I would not have been a poet
except that I have been in love
alive in this mortal world,
or an essayist except that I
have been bewildered and afraid,
or a storyteller had I not heard
stories passing to me through the air,
or a writer at all except
I have been wakeful at night
and words have come to me
out of their deep caves
needing to be remembered.
But on the days I am lucky
or blessed, I am silent.
I go into the one body
that two make in making marriage
that for all our trying, all
our deaf-and-dumb of speech,
has no tongue. Or I give myself
to gravity, light, and air
and am carried back
to solitary work in fields
and woods, where my hands
rest upon a world unnamed,
complete, unanswerable, and final
as our daily bread and meat.
The way of love leads all ways
to life beyond words, silent
and secret. To serve that triumph
I have done all the rest.
“VII” from the poem “1994″ by Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979–1997. © Counterpoint, 1998.
May you find this silence in 2011.
Click here to read my article, “A Life in Balance,” on the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Blog.
A wonderful comment showed up in my inbox this morning. Apparently Camus had his own questions about living in the city or in nature. I’ve just located a used copy of the book, “Summer in Algiers.” I’ll include an excerpt below. I’d love any other suggestions that have to do with this subject, because I know I’m not the only one who struggles with where they live. I hear so often from people, “I envy your life. All that open space.” And I agree– open space is under my skin and engraved in my being. And yet so many Sunday mornings I wake up longing to go get bagels and coffee and a paper at the corner deli, and walk around. Pop into an old record store or a gallery, or catch a matinee at an indie theater. But then even as I write that, the loon that flies over every morning of summer bugles, and I can’t help but smile and feel grateful. It doesn’t have to be here or there. Home has to be inside. This I know well. Stegner’s “The Angle of Repose” is all about this. But it does seem true that life in nature is so much about the body. And life in the city, so much about the mind. E.B. White’s book of essays when he moved from NYC to the city comes to mind too: “One Man’s Meat.” Feel free to add to the list.
“The loves we share with a city are often secret loves. Old walled towns like Paris, Prague, and even Florence are closed in on themselves and hence limit the world that belongs to them. But Algiers (together with certain other privileged places such as cities on the sea) opens to the sky like a mouth or a wound. In Algiers one loves the commonplace: the sea at the end of the street, a certain volume of sunlight, the beauty of the race. And, as always, in that unashamed offering there is a secret fragrance. In Paris it is possible to be homesick for space and a beating of wings. Here, at least, man is gratified in every wish and, sure of his desires, can at last measure his possessions.
Probably one has to live in Algiers for some time in order to realize how paralysing an excess of nature’s bounty can be. There is nothing here for whoever would learn, educate himself, or better himself. This country has no lessons to teach. It neither promises nor affords glimpses. It is satisfied to give, but in abundance. It is completely accessible to the eyes, and you know it the moment you enjoy it. Its pleasures are without remedy and its joys without hope.”– Albert Camus
I would add that: nature has its lessons. It’s just that it doesn’t care if you learn them. Therein lies the lesson of humility.