• Ellen Fiedler

The Peace of Wild Things

Monday mornings are actually my favorite time of the week. I wake up early so that I can do my morning routine in my own time, usually alongside my roommate if she hasn’t left the apartment to start her day yet. I leave early for my shift at the Truitt Center so that I have time to grab a coffee and a muffin from Oak House on my way- my incentive to get through the week.

One morning, Oak House was pretty empty and the baristas worked quickly, so I got to work with plenty of time to spare before my shift started. I decided to drink my coffee and enjoy a few moments for myself in the Meditation Garden, a beautiful space right outside the Truitt Center surrounded by brick walls crawling with vines and a spinning Kugel ball fountain (affectionately nicknamed Tigger by the staff), which represents all the small spiritual acts that can “move mountains.”

I’ve never been good at being still. Meditation frustrates me more than it brings me peace, and falling asleep has become a multiple-hour-long ordeal filled with bouts of anxiety and restlessness. Taking a drive to “clear my head” often ends in me being eager to get home and deal with whatever caused me to get in my car in the first place. My mom always tells me I’m making her seasick when my bouncing leg causes our couch to shake, a movement that has become so normal for me that I rarely notice myself doing it. Always moving, always restless, always wishing that the next moment would come sooner.

But when I got to the garden, I thought to myself, this will be perfect. The previous week took a lot out of me mentally and emotionally, and the weekend wasn’t as relaxing as I’d hoped it would be. I have ten minutes to sit here, sip my coffee, and just breathe in the summer air that is slowly cooling for fall. But as soon as I sat on the bench, my phone was in my hand and I was scrolling. Scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, Gmail, LinkedIn- whatever could keep my attention. Google Calendar harshly reminded me of everything I’d have to do once I left the garden. My “moment for myself” had become a moment for anything else, and before I knew it, it was over.

I was angry. When I looked at the clock and realized that my shift was about to start, I kicked myself for not taking proper advantage of my free time. I preach to my friends daily about the importance of self-care and finding moments of stillness but I couldn’t practice it myself when the opportunity practically threw itself in my face. I repost graphic after graphic on Instagram with breathing exercises and self-affirmations meant to bring peace, but I never actually take the time to do those exercises or repeat those words to myself. It’s easy to tell others to rest and find moments of stillness, but sometimes I don’t even know what that means even after the words come out of my mouth. As I gathered my things and went inside, Tigger continued to spin and let water flow down to its base without worrying about why it was doing it or for how long or what would happen if it suddenly stopped. At peace. Mocking me.

There’s not much of an ending here, or a lesson that I’m trying to teach. I’m still learning to care for my spirit and give myself the grace I deserve. Hell, I’m still learning how to even recognize the truth of the grace I deserve. I came across a beautiful poem on Facebook the other day that reminded me of the importance of giving myself the present moment and letting the future wait for my attention. Since I’m still learning, it’s what I’ll leave you with.

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, “The Peace of Wild Things”

May you go into the peace of wild things.

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