Wendell Berry is an agrarian writer who lives in Henry, KY on the land that his ancestors lived for generations. A collection of 21 of his essays, The Art of the Commonplace, gave me an insightful and critical view of my world and my culture in relation to the land.
The Art of the Commonplace, gave me an insightful and critical view of my world and my culture in relation to the land.
Almost every time I have walked through any undeveloped countryside since reading his first essay in the book called, “A Native Hill,” I have reflected upon his concept of knowing the land or knowing a place. In this essay, the reader joins him on his routine walk through his family’s territory. Berry knows this land so well that every bush and tuft of grass, every rise in the terrain is a familiar part of the narrative of his past. Through traversing the countryside with him, we come to know the history of his ancestors and the settlers that came before them.
I have reflected upon his concept of knowing the land or knowing a place.
Americans are always in motion. We eat on the go, we move every few years, we commute to work, etc. The price we pay for this incessant movement is the loss of a sense of belonging to a place, of knowing an environment. We are detached from the land, and so we don’t care and aren’t aware when topsoil (a precious commodity) is stripped through unsustainable, modern farming methods or we clear an area until run off fills in riverbeds and destroys ecosystems.
Reading Berry’s book, The Art of the Commonplace, has caused Ross and I to ask ourselves the question–what is a good life? And what is a good marriage, what is a good home? Berry reflects on the latter question in an essay called, “The Body and the Earth.” In my opinion, he is correct when he postulates that the modern woman’s purpose and power in modern society has become merely 1. buying power and 2. sexuality. However, in agrarian ages of the past, the woman was at the center of the household, working alongside the husband for the survival of the family. Her tasks were highly skilled and varied (weaving cloth to preserving food, etc.).
May God give us wisdom and insight as we examine our culture and seek to build a home that is rich in many ways, sustainable and in relation to the earth, connected to good His creation, and in line with His will.