There are times I suddenly have the urge to leave my urban setting and go in the woods, to the beach or outside anywhere I can’t hear the cars driving on pavement.

It’s when my mind ticks over and becomes mentally overwhelmed, and I just need the solace of nature. And I need to experience it alone.

So when I first read Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things,” it deeply resonated with me.

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.

The poem captures a need to be with nature. However, I don’t think it has to be actual wilderness. I think of this poem as speaking to an away-ness. While I feel the urge to go lie down where wood drake rests, not everyone does.

“When despair for the world grows in me” — yet the change that happens is physical. The narrator goes somewhere and the perspective leaves the self and pivots to something beautiful–nature.

While I personally like to take this poem literal because of my own experience, I think someone can also take away the idea that it’s about changing your perspective and focus off of the, let’s say, “ugliness inside” to the “beautiful outside.”


I recommend reading The Peace of Wild Things: And Other Poems by Wendell Berry and The Deleted World by Tomas Tranströmer.