One of the greatest gifts of poetry is that it can find what we most need and desire and savor. And In times of turmoil within and without, the carved language of poetry can provide a rare bower of grace and wonder. When all is seemingly lost—and, strangely, especially, sometimes only then—a singing heart can find its grail.
That’s what T.S. Eliot sought in Four Quartets, composed in the darkest hours of the German bombardment of London during the Second World War. Amid the ash and debris of a falling world he found “the light is still / at the still point of the turning world.” Still points are what we need today, so that is the theme of this week’s mini-challenge.
Wendell Berry found such solace in “The Peace of Wild Things”:
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of 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.
Mary Oliver found rapture in that stillness in “Morning At Great Pond”:
in the purple shallows
a deer drinking;
as she turns
the silver water
crushes like silk,
shaking the sky,
and you’re healed then
from the night, your heart
wants more, you’re ready
to rise and look!
to hurry everywhere!
to believe in everything.
And in “Being Saved,” William Stafford says we can find stillness anywhere—country of city, suburbia or wilderness:
We have all we need, some kind of sky and maybe
a piece of river. It doesn’t take much more
if your ghost remembers the rest, how Aunt Flavia
called the cows in the evening, and there wasn’t
anything coming down the road except a Ford
now and then, or a wagon with a lantern.
Your could smell a little hay just to remind
the wind that sunlight would come back, and that
Heaven waited somewhere even if you couldn’t see it.
I don’t care now if the world goes backward—
we already had our show before the tornado came,
and somehow I feel in my hand all we ever held,
a ticket, a compass, a piece of iron,
our kind of pardon.
For this challenge, find your still place in a poem. It can be new or something that has long resonated in you—whatever makes offers the most grace to our lily pond. Or maybe it’s a favorite poem by another author.
Whatever, wherever you find it, then bring that stillness here.
Let’s turn this online little pond a resounding chapel of stillness.