Take Two Poems, and Call Me in the Morning

The path forward

Anxiety. Astonishment. Anguish. Anger. The cross-currents of emotion swirling through the nation as we await the coming Presidential Inauguration are easy to identify, but difficult to navigate.

Ill at ease and confessing to exhaustion, a friend may have spoken for multitudes when she said, “I’m sick of it all. I’m sick of the nastiness; sick of conflict; and sick with worry that, on January 21, we’ll find the real struggles have only begun.”

Despite the seriousness of her concerns, I couldn’t help smiling at her references to sickness. My mother, a consummate diagnostician, mastered the art of separating true illness from  childhood excuses before I reached first grade. I always knew when I’d been found out, because she’d dismiss me with a saying far more common in the 1950s than it is now: “Take two aspirin, and call me in the morning.” It was her way of saying, “It’s not serious, and you’ll be fine.” She always kept an eye on her little excuse-maker, but in almost every instance I was fine, and life went on.

Recently, I found myself thinking that a slight revision of her advice might be useful in these tumultuous times. “Take two poems and call me in the morning” does have  bit of a ring to it, but the phrase also raises a question: which poems should be prescribed? 

I often turn to a pair of poems from Wendell Berry: one quite familiar, the other less so. His poem titled “The Peace of Wild Things,” first published in 1968, is often quoted because of the comfort it offers:

When despair 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 for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

My favorite of his poems, titled “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” is sharper, with more of an edge. The sharpness makes it especially appropriate for a time marked by edginess; what it lacks in gentle comfort, it makes up for in wisdom.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.
 

Comments always are welcome.

118 thoughts on “Take Two Poems, and Call Me in the Morning

  1. I keep asking Ben, “why am I so tired.” Too few poems, I think.
    I want to lie down where the wood drake rests. I want to rest in the grace of the world.

    The second poem does offer me gentle comfort. “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”

    Thank you Linda.

    1. Berry has an especially clear-eyed view of the world, and I’ve long thought his willingness to consider ‘all the facts’ is a large part of what makes his voice so memorable. You’ve reminded me, too, of the ending of his poem titled “What We Need is Here”:

      “…Geese appear high over us,
      pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
      as in love or sleep, holds
      them to their way, clear
      in the ancient faith: what we need
      is here. And we pray, not
      for new earth or heaven, but to be
      quiet in heart, and in eye,
      clear. What we need is here.”

  2. It’s always comforting to see how much poetry from the past applies today. It reminds us that we’ve been here before and are still alive and kicking. But on a lighter note, the reference to computer punch cards might puzzle those who weren’t around in those early days. We made a Christmas tree out of them back when we were poor and I was in grad school. All it cost us was a can of green spray paint.

    1. It’s especially interesting that Berry still is with us. He was born in 1934, and lives on his farm in Kentucky. One of my favorite books is The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. As it happens, the first chapter is titled “A Native Hill,” and the first sentence of the book is “The hill is not a hill in the usual sense.” Whether he has a dry creek, I’m not sure.

      I came to computers post-punch cards, but I do remember them. In one office where I worked, stacks of them were used as note cards: just fine for jotting down a grocery store list or other to-do items. Clearly, they were multi-purpose; your Christmas tree sounds delightful.

    2. I found Berry’s chapter titled “The Hill” online. It’s a scanned .pdf, so it’s a little awkward to read, but I was reminded of how it resonated the first time I read it. It’s always fun to see what another reader underlines and annotates, too.

  3. The line, “…every day do something that won’t compute…” describes one of the toughest things to do in the real world. We find comfort in habit, but we find memories in making ourselves uncomfortable.

    1. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that doing ‘something that doesn’t compute’ isn’t necessarily the same as being contentious or cantankerous simply to annoy others. Berry’s line always reminds me of this, from Thoreau: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” No matter how it’s phrased, it is a hard task — but rewarding in the end.

    2. I also enjoyed that especially. My thoughts went more to those things we do that are not for profit, power, or other gains recognized by the calculations he mentions.
      My thing today, perhaps, was that I melted down the saved ends of six jarred candles to make one new giant jarred candle. I do not believe that would “compute” on any of the metrics calculators from the corporate world I left, but it brought me peace and a grounding well worth the time.

  4. Yes, like texasflashdude I also took note of “…every day do something that won’t compute…” –in the context of the poem I found it interesting. But the lines that will stay with me are right at the end, the fox etc and the surprise ending “Practice resurrection.” which hit me like a lightning bolt. Partly due to the poem itself, but also because I have Bishop Owensby’s latest book ‘A Resurrection Shaped Life’ and for me the phrase was especially emphatic, urging me to greater focus on what I’ve learned and what that means in daily living. So thank you very much Linda!

    1. The fox is my favorite part of the poem; I love the thought of him making more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. The suggestion that ‘the wrong track’ sometimes is exactly the ‘right track’ makes me smile.

      As for practicing resurrection, isn’t that an interesting phrase? It certainly suggests a daily dynamic rather than a once-in-history event; I suspect it’s that view that pervades Bishop Owensby’s book, just as it underlies Berry’s writings.

    1. “The farmer with a pen” is exactly right. Berry’s views aren’t only ‘about’ the land, they arise out of his relationship with the land, and the communities it fosters. He reminds us of our roots, and what we risk losing if we cut ourselves off from them.

  5. Terrific poems, Linda. The first a prescription to lose despair. The second a warning to all of us to be vigilant to keep our freedoms. This is especially important given the increased appearance of socialism in our lives.

    1. The power of nature to ease the human spirit is one of Berry’s primary themes, and “The Peace of Wild Things” is a wonderful example.

      As for freedom, Berry’s own life is filled with examples of what personal freedom might look like. This follow-up article to one of Berry’s most famous essays always makes me smile. I’m not about to give up my computer, but I understand Berry’s point of view here:

      “Nobody could be bored who is really searching the world for knowledge to inform the mind. So why stick a keyboard and a screen between the mind and the world? I’m not without information. I study the fields, the woods, and the river. I read, and I hear, and I remember…. You’ve become free only when you begin to choose. Take it – or leave it. That’s our freedom, that’s real freedom.”

    1. Every now and then I think of Ben Franklin, and wonder what he’d think about our current circumstances. As he so famously said, we have a republic rather than a monarchy; whether we can keep it seems an increasingly open question.

      “Practice resurrection’ is such an interesting phrase. What form ‘resurrection’ takes no doubt differs from person to person, but the implications of ‘practice’ are clear. The mistakes and failures are part of the process; learning from them, and then continuing on, is what’s important.

  6. “so long as women do not go cheap for power” You could probably expect that phrase to be significant to me. So many women have sold out for so little. And the men fall right behind – or before depending on one’s perspective. Where are men and women who hold out for respect and accountability? If I had been smart enough and quick enough, I would have written the second poem.

    1. We certainly could use more respect and accountability in our national life, not to mention between individuals. Men and women, too. It occurred to me that you would enjoy learning about Tanya Berry, too. She’s Wendell’s wife, his editor, and a canner of green beans. I enjoyed re-reading the article, myself.

      Like you, I would have liked to have written that second poem. Aren’t we lucky that Mr. Berry did?

    1. That first poem is familiar to a lot of people. I suspect it’s one of his most-published; I certainly come across it quite often. I suspect the title of the second puts some people off, but I’ve always appreciated it. I like the question lurking under the surface: is the ‘mad’ farmer angry, or crazy. Maybe, it’s a little of both.

    1. Thank you, Derrick. One of the things I like about Berry is his ability to be comfortable without oozing into sentimentality; his poems usually are bracing, in one way or another.

  7. Obviously, as other poetry lovers do, I know the Peace of Wild Things off by heart, but the other poem you quoted is totally unfamiliar to me. It’s almost polemical in a non political way. Wonderful, if very uncomfortable and disturbing. The mirror it holds up is one not many will want to look into very often. And yet we should, all of us.

    Why does it take a poet to make us want to find a way out of the furrow we are treading?

    1. That’s it, exactly: “polemical in a non-political way.” He has his convictions about what makes for life on a human scale, and he lives those convictions quietly and without much fuss. What he says is what he does, which makes for some remarkable writing; you’ll never hear him saying, “Do as I say, and not as I do.”

      The best, most amusing, and quite readable example of Berry as polemicist may be his early article on computer use. It was published in Harpers years ago, and I still read it from time to time, just because.

  8. I agree with your friend – I’m sick of it all. I avoid political posts and throw up my hands on both sides of the current stage.
    You’ve brought up an excellent idea – I just may get back into reading poetry again (more than I do now on the blogs). It will surely be more comfort than anything the media has to show me.

    1. I’ve never minded politics, and I grew up in a family where political disagreements were the norm. But so much political discourse these days is at the level of “So’s your old man!” — schoolyard taunts. When irrational rage and name-calling replace reason, it’s not very interesting, and very little gets accomplished. A good poem — or a good history book — is a better option.

  9. “So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute.” What a delightful idea. Some might suggest I’ve mastered that ability throughout the years.

    Also love the line: “I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.” If only I was that wild.

    1. That “forethought of grief” reminds me of my mother, who was a great ‘what-iffer.’ She could anticipate griefs you can’t even imagine. The line carries an echo of Seneca, too. He may have lived centuries ago, but even he understood that ‘peace of wild things.’ I’ve always liked this aphorism of his: ““There is nothing so wretched or foolish as to anticipate misfortunes. What madness it is in your expecting evil before it arrives!”

    1. Increasingly, the ‘news’ isn’t news at all. Just as with television “soap operas,” you can check in once a week and find that the plot hasn’t advanced very much. If something truly newsworthy happens, we’ll all know about it. In the meantime — there are lakes, music, books, and real conversation to be had!

  10. ‘Practice resurrection’–we all need a little of that. Like your friend, I’m sick of it all, sick at heart. I’m hoping this week ends with peace and no drama, and a new beginning. The poems are a good start with that for me. Thank you, Linda!

    1. I wonder whether some of the reporters, commentators, and politicians are going to experience a strange sort of withdrawal as the transition takes place. Drama can be addictive, and despite their complaints, they may find themselves missing it all.The last thing we need is someone stirring the pot just for the adrenalin rush; here’s hoping they’re all ready for a little peace and quiet.

      1. Yes, we’re all hoping (praying desperately?) for boring competence, but I think we’re all suffering just a bit from some ptsd. That includes the media, as they’ve been playing news wack-a-mole.

  11. There is much to consider after reading both poems – both speak to me with great depth. I truly enjoyed this writing. I am long tired of being surrounded by lost sheep and those who have given up, which is disheartening. I’m very in touch with the wild, which is where I have spent more than a decade. For a long time I have practiced what I’ve learned from the wild things about instinct, being alert, and survival. I think it will be important to be alert in the days to come.

    1. You’ve brought to mind the concluding stanza of William Stafford’s “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”:

      “It is important that awake people be awake,
      or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
      the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
      should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.”

      The entire poem is here.

      Your relationship to your land and to your creatures was much on my mind when I recently read the first chapter in Berry’s agrarian essays, titled The Art of the Commonplace. I found the chapter online, scanned by a reader. I think you’d enjoy reading it. I especially like this:

      “The hill is like an old woman, all her human obligations met, who sits ­day after day, in a kind of rapt leisure, at an intricate embroidery. She has time for all things. Because she does not expect ever to be finished, she is patient with details. She perfects flower and leaf, feather and song, the briefest life in great beauty as though it were meant to last forever.”

      He’s a wonderful writer, who understands what it means to be human, and to live in harmony with nature.

      1. I learn so much here. Now that retirement has arrived, I’ve found myself able to enjoy reading again. I’ve spent a couple of hours this morning, listening to Wendell Berry and reading his work. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction. I can’t tell you how many times you’ve directed me to a book that spoke to me. Every suggestion has been fitting for the current path in my journey. Thank you!

  12. Your mama was very wise, Linda. And it’s obvious she had you figured out! Little ones can run their parents wild if the adults succumb to every whim or complaint registered. Thanks for posting these poems. I happen to like the first one better — so many wonderful lines about peace and comfort there! Still, the second has its place, and I especially appreciate his admonition to laugh!

    1. From the stories I’ve heard, I wasn’t too hard to figure out. Every time I told a fib or tried to weasel out of something, my nervousness gave me away. Like every bad poker player in the world, I had my ‘tells.’ In fact, my dad always told me not to play poker.

      That first poem is a gem, and I’m not surprised you enjoyed it. I think especially in our current circumstances, its appeal can’t be denied. We all could use a rest at this point!

  13. I can relate to your ‘sick of it all’ friend. But the two aspirins, in my case, would work better than the poems because I have a hard time concentrating on certain kinds of literature right now. Fingers crossed for the nation over the next few days.

    1. I think an inability to fully concentrate’s one reason poetry appeals to me at certain times. I can’t imagine advising, “Take two Russian novels and call me in the morning,” even if current events sometimes seem to resemble Dostoyevsky more than Dickinson.

      It has been a season for aspirin, that’s for sure. I suspect it’s going to take some time to see how things are going to shake out. Keep that bottle handy.

    1. As we’ve agreed before, all of us have choices: where — and how much — to engage with social media, how deeply to immerse ourselves in the ‘news,’ and so on. Those who profit by drawing us in don’t usually promote hope or joy, and they’re often quite ungracious. We need to nurture those better qualities on our own — hence, these poems.

    1. One of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard, echoes the sentiment in her book The Writing Life: “The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

    1. Strange times, indeed — and no doubt strange for a while, yet. No matter. Beauty and life endure, and we still can find ways to share them (even if the new ways of sharing are a little strange!)

    1. It’s a fine poem, isn’t it? I suspect every one of us has had times when we would have welcomed the kind of peace he describes — and how blessed we are when we find it.

    1. The man speaks truth, doesn’t he? What tickles me most about that line is knowing that for his whole career as a writer, he wrote with pen or typewriter. He never computed, because he never had a computer. Amazing.

      1. There are times I wish I had none. Or a cell phone. I dream of friends writing letters like we used to 20+ years ago. But then I figure no one would still write.
        The art of the attention span is dying faster and faster.

        1. I am fond of my computer, obviously. But I’ve managed to resist the smart phone, and still make do with an old-style flip phone that only makes phone calls. Imagine that. Sometimes, I even leave my phone at home, and still manage to make my way through the day.

          1. A boss gave me my first smart phone 12-13 years ago. And then proceeded to enjoy how tethered I was to my work.
            My current phone is more than four years old, leftover from that same boss, and when it dies I’ll be investing in a digital camera again and perhaps getting my first land line since 2003.
            I do, now, leave home without my phone. It took months and months for the anxiety around that separation to ease, as the tether had already been cut but the pattern was ingrained into deep grooves.

            1. I don’t usually miss my land line, but there were some advantages. For example, with it hooked up to an answering machine, I always could call post-hurricane evacuation, and if the message came on, I’d know that the electricity was back on. It was one of those little things that made life much easier.

            2. We had power outages every winter growing up. Sometimes for weeks. The landline rarely went out when the power did. It was a nice way to get an ETA on the repairs for our rural (and thus low priority) area.
              Somehow it also feels calmer putting the impetus on folks to keep trying, instead of the hot potato of voicemail or even of text messages.
              Although I’ll miss texts if I do go solely landline, so flip phone may be the route for me.

  14. I would amend that wonderful Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” with the phrase, “the realization that I can do more to effect change than I think I can.” All it takes is one goose flying in the right direction to begin the migration to a saner, happier world.

    1. As long as that goose is flying and not stepping, it’s all good. Tongue-in-cheek humor aside, you’re right. One goose can shape the flock’s behavior. On the most mundane level, I see it in traffic. If I have a chance to let someone change lanes in front of me in the construction zones, more times than you’d suspect I see the person behind me doing the same. I think people sometimes forget how nice decent behavior can feel.

  15. Dear Linda,
    what a fine symbolic picture and what an excellent title of this post. And now Siri :-) and :-) Selma want to join the Mad Farmers Liberation Front – GREAT!
    Thank you very much for sharing your ideas
    The Fab Four of Cley
    :-) :-) :-) :-)

    1. Klausbernd, do you remember the “Singing Revolution” that took place in Estonia, and that helped to about independence there? That seems to me to be very much the spirit of Berry’s “Manifesto” — revolutionary to the core, but not violent. Even better, both of those revolutions are scalable; they work for individuals as well as for societies.

      I’m pleased you enjoyed the photo, too. It’s one of those that’s been tucked away for years, waiting for its time to shine. There’s a time and a place for every photo, I think!

      1. Dear Linda,
        thank you very to remind us on “Singing Revolution”. That’s a perfect example of art serving a purpose in an intelligent way.
        Interesting your idea “There’s a time and a place for every photo.” We have to think about it.
        Keep well and thank you
        The Fab Four of Cley

  16. The first poem is so calming. After reading the second, I, too, want to join the Mad Farmers Liberation Front!

    To the Serenity Prayer I would also add the Persian adage, “This too shall pass.”

    Last, but not least, you can be like the kitten in the once popular poster: “When you’re reached the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

    1. “This, too, shall pass” is something I heard quite often as a kid. My mom and my grandmother pulled it out on occasion; it was the all-purpose panacea. Of course, now you’ve brought back another, meant-to-be-humorous saying: “Cheer up, they told me; things could be worse. So I cheered up, and sure enough — things got worse.”

      Your kitten poster is in the “Keep Calm” family. I wonder how many variations of “Keep Calm, and Carry On” there are? I remember everything from “Keep Calm, and Keep Knitting” to “Keep Calm, and Stop Being an Idiot.” I did find this history of the poster, which you probably already know.

      1. I had no idea it was that old. I know I’ve seen those ‘Keep Calm…’ themes on everything from tee shirts to coffee cups and beyond. I just thought it was something someone had come up with fairly recently.

  17. Linda you picked some timely and excellent poems, thanks! That second poem could serve very well as a creed, got some teeth in it & packs a good punch. And energizing! Felt like I needed to get up from my chair and march somewhere by the end of it. (But zigzagging of course, to throw ’em off the trail, like that fox in the poem!) Good stuff.

    1. I love that second poem. If I had to make a forced choice between the two, that would be the one I’d choose. It is energizing — I sometimes think of it as ‘bracing.’ It certainly presents a view of life that’s appealing: lived as a whole, with husband, farmer, citizen, patriot, friend, all presented as aspects of a single, engaged person.

      I like his long view of things, too. This is so great:

      “Say that the leaves are harvested
      when they have rotted into the mold.
      Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
      Put your faith in the two inches of humus
      that will build under the trees
      every thousand years.”

  18. I’ve been reading a few poems from Gary Snyder every morning, Linda, a poet of the earth and the wild. And I’ve been focusing on an artist each day, a return to my days of wandering the world’s great art museums. Today it was Berthe Morisot. And I go out with Peggy and hike up our mountain for an hour each day. Now I am watching the birds and deer and gray squirrels going about their daily business in our yard. And as I watch and write this note to you, I am listening to Moody Blues. “Tuesday Afternoon” is playing now.”Something is calling to me…”

    We need good men and women in politics, people who care about people, people who care about the nation, people who care about the world. I’m a realist when it comes to politics, having spent much of my life on it’s edge. But I am optimistic. I have to be. Now more than ever. –Curt

    1. Realistic optimism is one of the best combinations in the world. And your daily practice reminds me of Goethe’s advice: “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” We’ve been a little short on reasonable words in some quarters of late, but at least we can control our own words — or make a good attempt at it. Onward!

      1. Onward, indeed, Linda. Reasonable words are in high demand.
        I started my music with Simon and Garfunkel. I’ve now moved on to KD Lang. My artist was Edgar Degas. I’ve been going through the Phillips Collection. I’ve never seen it in Washington, always hanging out at the National Art Gallery. Next time I visit the kids in Virginia, it’s on my priority list! Assuming of course we can get by Covid. –Curt

  19. Art in all of its forms can be a great balm for our struggles, and the two poems here are no exception. (I also enjoyed Curt’s list of all his home remedies!) Thanks for the out-of-the-ordinary analgesics today!

    1. Even better, these pain relievers don’t require a co-pay, and the prescription never goes out of date! I smiled at Curt’s remedies, too. I reminded him of Goethe’s famous admonition: ” “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” It just occurred to me that Goethe’s not advising us to judge others’ words as reasonable or unreasonable, but to judge our own words. That might be the harder task.

  20. Love the title of your post. Indeed, Wendell Berry could well be a virtual doctor; his poetry potent meds. BTW, that last line of “Manifesto…” particularly stands out.

    1. I didn’t realize until about ten minutes ago that some documentaries on Berry have been done. This clip from The Seer is especially interesting because of his comparison of writing and film making — a topic dear to your heart.

      I found another film, produced by Robert Redford and Terrence Malick, that’s available for rent. It’s been screened at SXSW and Sundance; when I saw Malick’s name, I put it on my to-be-watched list. The title is Look and See. Here’s the trailer.

  21. I do appreciate the poems, but I also believe that your friend may have been expressing real distress, instead of something imagined. There are legitimately frightening things going on in the world, and the only guarantee that thing won’t go badly might be our collective decision to involve ourselves in the issues, rather than taking two aspirin and hoping they’re gone tomorrow.

    1. Of course she was expressing real distress; that’s why I mentioned the seriousness of her concerns. I think the sense of unease and heartsickness that she was feeling is more widespread than many realize. It’s not just members of one political party or supporters of one candidate or another who feel it; we all have. That’s why your suggestion that we all need to be involved in moving forward and righting some wrongs is so on target; I think we’re at a point where more people than usual are willing to do that.

      Of course, taking a couple of aspirins, or a couple of poems — or a couple of cranberry lime muffins! — before re-engaging isn’t the worst thing in the world. People who are exhausted need to regain their strength.

  22. The Peace of Wild Things is my favourite of his. I never even heard of it until I watched a documentary called OMG GMO which starts out with the rather haunting rendition of it. Great doc btw about seeds and of course GMO of them, etc. Nicely done. I saw it on Netflix and now its on Amazon Prime.
    As a poem it is rather perfect.

    1. I found OMG GMO on Amazon, and added it to my watch list. Thanks for the recommend! There’s another film about Berry I found that I’m going to pay the $5 to watch. It’s titled Look and See. You can find the trailer here.

      While I love his poetry, I’ve been reading more of his essays. There doesn’t seem to be one bit of a gap between what he writes and how he lives.

  23. It is a wise thing to turn to Wendell Berry for solace during difficult times. Of course, there is a reason that “The Peace of Wild Things” is so well known. It is a good example for us to follow when we are troubled and looking for answers. Your mother, and you, have passed on good advice. Most things are not as bad as they seem and those that are can be dealt with.

    A similar bit of advice I enjoy comes from the folk singer, Chris Smither…
    “Don’t worry ’bout the future, you can’t afford the price
    There’s madness to the method when you pay the piper
    Twice once when you start to worry
    Once again when you begin to take the future on the
    Chin I know that you think worry is your ever-faithful
    Friend cuz nothin’ that you worry over ever happens in the
    End”
    from “Outside In“.

    1. I can’t remember hearing Smither, or hearing about him, but I got interested when I saw he’d recorded an album at Blue Rock in Wimberly in 2017. Somewhat ironically, that venue is about 40-50 miles due east of where my car broke down the second time. I don’t know why that amuses me, but it does.

      Here’s one clip from a Blue Rock concert. There are quite a few online. They’re doing virtual concerts now, and from what I’ve read, they’re doing them as well as anyone in the business.

      1. That appears to be a great venue and they perform well. There are any number of fine musicians out there and each state has many to discover. I’ll have to check out others of her group’s performances judging by those snippets.
        I’d heard of Smither early on but never really paid too much attention to his music until “Train Home” came along. Now several of his CDs travel with me on my trips both long and short. He was among the first to do in home performances for YT and as it turns out lives here in Amherst.

  24. Strangely, downunder in Australia, I can only echo your friend’s sentiments.

    I keep reasonably up to date with the situation in the U.S. mainly because of friends and fellow bloggers in the country.

    I can’t wait to see some positive, well-thought-out action from Biden. He appears to have great experience under the Obama regime so let’s wait and see.

    1. I think humans around the world share the same concerns. At this point, I suspect most people are ready for a little stability, and a little less verbal bomb throwing. As long as people settle down and remember that ‘unity’ doesn’t require complete agreement on every issue, I think we’ll be on our way to something better.

  25. Both good poems for these times. The fox reminds me of a line in a play, sometimes you have to go a long distance out of your way in order to come back a short way correctly. Or something like that.
    Berry’s short stories are worthwhile as well.

    1. That reminds me of those puzzles I never could solve–the kind where you’re supposed to connect several dots with only one line, without lifting your pen. The answer usually involved a line extending out beyond of the dots, in order to come back at an angle and reach another. (Of course you can find anything on the internet. Here it is, with a little history thrown in!)

      I’ve not read any of Berry’s fiction: only his poems and essays. I’ll have to give the stories a try.

  26. I feel so much better about myself after reading the second poem. Indeed, we planted a sequoia 15 years ago. It recently survived the crash of our centerpiece 200-year-old live oak, which came down last month. A tiny pine that we had received as a table gift at wedding also survived. The column I wrote about this loss is in the Big Timber, Pioneer newspaper. Not sure if you can access it.

    The first poem is splendid. In times like these, I find going outside on a clear night and gazing at the galaxy, does, indeed, quiet my mind.

    Hope all is well with you!

    1. I found the Big Timber Pioneer, and I found “Big Tree Memories” in “Notes from Around the Block,” which I think surely must be you. Unfortunately, you’re premium content, and even though I’m sure the column’s great, paying for a year’s subscription to read it isn’t going to happen. The yearly price is fair for anyone in the neighborhood, though. It was fun looking through the e-edition.

      I’m remembering a favorite line from Annie Dillard, again: “You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.”

      1. Got it. The Big Timber Pioneer is a once-weekly small town newspaper, which luckily for me, is also offered digitally. Big Timber is the “county seat” of Sweet Grass County, population 3500. If you would like, I will forward to your email the paper.

        1. That would be great. I’m finding that these local papers are well worth reading. How the NYT or WaPo would describe life in Sweet Grass County is one thing; what the Big Timber Pioneer has to say about things is quite another.

  27. I am not sure two poems will save the world’s problems. They are simply to grave for that. I would think you mother would have recognized that as well (and I write that with all respect). But poems and art in general does play an important part in bringing the world back to normalcy – whatever that is. And these two poems are great for that purpose. In continuation of this, I want to congratulate you with a smooth transition after all, to a new presidency. And with comes hope for better times, as well. I think.

    1. No, two poems won’t solve the world’s problems. In fact, a hundred poems wouldn’t do the trick. On the other hand, people solve problems, and if a poem or two can revive a flagging spirit or provide a bit of courage — well, who knows what might happen?

      One of the most remarkable examples of art shaping history is the Singing Revolution that took place in Estonia. A whole nation refusing to abide by a government’s demand that they stop singing still is inspiring. And of course there’s the famous “flower power” photograph. The article I linked is interesting proof of what happens if a photographer refuses to take “no” from an editor!

  28. I recall other elections and events over a half-dozen decades which have elicited feelings of extreme angst. The world continues to revolve. Some of us resist. Some of us adjust. Politics seems to definitely fit the old adage: “The more things change the more they stay the same.”

    Two Berry poems can definitely help one’s outlook!
    I shall take his advice:
    “…. Go with your love to the fields.”

    (Wash. Rinse. Repeat.)

    Thank you for making this day better.

    1. Or, as I learned to say in Texas, “What goes around, comes around.” On the other hand, what’s going and coming is happening at a frantic pace these days, exacerbated by click-hungry media, general social media use, and the dark web. Thank goodness for the fields and the birds and the ability to still make some choices in life.

    1. I think that’s true for many of us. The staff at my local Wild Birds Unlimited store, where I purchase seed, says they’ve seen a remarkable surge in purchasing over the months of the pandemic; more and more homebound people have turned to bird watching as a way to connect with nature. I’ve found that my feeders cheer as well as calm. There’s nothing like a herd of squirrels to keep me amused.

  29. Thanks for this advice and these poems. A plus to be found in poems is that they last so much longer than aspirin. Turning the world upside down is a powerful and prolonged tonic…

    1. Poems do have a much longer shelf life. And you’ve just reminded me of these lines from another poet — Wordsworth.

      “The world is too much with us; late and soon,
      Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
      Little we see in Nature that is ours;
      We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

      Poetry and nature both are a way of reclaiming our hearts, I think.

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