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Tag Archives: Wendell Berry

How Poetry Comes to Me

Much like poetry, living comes to each of us and it blunders along just out of view from us. It is like sitting around a campfire and knowing there is something outside the ring of light the fire casts.

Within the ring of light, there is a warmth, perhaps a certainty. We think we know what is happening next. In truth, the living happens just outside our reach. Wendell Berry describes it as happening, but, once it happens, we cannot be fully describe it.

Gary Snyder wrote about his poetry writing as having to go meet the poetry just outside the range of his campfire. When we are attentive and mindful of each moment and what is just beyond our reach and vision, life dances at the edge of the light, like poetry.

Instead of certain answers, we encounter questions that cannot be fully answered, but help form the conversation and poetry that is our living.

It comes blundering over the

 Boulders at night, it stays

 Frightened outside the

 Range of my campfire

 I go to meet it at the

 Edge of the light

 

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.

FATHER CHARLES BRANDT… THE LAND AS SACRED COMMONS

~ the Brandt Series ~   Fr. Charles Brandt is a hermit monk from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, who recently celebrated 64 years of ordination. At 91 years of age, his gentle activism and…

Source: FATHER CHARLES BRANDT… THE LAND AS SACRED COMMONS

In a day and age of environmental concerns, I think a post from Bruce is appropriate. It is important to keep in mind that, with each economic choice we make, there are ecological choices and consequences, some more obvious than others.

Wendell Berry writes about economy from an etymological point of view. Economy from comes from the Greek oikos, meaning to manage one’s household and is about stewardship. If we think of ourselves as living outside the environment, being a good steward seems less important. If we choose to live in the environment, being a good steward is essential to the prosperity of the world and ourselves.

To me, it is not about economy over environment. How do we understand both as interconnected, and not separate? It is not an easy question, but questions of social justice, and the environment is one, are ever easy. Being mindful and living in the moment will help.

Rivertalk

Wendell Berry wrote that “there is a great restfulness in the sounds small rivers make.” When we mindfully stand and listen and perhaps close our eyes, we hear the restful sounds more clearly. We discover being rooted to a particular place, at least for the moment.

Those small rivers invite us to jump in and paddle as a child might. What the child adds to those sounds and waves are sounds of pleasure. There is no enjoyment while standing on shore, unless we close our eyes and listen closely. Besides the child, we might hear nature speak to us as it hums gently and touches us unexpectedly.

Jeanne Lohmann counsels us to be less serious and not to look for problems to fix as we move through life. The river serves as a wonderful metaphor and life calls to us to be present in each moment and to be fully present.

is whatever comes along,
practice always here while we

keep on shore, all the time
saying we want to get wet.

But the river has ways
of sound and light, ripples

and waves that tell us:
don’t be so serious, rumble in

where nothing is finished or broken
and nothing asks to be fixed.

 

Love’s Exquisite Freedom

When we love others, things, and places, there is freedom that comes with the constraints that love places on us. Maya Angelou provides a rich, poetic description of how love arrives and frees us.

Love arrives with histories and memories of pleasure and pain. Thomas Merton advised that we call it falling in love, because there are times it can hurt. Despite the possibility of pain, love calls us in ways that give us courage to overcome the risk and we are free to choose love. There is something in that person, that thing, and that place that call and hold us in that relationship.

Wendell Berry writes about affection for people, places, and living. It takes courage to step out and say, “I love this person, this place, and this way of living.” In saying that, what if the other rejects me or their love or that love is taken from me?

We, unaccustomed to courage

exiles from delight

live coiled in shells of loneliness

until love leaves its high holy temple

and comes into our sight

to liberate us into life.

Love arrives

and in its train come ecstasies

old memories of pleasure

ancient histories of pain.

Yet if we are bold,

love strikes away the chains of fear

from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity

In the flush of love’s light

we dare be brave

And suddenly we see

that love costs all we are

and will ever be.

Yet it is only love

which sets us free.

 

Traveling at Home

Wendell Berry advises we do not experience the same route twice even in a country we know by heart. I wonder if we can know a country by heart? The chances change and make a new way.

We used to whitewater raft when the boys were younger. The mountain-fed river changed by the minute in June with the heat of the day and increased flow with melting snow. The rocks revealed themselves differently at various times of the day. In the morning, the river was lower and we could see the rocks, but with more water they became submerged. With time and experience, we could sense the differences in the river. Our vision was no longer the only way to know the river.

Heraclitus‘ quote about never stepping in the same river twice because it is changing complements the part about the person changing. We experience the world, its inhabitants, and ourselves as continuously changing. This calls us to be mindful and attentive to the living and the relationships we experience, seen and unseen.

Even in a country you know by heart
it’s hard to go the same way twice.
The life of the going changes.
The chances change and make a new way.
Any tree or stone or bird
can be the bud of a new direction. The
natural correction is to make intent
of accident. To get back before dark
is the art of going.

Be Still in Haste

When I read poetry, it gives me opportunities to consider the rich paradox that living brings with it. Wendell Berry proposes that in the title. How do I experience being still in haste?

David Bohm who was a theoretical physicist suggested that paradox dissolve unlike problems. Problems wait to be solved, but what if there are multiple ways to understand and solve the problem?

Bohm used the example of war and argued that people from all sides justified war citing problems with their enemies. Instead of asking about war, what if we asked about killing innocent children? Bohm suggested, for the most part, humans agreed that killing innocents was wrong. In that case, war is paradoxical and, when we begin with something we agree upon, we begin to dissolve the issue and see it through new eyes.

Time is similarly paradoxical. We act and speak as though we control, quantify, save, and manage it, but this moment is the only time we experience this moment. Time is fleeting and has qualities that resist us, dissolving in its fluidity becoming paradoxical. Time calls us to be present and mindful of the moment we live in, as it dissolves into the next never to be re-experienced.

How quietly I
begin again

from this moment
looking at the
clock, I start over

so much time has
passed, and is equaled
by whatever
split-second is present

from this
moment this moment
is the first.

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