Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To know a place

Beth and I moved to Little Village just shy of 10 years ago. We've reflected lately just how in-over-our-heads we were when we came here, without having realized it. The following paragraphs from Wendell Berry's essay, "People, Land and Community" resonated with me in thinking about the work and time it has taken to know this place.

"One's connection to a newly bought farm will begin in love that is more or less ignorant. One loves the place because present appearances recommend it, and because they suggest possibilities irresistibly imaginable. One's head, like a  lover's, grows full of visions. One walks over the premises, saying, "If this were mine, I'd make a permanent pasture here; here is where I'd plant an orchard; here is where I'd dig a pond." These visions are the usual stuff  of unfulfilled love and induce wakefulness at night.

When one buys the farm and moves there to live, something different begins. Thoughts begin to be translated into acts. Truth begins to intrude with its matter-of-fact. One's work may be defined in part by one's visions, but it is defined in part too by problems, which the work leads to and reveals. And daily life, work, and problems gradually alter the visions. It invariably turns out, I think, that one's first vision of one's place was to some extent an imposition on it. But if one's sight is clear and if one stays on and works well, one's love gradually responds to the place as it really is, and one's visions gradually image possibilites that are really in it. Vision, possibility, work, and life - all have changed by mutual correction. Correct discipline, given enough time, gradually removes one's self from one's line of sight. One works to better purpose then and makes fewer mistakes, because at last one sees where one is. Two human possibilities of the highest order thus come within reach: what one wants can become the same as what one has, and one's knowledge can cause respect for what one knows."

He explains a couple paragraphs before this excerpt that though he is talking directly about farming, he is talking indirectly about marriage, too. Go ahead, read it again.

Here, also, is a link to a a recording of Berry reading the whole essay 30 years ago.

1 comment:

vb said...

It speaks to the reality of love's evolution in a marriage. So true. We celebrated our 34th anniversary on the 16th.