2022 Grateful 41: The peace of wild things

What seems like many lifetimes ago, I knew a guy. Not well. But well enough to sit and chat with when our paths crossed. He was there when I ate frogs legs for the first (and only) time. We were in a restaurant somewhere in Northern Ireland in the company of a mutual friend from Serbia. 

Our paths diverged.

I’d heard through the grapevine that he was on the waitlist for a new heart. Every now and then, I’d ask another mutual friend how he was doing. A few years back, I saw him on Facebook and sent a friend request. I don’t often do that but I was curious to know how the search was going.

During one of his many stays in hospital, he took up digital painting. I’m no art critic. It’s not for me to say whether he’s the next whoever. But there’s a groundedness (is that even a word), a grace, about his paintings that appeals to me.

I’ve often marvelled at his tenacity. I’ve asked myself if I’d have given up the ghost long ago. Patience isn’t a virtue I can lay claim to. When, after five years, there was no sign of a heart, would I have waited another five? Or would I have told my God that I’d had enough? That I was done. Ready for the off. I hope I’ll never be in a position to be able to answer those questions from experience.


Some months back, he finally got his new heart. And things look good. I was inordinately delighted. We hardly ever interact. And yet I was somehow vested in his journey. When I read the news, I experienced an inexplicably deep feeling of joy. Of gratitude. I wondered again why this meant so much to me.

He posted recently, a poem by poet-farmer Wendell Berry.

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.

And something clicked.

He’s in my life to ground me. He’s one of a few people in my orbit who repeatedly call me back from the abyss that is complexity by pointing to the simplicity of life. And for that, I’m truly grateful.


*A piece of trivia – This poem is included in Tools of the Trade: Poems for new doctors. A copy was given to all graduating doctors in Scotland from 2014 to 2018. What a lovely idea.



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