My bedside is riddled with half-read books I, Dan, sometimes trip over in the night. One I’ve been working my way through is a novel by Wendell Berry, entitled “Jayber Crow.” It’s one of those books that draws you into its characters and takes your mind to far away times and nostalgic places. Maybe it speaks to me in a special way because the story is set not far from the rolling hills and woodlands of SW Ohio, where I spent 13 years traipsing about as an innocently mischievous but curious young boy. Jayber Crow is about the early to mid-century life of a single man, who as an unrooted orphan finds deep, meaningful rootedness, community and growth as part-time barber and gravedigger in a small and rural riverside town. On some nights I drift off to sleep, heart ablaze with longings and wishes provoked by Jayber’s expression of joy/contentment in the ordinary, and grief over the natural but often unnecessary loss of a community’s way of life and history. This book resonates with dreams that I carry beyond the sleep state – dreams that our culture and world could somehow return to and value the treasures that are being obliterated in the name of progress, profiteering and political self-interest. Wendell Berry’s fictional musings about old and sacred rhythms of life and connectedness to neighbors and the earth strike a chord in my soul and make me want something that I believe Jesus really wants too. A vision for a renewed earth, where shalom touches down now and not only in some distant consummation period when heaven is in a sense found on earth. Thank you, Wendell Berry, for helping me want and work for things worth wanting and working for…for giving me and many others A Vision that so complements what I believe God holds as part of His own bigger dream for humanity and creation.
A VISION, by Wendell Berry
If we will have the wisdom to survive
to stand like slow growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
here, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows.
The river will run clear, as we will never know it,
And over, birdsong like a canopy.
On he levels of the hills will be
green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
risen out of the ground. They will take
nothing from the ground they will not return,
whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its reality.