Beside still waters



A steady southwesterly breeze persistently ruffles the water behind our house.  At times so stiff it will push whitecaps up that slap against the bulkhead and slosh around our little dock.  At gentler times the water birds strut.  The ducks and muskrats and turtles swim leaving a wake behind.  Fish surface or leap spreading rings that ripple in ever-widening circles.  Ospreys hunt, circling, then hovering, then striking, splashing, and heaving upwards, leaving a jagged tear in the water that smooths itself while they flap off fish in claw.

But early, early in the morning, in spring, sometimes in summer, the water is so still, so smooth, so glassy, so motionless that it mirrors the green, green trees in a beautifully soothing symmetry that receives my back porch pondering while the steam swirls up from my coffee cup.

I usually pray in the mornings, for family, for daily guidance, for South Sudan, North Korea, lately for a school full of girls kidnapped and sold to Boko Haram militants.  The rough, windblown water more readily reflects my heart and mind at those times, at most times, than this still, placid water.

Yet its very stillness is utterly arresting.

Walking into the kitchen with a soul in turmoil, sometimes tired before the day even begins, my eyes are drawn to the back window and the sight of still, still water mirroring green, green trees stops me in my tracks.  It’s as if nature has paused, and has taken a deep, deep breath, and then I realize that in looking, I have taken a deep, deep breath, and I am calmed.

“Be still, and know that I AM God.”

 The Peace of Wild Things

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


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