The Peace of Wild Things.
Driving to Wakehurst this morning for my artist in residency, on my car radio I hear bellicose Middle Eastern leaders holding forth, and reports of awful police investigations here in the UK. I’m overwhelmed by it, by feelings of despair and powerlessness.
Arriving at my ‘studio’, farm land at the back end of Wakehurst, I’m relieved to step out into quiet, green countryside. The hay that’s been drying in the field next to me has been baled and taken away; the landscape is expansive. As I set about my work, the writing of Wendell Berry, American farmer and poet, comes to mind:
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 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 while
I rest in the grace of the world and am free.
The Peace of Wild Things, Wendell Berry
Handling my crop of grasses, the rhythm of making hay rope and the sounds of insects and birds work their magic.
There are a couple of kestrels often flying across the field, one squawking away enthusiastically at the other. It must be a young bird, chasing its parent and harrying it for food.
In the huge old oak tree nearby is a barn owl nesting box, and I’ve heard that the parent owls can sometimes be seen in daylight hours, out hunting for the young. Although the young reach adult size in less than a month from hatching, they don’t fledge for another 50 to 60 days, and are fed by their parents for another month or more after that.
A green woodpecker yaffles away in a nearby orchard.
This dry, dusty barn I’m working in and the sweet smell of the hay I’m handling take me back to a childhood hayloft. I recall the feel of the wooden boards, the prickly hay, the woodworm-riddled manger we climbed on to get up into the loft: dark, dry and quiet.
It’s a wind tunnel here, though, and today that wind is strong. It catches a pile of my hay and carries it off down the farm lane like tumble weed. A small, amusing event in the midst of it all.