Every once in a while you can sink into a book in such a way that it's reality becomes more real than your own. Wendell Berry and the town of Port William was my reality this week, and I am still having a hard time finding my way in this world now that A Place on Earth has ended. In fact I am growing anxious now that it's taken my library more than 36 hours to locate the next Wendell Berry book that I requested. If it doesn't come by this weekend I'm not sure how I will cope.
I feel rather silly reviewing this book on a blog, as I am pretty sure that Berry would reject blogging and most forms of instant communication. In fact while reading the book a lot of life in our culture feels pretty silly, robbed of it's meaning and potential.
I almost gave up on the book at the beginning, until I caught it's cadence and fell into the quiet joy of life in this small farming community. I became endeared to the people of Port William and their sensible, nourishing ways and relationships. The book spans the themes of loss, friendship, love and families, religion, conservation and respect for the land-- written with such clarity and wisdom that I feel somehow like a better person, more aware and more alive having read it.
There was not a lot of comparison between the town of Port William and the small town I grew up in, I don't have the same reverence that he writes of, but I can imagine the community that my grandparents lived and farmed being similar- the depth of respect for the land, neighbors who weep together and take care of one another, the firm belief in working hard and doing your work well. It is sad to wonder if many of those core values are passing away with their generation.
I am pretty sure that Wendell Berry embodies all of the things I have loved best about the people I've respected most. I think that I will need to read everything he's ever written.