Saturday, January 30, 2016

Blowin' in the Wind: In the Woods with Wendell Berry

("Blowin’ in the Wind" is a regular feature on my blog consisting of an assortment of nature writings – hymns, songs, excerpts, prayers, Bible readings, poems or other things – pieces I may not have written but that inspire me or give me joy. I trust they’ll do the same for you.)

Some books take you where you want to be in the middle of a snowy winter, but can't easily make it there for the weather. Such a book to me is Wendell Berry’s A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997.

Some books take you where you want
to be in the middle of a snowy winter, but
can't easily make it there for the weather...

It is a collection of short pieces he wrote on or after Sunday walks on his Kentucky farm, and it’s filled with natural images and passions, deep environmental respect, and an ethic that reaches out and draws a person into ardent embrace of the land. One reviewer says his meditations here " a rich personal spirituality and affinity with the natural world," and yet I find the same holy reverence in his fiction as I do his poetry and essays; cases in point: Hannah Coulter, That Distant Land, and, one of my most favorite novels of all time, Jayber Crow.

I confess I’ve always struggled with poetry, but, interestingly, A Timbered Choir is a book that makes it easy for novices like me; yet it also invites more seasoned readers to its thoughtful woodlot saunters. I wrote once before on Berry, and will do so again, but you can find my previous blogpost featuring him by clicking this link, which will not only tell you a bit more about Berry himself but also shares another notable forest image.

The poems are without title, only separated by the year in which they were written and then numbered. Here is 1995, number 2, the complete poem. Let it take you to a place of peace and thoughtful repose.

The best reward in going to the woods
Is being lost to other people, and
Lost sometimes to myself. I'm at the end
Of no bespeaking wire to spoil my good;

I send no letter back I do not bring.
Whoever wants me now must hunt me down
Like something wild, and wild is anything
Beyond the reach of a purpose not it’s own.

Wild is anything that's not at home
In something else's place. This good white oak
Is not an orchard tree, is unbespoke,
And it can live here by it’s will alone,

Lost to all other wills but Heaven’s -- wild.
So where I most am found I'm lost to you,
Presuming friend, and only can be called
Or answered by a certain one, or two.

Of course, for me, that ‘certain one’ can only be the One I call the lover of my soul.

And here’s an excerpt from 1991, number 9.

To rest, go to the woods
Where what is made is made
Without your thought or work.
Sit down; begin the wait
For small trees to grow big,
Feeding on earth and light.
Their good result is song
The winds must bring, that trees
Must wait to sing, and sing
Longer than you can wait.
Soon you must go. The trees,
Your seniors, standing thus
Acknowledged in your eyes,
Stand as your praise and prayer.
Your rest is in this praise
Of what you cannot be
And what you cannot do.

In the midst of what seems my constant labor, I’ve often found the forest just the place of rest I need to help put all my work into perspective.

I pray you’ve enjoyed these.

~~ RGM, January 30, 2016

P.S. Each time I post to my blog, I send out an announcement of such on my Facebook page. Frequently there, I will ask my friends to consider sharing my post with others of their friends or family members whom they know may also find nature an important spiritual pathway to God. Let me place that request here for a change: do you know others, whether followers of Jesus or not, and perhaps particularly the latter, who find (or might find) these posts inspiring? Please consider sharing my site with them, I would treasure nothing more than that these words be shared as ongoing testimony to the creative glory of our good God. Thank you.

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