Column: Resolving to rest in the grace of the world

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 6, 2007

By Sharon Randall

Scripps Howard News Service

The subject was New Year’s resolutions, a topic that rears its ugly head every January despite my best efforts to avoid it.

I was e-mailing my friend Joyous. We met years ago when we lived in California, and were delighted to find that we both hailed from North Carolina. I was a hillbilly from the mountains and she was a flatlander from the coast, but I didn’t hold that against her. When you come from the same root stock, you know things about each other that not everyone can know — the way carrots might empathize on what it’s like to be orange or turnips might commiserate on how it feels to be called nasty.

Anyhow, we made a vow based on our home state motto (“esse quam videri,” meaning “to be, rather than to seem”) to be “esse quam videri” friends for life. And that is what we’ve been. For years, we’d go out to eat at some place by the ocean and spend hours talking about everything or nothing, righting all the wrongs of the world.

Much of who I am I owe to her friendship — especially the spare tire around my middle.

Then she moved to Cleveland and I moved to Las Vegas of all places. Never mind why. I kept the spare tire in her honor. Now we just e-mail, or talk on the phone when we can.

This morning, to celebrate the New Year, I sent her a poem. It takes courage, I think, to face a new year, so I picked Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things.” It goes like this:

“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.”

I like that poem a lot. She e-mailed back right away:

“Dear Rosie, (that’s what she calls me, never mind why) thanks for the poem. I loved it! Remember the time you wrote a column about our New Year’s resolutions saying I’d resolved to wear smaller earrings? Then you saw me and I had on earrings the size of dinner plates? What’s your resolution for this year? Love, Joyous”

I laughed, recalling her failed “earring resolution.” She had picked it because, unlike most of things we vow to change every year, it seemed perfectly doable. But as it often happens, “doable” and “done” proved to be entirely different things.

If we can’t control what we wear on our ears, how on Earth can we expect to control what happens in our lives, let alone, in the lives of loved ones who clearly need our controlling?

The answer, of course, is that there are some things we can fix and a lot of things we can’t, and it takes a long time to figure out which is which.

That’s my resolution for 2007: To change what I can and accept what I can’t. I want to “rest in the grace of the world” and be “free.” It may not be doable, but there it is.

It took a while for my friend to lose her dinner plate earrings. Big changes never come fast. But the last time I saw her, she was wearing dainty little drops about the size of saucers. I wish you could’ve seen her.

Everybody needs an “esse quam videri” friend, no matter where she comes from. If you don’t have one, you might want to make that your New Year’s resolution. It’s a lot more fun than going on a diet.

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Contact syndicated columnist Sharon Randall at P.O. Box 777394 Henderson, NV 89077, or at