Thursday, February 11, 2010

From Soil to Heart...Via Worn & Tattered Pages

February 2, 1968

In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

-Wendell Berry
Farming: A Handbook
(Would you believe new paperback copies are selling for $217.09?)

I've been reading Wendell Berry again lately. Clicking "reserve" a few too many times for my own good on the Multnomah County Library website. I now find stacks of wisdom all around my bed stand and armchair...and slowly, I am managing to carve out little burrows of time in which to turn pages and soak up wonder.

Thank goodness for the occasional book on CD... Not as much one for fiction, I mentally dismissed Berry's Hannah Coulter in favor of other titles on my reading list. But to listen instead has made the difference, and the sound of a southern accent recounting a woman's long life on rural farmland has filled the air during recent car drives.

Other books bearing random bookmarks: Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry, The Way of Ignorance, Imagination in Place, and The Hidden a copy of Fidelity that I bought used from Powell's and have abandoned in favor racing library due dates. I don't suppose I'll actually make it through to the final pages of each, at least not this go-round. But I'll enjoy the overview and make a second pass sometime on down the road.

I'm eager to read Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food...but the hold list is long, and it may be a stretch of time until I claim it from the Belmont bookshelves.

What is it about Berry that fascinates me so? The span of genres his work beautifully arcs? The way his pictures remind me faintly of my own dad and his sunshine and rain weathered face smiling after years in the fields? The resonance of truth I sense almost like a pulsing heart felt through the thin skin of old pages? Whether in poem or play, treatise or tale, there is deep authenticity of voice from one who has lived, taught, shared, valued...known.

Not until nearly the end 0f college did I ponder the significance of the rural life and farming heritage I received as a member of my family. Now, the knowledge of the place, of the French Prairie, of the seven generations preceding me who have worked the land and watched the seasons, who have given birth to so many and coaxed a living from seeds and soil, the knowledge sinks deeply into my heart and I feel the weight of legacy.

I wonder now what part I carry?

What passion for the land, what vision of the future? What heart for the people who live from the soil's fruits and even now lay hand on the course of fate?

In landscape architecture, I value the systems of the living world. I value the environments we create, we replicate...and I see the archetypal spaces of Created nature as inspiration for our own creativity.

In life, I value the hearts of people I know and those I desire to know better. I value the desires we have to connect with each other, with place, with food and the things seen and unseen that nourish us to live.

It is a gift. This life. This place on the planet. These words from the wise. These days of learning and loving.

Please share...if you, too, have words you've read or pondered...thoughts that have inspired and grown like seeds in your heart.

These gifts are good.


Sunrise at my family's home on the French Prairie...

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