Up early to check on the status of Edouard…Looks like a miss for my house…Heading inland already on the Louisiana border. Should miss the majority of the Houston area, rain and moderate winds only. Sherry has headed for work already…Television on, radar on the monitor…
Happy Birthday Wendell Berry
It’s the birthday of Wendell Berry, born in Port Royal, Kentucky (1934). He grew up on farmland that had belonged to his family since 1803. All his great-grandparents and grandparents had lived and farmed in the area. As a boy, he was taught by his grandfather how to work a farm with nothing but a plow and a team of mules, no mechanized sprinkler systems or tractors.
Berry had an uncle he described as “an inspired tinkerer with broken gadgetry and furniture … and a teller of wonderful bedtime stories.” His uncle kept a ramshackle cabin up in the woods, and Berry often went up there as a kid to get away from everything. It was in that cabin that he first read the work of Henry David Thoreau, and where he first fell in love with poetry.
I have been reading Mr Berry for most of my adult life. I am sure I read articles in Organic Farming & Gardening when visiting my grandparents. The first articles I really recall though were in The Mother Earth News back in the 1970’s. Lately, I’ve been finding him in Orion Magazine.
This is the the first thing I recall reading back in 1973…
the plowboy interview from TMEN March 1973: Wendell Berry
If you’ve never heard of Wendell Berry, it’s probably only because the man hasn’t been too worried about becoming famous. It’s a certainty, however, that Berry’ s work as a farmer, neighbor, citizen, activist, teacher, poet, novelist and essayist is one of those rare collections of experience that touches each of us deep in our own lives.
Wendell lives—by deliberate choice—on a Port Royal, Kentucky farm that he considers his “rightful place in the world ” . . . but he does not allow this strong sense of location to draw a curtain of provincialism across his view of life.
Instead, Berry seemingly manages to devote the full measure of his attention both to the well-being of his family and community and to the matters which affect and afflict the whole earth. His concern alternates, as he says, between “the doorstep and the planet”.
Here is one of his writings in Orion that made an impression in recent years…
Compromise, Hell! | Wendell Berry | Orion magazine
WE ARE DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY—I mean our country itself, our land. This is a terrible thing to know, but it is not a reason for despair unless we decide to continue the destruction. If we decide to continue the destruction, that will not be because we have no other choice. This destruction is not necessary. It is not inevitable, except that by our submissiveness we make it so.
We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all—by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians—be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us.
How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.
So, Wendell, for all you’ve taught me, for all you’ve made me think…Happy birtday.