Monday, May 14, 2007

It's a Wendellberry Day!

Although I haven't found any time to paint or draw since the lovelings were born, my creative hungers have not slaked a bit. In fact, when pregnant with Ezra, I experienced one of the richest creative times in my life. I was consumed by a great thirst for beauty. It has continued since. Yes, I do miss serious drawing, painting, illustrating, printmaking, and ceramics, but my life has truly been no less rich for their scarcity in recent years. I have filled the barren spaces with cooking, fiber arts (aka, sewing) gardening, and other sources of creative life and beauty which also contribute to the running of our daily lives.
From a feminist standpoint, we must honor the work women have given themselves to over the ages. My own experience with little ones thus far, (in role that is quite traditional and old-fashioned for a woman and mother; I do do a lot of cooking and cleaning!) has shown me that this work is not mindless, it is not drudgery, and it is not easy! I am not saying anything about what any other woman or man's role should be. For myself I want to thank my mother and grandmothers, my mother-in-law, and all the beautiful women before me; thank you for your great hard and good work.
Part of a healthy domestic life, especially for the woman working from or in her home, is a thriving life of the mind. My literary life is thriving as I've entered motherhood. I read for ideas and resources in my work. I read for beauty. I read for sanity. I read for my daily bread.
How do I find the time? I read whenever I nurse. I have stashes of library books by each couch, in the bathroom, by the bed, in my garden basket--you get the idea.
In that light, I want to share a favorite author with you all. In honor of all our mothers, and in honor of my aunt who came to visit this morning and brought her wonderful friend who just happens to be a master gardener and looked over my garden, advising me; may I share this favorite poem.

By Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees every
thousand years.
Listen to carrion--put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself; Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark a false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is one of the writers who has been getting me through. He also writes essays, and fiction. The above poem is the first of his work I encountered, and I keep coming back to it. His writing is one of the reasons I am planting a garden, using the solar oven, making our own clothes. He didn't say to do those things, but I have encountered many things in his words that have sent me looking for more in other places. I have found biblical themes played out in concrete ways I had not been able to put together in some of his stories and essays. Other times, my own ideas I have seen reflected back from new angles.

Paul and I are currently reading: Fidelity, a collection of short stories.
and I recently enjoyed: Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays. He talks about the great beauty of culture when we know our food and land. He is stridently American. Not conservative, nor liberal in the common senses, but for the Land, for health, for thought and beauty and hard work.
I do not agree with everything he writes, even with everything in the above poem. (or at least with every way each thing could be taken) I do very much admire and respect this author, farmer, and philosopher. He has sowed good seeds in my life.

For more on domesticity and feminism, try: To Hell with All That; Loving and Loathing our Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan. The Saint Paul Public Library has it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Libby, Thanks!