Wendell Berry - The peace of wild things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of 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 for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
“Can you say,” I once inquired of a sixty-year-old cloistered nun who had lived (vibrantly, it seemed) from the age of nineteen in her monastery cell, “what the core of contemplative life is?”
“Leisure,” she said without hesitation, her china blue eyes cheerfully steady on me. I suppose I expected her to say, “Prayer.” Or maybe “The search for God.” Or “Inner peace.” Inner peace would have been good. One of the big-ticket items of spirituality.
She saw I didn’t see.
“It takes time to do this,” she said finally.
Her “this” being the kind of work that requires abdication from time’s industrial purpose (doing things, getting things). By choosing leisure she had bid farewell to the fevered enterprise of getting-and-spending whereby, as the poet said, we lay waste our powers.
Henri Matisse - Woman in a Purple Coat, 1937, in situ at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts
The artist was born on Dec. 31, 1869, the son of a grain merchant in Le Cateau in Picardy. The law had been chosen as his profession, and it took some persuasion over parental objections for Matisse to begin the art studies he yearned for. In Paris he studied under Gustave Moreau, and from 1893 to 1896 he produced sober still lifes and other quiet pictures influenced by Chardin and Corot. He copied old masters in the Louvre, earning his way through his schooling. In later years, telling about it, he said, “One must learn to walk firmly on the ground before one tries the tightrope.” - NY Times Obituary