Some of my earliest memories are outdoors. Summer nights picking wild raspberries in the woods behind my house, the juice afterwards staining my mouth red with delight. Playing in the stream downhill, burrs catching in my hair from the walk through the brush. Shoveling pathways in the thick snow for the dogs to rush gleefully through. Hours biking the gravel paths along the river until the sun set and it was time to pedal home. Growing up in rural New Jersey made nature accessible, familiar. Only when I moved to New York City did I realize how lucky I had been to have lived my whole life so close to trees, water, mountains, fresh air.
Life is comfortable with modern amenities. We can go out into the natural world and return hours later for a hot shower and a Zoom call with friends. In a way, the outdoors is a window into what life was like before technology altered everything. The ocean has always whispered along the coasts of continents. The sun has always set over the mountains. The trees had been putting roots into the soil long before we began to dig.
Today, returning from a weeklong hiking trip in Maine's Acadia National Park, I sink back into my concrete jungle. But I'm full of wild love for the natural world, and ready for my next peek through the great window.
This week, poems about escaping into nature.
The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry
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.
by Joseph Fasano
It’s true there were times when it was too much
and I slipped off in the first light or its last hour
and drove up through the crooked way of the valley
and swam out to those ruins on an island.
Blackbirds were the only music in the spruces,
and the stars, as they faded out, offered themselves to me
like glasses of water ringing by the empty linens of the dead.
When Delilah watched the dark hair of her lover
tumble, she did not shatter. When Abraham
relented, he did not relent.
Still, I would tell you of the humbling and the waking.
I would tell you of the wild hours of surrender,
when the river stripped the cove’s stones
from the margin and the blackbirds built
their strict songs in the high
pines, when the great nests swayed the lattice
of the branches, the moon’s brute music
touching them with fire.
And you, there, stranger in the sway
of it, what would you have done
there, in the ruins, when they rose
from you, when the burning wings
ascended, when the old ghosts
shook the music from your branches and the great lie
of your one sweet life was lifted?
by Mary Oliver
When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend
all day among the high
my ripped arms, thinking
of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body
accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among
the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.
Lake Echo, Dear
by C.D. Wright
Is the woman in the pool of light
really reading or just staring
at what is written
Is the man walking in the soft rain
naked or is it the rain
that makes his shirt transparent
The boy in the iron cot
is he asleep or still
fingering the springs underneath
Did you honestly believe
three lives could be complete
The bottle of green liquid
on the sill is it real
The bottle on the peeling sill
is it filled with green
Or is the liquid an illusion
How summer’s children turn
into fish and rain softens men
How the elements of summer
nights bid us to get down with each other
on the unplaned floor
And this feels painfully beautiful
whether or not
it will change the world one drop
Are you looking for poems that fit a specific topic or feeling? Reply to this email with whatever that topic area is, and I'll cover your topic (and suggest some poems that fit!) in an upcoming edition of Sunday Poems.