Today the landscape out my front window is still and an icy shade of blue. The light coating of snow on the mountains has finally gone by the way (though, clearly not when I took the above picture, last week). According to my local news station’s weather app, by tomorrow at this time my mountains will be white again.
Yes, everything is still now, but a week ago the wind blew like I’ve not yet experienced since living on my Virginian mountain perch. Every tree around my home—even those craggy fruit trees that branch like arthritic hands—whipped and spun their limbs as high winds swooped down the side of one mountain and up the other, crashing with those winds who’d made their tyrant path by squeezing in-between. It was a wild show; tossed tree limbs, whirling leaves like tiny cyclones. Even the walls and windows of my heavy brick home popped and cracked at their joints as the wind relentlessly pushed from outside.
And yet, inside all was still and womb-like, adding—no doubt—to my perception of the ensuing chaos outside. I wouldn’t say the wind that day scared me. It did have me a bit concerned.
Wind on my childhood farm was easier to discern than in the mountains. Though no less powerful or destructive (more so, I might even contend), it was more knowable.
Maybe what made the winds in the Midwest easier to deal with was precisely this issue of knowing. Because the land was flat and trees few, the wind had nothing to break up its forward momentum. So, whether it was coming up from the south, swooping down from the north, or—most likely—blowing straight across the land from west to east, you knew what to expect with it. It wasn’t sneaky like the winds in the mountains. It had no bent toward trickery. Midwest wind was a straight forward to its core. Its ‘yes’ meant yes and its ‘no’ meant no.
I like that. In my winds and in my life.
The first poem I read in 2019 was one from Wendell Berry’s collection, A Small Porch. I read it New Year’s morning, in fact. Not surprisingly, it spoke to me as a prophesy and a charge. A focused attention for my mind and soul these next twelve months (well, eleven now).
I won’t copy the entire poem here; there are both copyright laws and sheer length of the poem to consider. But I would love to share two small sections that have impacted me deeply (numbers correspond with section title within the poem):
A Small Porch in the Woods
Right-mindedness: a mind in place,
in right relation to Nature and
its neighbors. Thoughts, instructions,
stories, songs enter from the outside, and some
of these are needed, can be made welcome,
but nothing replaces the living
geography, topography, ecology, history
the mind’s waking at home in its creaturely
household, which is its work, its burden,
its privilege, its intimate reference, its way
to find at need, against the time’s perilous
leanings, the unshifting star.
To care for what we know requires
care for what we don’t, the word’s lives
dark in the soil, dark in the dark.
Forbearance is the first care we give
to what we do not know. We live
by lies we don’t intend, lives
that exceed our thoughts and needs,
outlast our designs, staying by passing through,
surviving again and again the risky passages
from ice to warmth, dark to light.
Rightness of scale is our second care:
the willingness to think and work
within the limits of our competence
to do no permanent wrong to anything
of permanent worth to the earth’s life,
known or unknown, now or ever, never
destroying by knowledge, unknowingly,
what we do not know, so that the world
in its mystery, the known unknown world,
will live and thrive while we live
I wouldn’t dare dissect Wendell’s words or suggest how you should consider them. I only offer them so you can consider them if you desire. Even more, join me in considering them together.
What does this mean? What will it look like this 2019 blogging year?
Well, I’m not exactly sure (as is the case with most things). But, I think it means I want to live more deeply into the place I’ve been given. All of that place, and all its inhabitants.
I think it looks like wondering about wind and trees and soil and homes and neighborhoods and all the things (and inhabitants) that make up my place here in Southwest Virginia.
And then, I want to share these things (and inhabitants) with you. Also, I want to hear about your place.
I may never understand all the intricacies of my southwest Virginia winds (or life). This doesn’t excuse me from the work, however. The patient, staying-within-proper-scale, wonder-filled work.
The work of living at home in my place.
Right-mindedness: a mind in place
Maybe we can help one another live this 2019 in place.
It’s at least worth the effort.
Copyright 2019 by Shari L. Dragovich