Monday, November 21, 2016

Go to the Field

The other day on Facebook or Twitter or maybe even Instagram, I saw a statement: "Take a break from social media, do some self care, spend time doing what you love."
That's how anxious and angry, uncertain and uneasy we are these days, fear contagious, hatred contagious, love working harder than ever and that is draining, you know? We have to be reminded to stop looking, stop reading, look up, look out, go talk to someone, find someone to wrap your arms around. Feel a heartbeat, touch warm skin, remember who you are and why you are here.
So this is my break from social media -- to the field, to the river, to the sky.
In my Field Notes book, I quote Mary Oliver poems in a couple of the essays, and here is another one, for today:

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is exactly what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
~ Mary Oliver

Back in the summer of 2006, when I came down to my family's summer house on Pugwash Point because my mother had cancer, my parents' dog had cancer, and my Pugwash Point friend Diana had cancer, I taped this poem by Wendell Berry into the opening pages of my scrapbook of what would turn out to be a life-changing six weeks.
I've been thinking of this poem a lot lately, and I'm sure many naturalists and outdoorsy types and country people have been searching it out as well these days. Or if not consciously doing so, perhaps simply seeking the fields and the water and the sky in their own version of this poem:

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.
~ Wendell Berry

These are the days for wind and rain, for fields and marsh, for clouds and the rays of the sun reaching down from the sky, searching, seeking, attempting reflection. The ground is muddy, heavy with water, impenetrable. I won't quote Leonard Cohen but you know the line about how the light gets in. We are all out there, walking through the fields, looking for the cracks.

As I type this, the clouds are greying up. I've lived here in the country long enough to know how the sky changes when snow is coming. A change in the weather is about to happen. It's going to get cold, finally. The pond will freeze and I will do something I've never done here, in the country, in the field, before. My hope is there, in the ice.

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