Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Tremble With Gratitude

In recent years our table has been a "groaning board" of good friends, our immediate family and beloved kin who "enter and pass among us in living love and in memory." As one of my friends likes to say, "as we get older, we make our own family."
Yesterday, a quote I posted by Wendell Berry on "pacifist chickens" led to all sorts of other great quotes over on Facebook. One of my favorite readers of this blog (and a local friend on Facebook and in person, even though we have met only a handful of times) shared a favorite quote with me. It turns out it is an entire poem from Berry's Leavings collection. If you have never read Wendell Berry in any genre, you can't go wrong with anything he writes: he is one of our finest environmental essayists, poets and novelists and he happens to live and farm here in Kentucky where he was born and raised. His essays have always been ahead of their time and they speak of sustainability, the dangers of living outside of our means, of the beauty and power of simplicity and honoring our land. He is like a humble sage of our time, quite unknown by those who should know of him, beloved by those who do.

Wendell Berry–a man of letters and the land.
The owner of an independent bookstore group, Willard Williams of The Toadstool back in New Hampshire, said he always judges a bookstore by its inclusion of Wendell Berry in the poetry, novel, philosophy, environment and essay sections. When I read this poem today it reminded me of my "Sunday Dinners" blog post, below, and the poem that inspired it, the other day. It is also of note that Berry composed the poems in Leavings on a series of Sabbaths over the course of several years. The Sabbath is something we are trying to better honor in our family, returning it to what it should be: a completely suspended day of only essential work but more importantly, to have fellowship with our family, friends and our spiritual selves. To find the quiet within the center of who we are or the place around us and then to carry that into the rest of our week. There is just too much pace and not enough pause in our world any more.

Not having read Leavings, I can only assume that the poems are, as this one is, the best kind of prayer or spiritual moment, perhaps Berry's own benedictions:


I tremble with gratitude
for my children and their children
who take pleasure in one another.

At our dinners together, the dead
enter and pass among us
in living love and in memory.

And so the young are taught.

~ Wendell Berry [From Leavings, Counterpoint Press: 2009]


Sarah said...

I really love that poem and look forward to sharing it at a family dinner.

Mud-E Aliyah said...

I am so glad you wrote about this! Thanks!!!!

a Cupcake near you! said...

What a joy to check your blog and find a photo from that wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner! (One of my all time favorites, I might add.) Here I was, missing you, and there we all are...what a treat. Thank you.

And thank you for the lovely poem. Wendell Berry is a national treasure.

Catherine said...

Thank you all -- last night I had my second dream in a week where I was back in our old house. All of my others had been outside of it, as if I was not allowed to enter. It has been somewhat freeing!

But the thing I miss most about it are the occasions that we had in it and Thanksgiving was an annual highlight.

As for Wendell, here's what I posted on Facebook just a few minutes ago:

From the Church of Wendell:
"Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house
catch fire." [Wendell Berry: FARMING-A HANDBOOK]

I need to tattoo it on my forearm!!!


PS Cupcake, I miss you, too!