Last night a vigorous thunderstorm plundered this part of Illinois, and it left in its wake a crisp fall day. In honor of this seemingly final, abrupt change in seasons, I went searching for a poem for fall and found this one by Wendell Berry, “Wild Geese”: an appropriate one considering the flock of geese that I watch stroll through my neighborhood each morning.
The message of this poem, like that of most of Berry’s work, is a simple concept that is challenging in its application. As Christians, so often our emphasis is on the world to come, and while this promise of eternity sustains us in a hope we could not live without, it can also distract us from all the joyous responsibilities of existing in this world, here and now. The fact that God created this world to support life, and that he created it to be good, is a reminder that, as Berry writes, “what we need is here.” That is grace. But to recognize and live rightly in light of that grace is a difficult, daily commitment of stewardship and gratitude.
By Wendell Berry
Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over the fall fields, we name names
that went west from here,
names that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.
(From Collected Poems, 1957-1982, North Point Press, 1987)