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The Real Work

I found it interesting that as I searched for a poem I typed in the words The Real Work by Wendell Berry. As Google anticipated, another search emerged: The Real Work by Gary Snyder. This book of essays emerged from a series of interviews and talks Snyder conducted over several years.

Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder are writers, environmentalists and farmers who live in Kentucky and California respectively. Together, they wrote a book called Distant Neighbours and shared their views about the real work they undertook as writers, environmentalists, and farmers. How each of them understood and wrote about real work echoed the other.

Real work happens not when we find ourselves going through the work aimlessly and mindlessly. It emerges when obstacles arise and we are mindful and attentive in our work. It holds our interest through baffling us and our being unsure of what to do next. As we work thoughtfully and our mind is employed in meaningful acts, our work sings like an impeded stream and makes us whole. It is like we our speaking through our work and its meaning to us.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

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About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and spent the last 14 years teaching in an incrediable hybrid school setting. My dissertation topic and research were how teachers experience becoming who teachers, as human subjects. For me, teaching is a calling and vocation that allows me to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what will call me. We have begun a small consulting and leadership firm called Rocky River Leadership & Consulting Ltd.

14 responses »

  1. Wendell Berry is great. Love this poem.

    Reply
  2. My mind must be well employed is all I can say!

    Reply
  3. Didn’t know of this connection between Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry, nor that Snyder was also a farmer …. wonderful connections, and thanks Ivan, for this amazing contemplation.

    Reply
    • You are welcome Bruce. Snyder ranches in the Sierra Madre in California or at least he did. He is getting on in age. I discovered the connection rooting around in a small independent book store in Spokane about 2 years ago.

      Reply
  4. Great thoughts. This real work began not 2 weeks ago when my husband’s back went out. For 10 days. As he is the one making the money these days, that was scary. And we were aware it was The Work. Adjustments were made; are still being made. These events always sharpen gratitude, as well. Aloha, Ivon.

    Reply
  5. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    THE WORK IS REAL–THIS POST HAS GREAT APPEAL!

    Reply

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