Yesterday, Wendell Berry (Henry County native and general badass) was awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. I can think of no one more deserving of an award so named.
Sharon Rab, founder and co-chair of the foundation that runs the literary prize, praised Berry. “In a career spanning more than half a century, Wendell Berry has used poetry, fiction, and essays to offer a consistent, timely, and timeless reminder that we must live in harmony with the earth in order to live in harmony with each other. His writing has inspired readers to imagine the lives of people and things other than themselves — enemies, neighbors, plants, and animals — in order to advance the survival of humankind and Earth itself.” [MNN]
Today I have a poem from Wendell’s most recent collection, Leavings, which seems to fit his life and work quite well:
Give it Time
The river is of the earth
and it is free. It is rigorously
embanked and bound,
and yet it free. “To hell
with restraint,” it says.
“I have got to be going.”
It will grind out its dams.
It will go over or around them.
They will become pieces.
I am musically illiterate. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything from bluegrass to Ke$ha, but I can’t talk theory, bars, or any of the complexities. For today, I’m gonna let that go and listen to this piece by Mozart, considered to be some of the most complex classical music ever written.
So sit back and soak in some classy classical before you begin the day en force.
Monday is a day when business and busyness begins anew. Today, check out a poem by Appalachian, James Still. Still was a writer (and one-time Bible salesman) from Knott County, KY. Through his lifetime, he saw the destruction of his native land at the hands of coal companies even as he told stories of struggling coal miners.
His voice in this poem, from River of Earth, shows a painful but amusing perspective on business and beauty in his home region.
‘Mine Is a Wide Estate’
I am wealthy with earth and sky,
Heir to far boundaries of field and stream,
And scarce can keep track of so much property:
Cloud-herd, dew-diamond, midge and bee,
Wasp-way, wind’s wisdom and the foxfire’s gleam —
I am rich despite a seeming poverty.
Mine is a wide estate. It is a legal jest.
These are a neighbor’s hills, those a stranger’s.
Who owns the water’s speech, the hornet’s nest,
The catbird’s mew, the grassy breath in mangers,
And who in cricket song and mayfly nymphs invest?
I am possessor and possessed.
In case you’re like me and missed church this morning, meditate for a moment on this poem by Mary Oliver.
Oliver was a best-selling poet from rural Ohio who, like many of us, was inspired by Whitman and Thoreau. Read this poem. Take a walk. Take the day off.
A Thousand Mornings
Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little, the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten. And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors into the temple.
A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,*
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.