Our Only World

When readers of Wendell Berry see that he has a new book coming out, we tend to read it on reflex. The themes are seldom new; that’s part of the appeal. We read because it means immersing ourselves once again in a particular mind and set of values, expressed with clarity and conviction. In that

Why bother?

“When we reflect that ‘sentence’ means, literally, ‘a way of thinking’ (Latin: sententia) and that it comes from the Latin sentire, to feel, we realize that the concepts of sentence and sentence structure are not merely grammatical or merely academic — not negligible in any sense. A sentence is both the opportunity and the limit

A Place in Time

These stories went straight to my heart. I’ve been a Berry-reader since the mid-nineties and have read everything he’s written, but not since my first reading experience (The Memory of Old Jack) have I been so deeply moved by something he’s written. A Place in Time offers twenty short stories about the people and events

Jayber Crow

I read Jayber Crow when it first came out, and I didn’t like it as much as I expected to. Over the last week I’ve reread it, and I liked it better this time around. Purportedly the life story of the barber in Berry’s fictional community of Port William, I enjoyed the reflectiveness, the way

Praying with Jayber

I’ve been rereading Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow. I’m bearing down on the end, but I wanted to quote this passage here (though it’s long) because it seems important and is indisputably beautiful. It concerns prayer, and Jayber’s ongoing effort to understand what happens in prayer. It expresses some questions and feelings that probably all of

Revisiting “The Long-Legged House”

I’ve been rereading one of Wendell Berry’s early works, the title essay of his first published collection The Long-Legged House. He describes a camp on the riverbank, built by his great-uncle, and its significance to him over the course of his life. Eventually, Berry rebuilds (partially recycles, using walls and materials from the original house)

Mystery Bird

I woke this morning thinking of a birdsong, heard way back in July. Maybe it’s because I’ve read references to the warblers in two different books lately. Or maybe it’s because it was cold and windy today with light snow, and I went to a sunny, green place in my mind. In any case, this

Lovely, dark and deep

Actually, the woods my daughters and I walked through yesterday were anything but dark. The sun was so bright I could hardly even see this robin in the trees above, much less determine what kind of bird it was. When we reached this point in the trail, my youngest exclaimed, “I want to go into

The Boundary

“The Boundary” is one of the short stories in Wendell Berry’s The Wild Birds. I reread it this week and found it as extraordinarily powerful as I did the first time over 15 years ago. It’s about Mat Feltner, a figure well-known to those familiar with the Port William community of Berry’s fiction. In this

Revisiting Wendell Berry’s “Fidelity”

Yesterday, we buried my daughter’s hamster. She was injured a week ago, then endured a trip to the vet and a week of pain medication before quietly slipping away. Did she die of her injuries — or of starvation because the medications so drugged her that she couldn’t eat? Did we help her feel more