Happy Birthday, Wendell Berry

I just finished reading Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder, which I bought, along with Farming: A Handbook, on a recent pilgrimage to City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. I followed up with A World Lost, one of Berry’s Port William books. If I had to name one person who most inspires me, I believe it would be Berry. I have only been farming for a few years but I understand his love of the land and how it has informed both his politics and his philosophy. Berry turned 80 today.

In this paragraph from his 2012 Jefferson Lecture, Berry gives homage to others who have shaped his ideas:

As many hunters, farmers, ecologists, and poets have understood, Nature (and here we capitalize her name) is the impartial mother of all creatures, unpredictable, never entirely revealed, not my mother or your mother, but nonetheless our mother. If we are observant and respectful of her, she gives good instruction. As Albert Howard, Wes Jackson, and others have carefully understood, she can give us the right patterns and standards for agriculture. If we ignore or offend her, she enforces her will with punishment. She is always trying to tell us that we are not so superior or independent or alone or autonomous as we may think. She tells us in the voice of Edmund Spenser that she is of all creatures “the equall mother, / And knittest each to each, as brother unto brother.”7 Nearly three and a half centuries later, we hear her saying about the same thing in the voice of Aldo Leopold: “In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.”

I’ve been curating web resources related to Berry. Some great videos of him speaking and the terrific interview by Bill Moyers last fall.

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