I just finished reading Terry Tempest Williams‘ “Refuge“. She wrote about watching her mother and other women in her family deal with cancer while also seeing the bird refuge she loved threatened by the rising of the Great Salt Lake. Having just lost my mother a little over a year ago (though mine went suddenly – what would it have been like to have time to say goodbye like Terry did?), I related to her process of grieving – first railing against change, then acceptance of what life brings.
She writes, “I am slowly, painfully discovering that my refuge is not found in my mother, my grandmother, or even the birds at Bear River. My refuge exists in my capacity to love. If I can learn to love death then I can begin to find refuge in change.”
While I can’t say that I’ve learned to love death, I do feel more able to accept that life is change, so much of which is out of any of our control. By focusing on being present in this moment, and loving the people and animals and things I have in my life now, I find refuge in each new day I am given. Having life growing inside of me has brought this more and more to the forefront of my mind. Yes, there are many things to fear and worry about, but I don’t let these have power over me like I used to. I am part of a bigger process, one in which I have to do a lot of waiting and seeing what will come forth, and there is such freedom in that, in being fully present for each new gift that comes, instead of making things happen my way.
Terry used a poem by Wendell Berry to illustrate this idea. I love it.
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.