When peace comes to mind, you are not the only one. Peace is something that we all desire for our lives and our world. It is a calming feeling that overtakes us when we think about it or feel it in our hearts. Author Leif Enger wrote about his experience of peace like a river in his book by the same name, “Peace Like a River.” In this blog post I will explore how reading this book impacted me and why you should read it too!
When I read “Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger, it was like reading my own feelings. The author wrote this book to share the peace that he has found in his life and how you can find peace too when you feel lost or without direction. Peace is all around us, but we have to be still enough to appreciate its presence.
In the opening chapter of the book, after losing everything due to some unfortunate circumstances, Frank Ross finds himself homeless with nothing except for an old beat up Bible that had belonged to his father who died when he was just eight years old. He’s feeling completely broken inside from sorrow and despair and wondering if anything good will ever happen again in his life until one day when he’s walking down the street.
It was a mid-winter day when Frank had to leave his apartment building in Wisconsin due to not being able to pay rent, and it happened that this winter day was so cold with temperatures well below freezing; even the snow on the ground seemed like ice crystals underfoot. But then as he walked out of town, heading east toward Minnesota where there were relatives who might take him in for awhile–at least until he could find work again–he came across an old man sitting by himself at a bus stop bench waiting patiently for a ride. The old man asks if Frank is all alone but before he has time answer, tells him that indeed they are both “sitting ducks” because their being alone on a winter day is like putting out the light.
You know, when you live in this world to be by yourself is really dangerous,” said the old man.” You never know when something might happen just because you’re all by yourself.” With that he reaches inside of his coat and pulls out an Indian peace pipe–a long white stem with a round black bowl at one end from which thin wisps of blue smoke ascend into the icy air as if they were prayers for peace, then says to Frank: ”Take it. It’s yours now.” And so he did take it and for years after that whenever any dark thoughts about life or death came over him, Frank would pull down from its place near where he slept the old peace pipe and smoke it until he could see in his mind’s eye that vast and peaceful river again.
The next morning Frank takes up his rifle, loads it with two bullets–one for him when the time comes to put himself out of misery or one for any enemy who might still be alive–and walks off into a world without end.
The sound of gunshots rang through the crisp dawn air like muffled bells from another town on Christmas Day as Frank walked away from camp, then faded behind him. He had been walking now for hours over hills covered with snow so deep he sank down past his knees every few steps and across creeks iced solid enough to bear weight; but these were only minor obstacles.
When he had gone about six miles, the sound of gunfire began to recede in his ears until it was lost altogether.
He walked another mile or so before stopping for a moment to rest on an old log and feel with both hands if any life still lingered within him. As far as he could tell there wasn’t much left; but when he stood again, took several steps forward and fell back down into the snow where he now lay helplessly awaiting what would come next–a sudden shot from behind that killed him or perhaps just this easy drifting off into sleep–he saw a small movement out of the corner of one eye: something white crossing through trees near at hand coming towards him.