, a practice I admire but have never knowingly practiced. Sometimes I mentally subtract items off my Worry List – family stresses, politics, human greed and stupidity. I pay attention to something in my visual or auditory world – a landscape, waves, shadows, a bird, or maybe just breathing. Maybe a focus on something or someone who I appreciate. Peace may occur during a pause, or through the pleasure of work.
Kim does the same thing when looking through the viewfinder of her camera. What Wendell Berry calls “forethought / of grief” disappears, and peace remains.
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