Some thirty minutes drive from our present home in Louisville KY you can be in the midst of Bernheim Aboretum and Research Forest. Throughout these past many months of isolation it has been a place of great escape, and its beauty, in all seasons, offers an opportunity to recalibrate what is important and precious. Some folks are beach people, while others are woods and mountain folks. I guess I fall more often into the latter grouping, despite having had the joy and opportunity to live in beautiful coastal places for the majority of my life. The photograph above attempts to capture some of this beauty which can be enjoyed on many of the woodland trails and hikes in Bernheim. Staying in Kentucky, we encounter the poet and writer Wendell Berry, whose own appreciation for the natural beauty and landscape makes its way into his writing. Today I share with you two of his poems. As you ponder the words and images, pause from the list of to dos in front of you or in your head, and just breathe slowly and offer thanks and gratitude for beach or woods.
Suppose we did our work
like the snow, quietly, quietly.
leaving nothing out.
Look It Over
I leave behind even
my walking stick. My knife
is in my pocket, but that
I have forgot. I bring
no car, no cell phone,
no computer, no camera,
no CD player, no fax, no
TV, not even a book. I go
into the woods. I sit on
a log provided at no cost.
It is the earth I’ve come to,
the earth itself, sadly
abused by the stupidity
only humans are capable of
but, as ever, itself. Free.
A bargain! Get it while it lasts. – Wendell Berry
amidst my own hurry
amdist my endless lists of tasks
help me, I pray,
to pause and ponder.
Help me to enjoy this precious moment
without hurry towards what is next.
Thank you Lord God
for the beauty of creation, which is all around me.
For the small flower growing in the crack of the pavement,
for the beauty of the constellation of stars in the night sky,
for the beauty of tree and forest, sanddune and shore.
Above all, Lord God, I offer thanks and praise
for this present moment of life. Amen.
One thought on “‘Into the woods’”
I could never make a choice between sea, woods, mountains or pastures, and so we divide our time among all, knowing that there will be readily available beauty all around regardless of geography. Wendell Berry speaks so well to simple things, and many times during the pandemic I have thought of The Peace of Wild Things, and found comfort. I remember well reading Look it Over and thinking how he often includes a statement about humanity near the end of his poems, and offers sound and simple advice. I prefer this order, but he sometimes ends with a disheartening truth that always gives me pause. My favorite of his poems might well be In This World, though it ends harshly. Thank you for the poetry, the lovely prayer and the important reminders.