Sunday, December 6, 2009


A chilly December afternoon. Bright remnants of yesterday's snowfall. Water glinting through bare trees. Five nature lovers convene to talk about Wendell Berry's The Long Legged House and the ideas therein. And eat cookies and drink wassail.

Berry's writing is deep and wide like the Kentucky river where he has made his home. Diverse topics and personal stories flow like ripples and currents joining together in one major theme: our relationship with nature, what it has become, but also what it can be, once was, could be again. Published in 1965, the book is a collection of Berry's earliest essays and is jampacked with insights and ideas ---ideas that are more timely and urgent than ever. All the more shocking that none of us seemed able to find the book in our local libraries! So with purchased copies in hand, we shared passages that we found exceptional such as:

The great increase of our powers is itself maybe the most immediate cause of our
loss of vision. It must be a sort of natural law that any increase in man's
strength must involve a lengthening of his shadow; as we grow in power, we are
pursued by an ever growing darkness.

Berry describes our collective errors with an eloquent, slap-in-the-face accuracy. But he balances that bitter medicine with a balm to the spirit, a prescription for salvation for himself and for us:

And so, difficult and troubling as the times are, I must not neglect to say
that even now I experience hours when I am deeply happy and content, and
hours where I feel the possibility of greater happiness and contentment than
I have yet known. These times come to me when I am in the woods, or at work
on my little farm. They come bearing the knowledge that the events of man
are not the great events; that the rising of the sun and the falling of the
rain are more stupendous than all the works of the scientists and the
prophets; that man is more blessed and graced by his days than he can ever
hope to know; that the wildflowers silently bloom in the woods, exquisitely
shaped and scented and colored, whether any man sees and praises them or
not. A music attends the things of the earth. To sense that music is to be
near the possibility of health and joy.

Not to be outdone by Berry, we all agreed on the importance of balancing literary "calls" to responsiblity and stewardship with a straightforward celebration of the endless beauty and fascination of nature. Our line up of primary reading selections for the early months of 2010 are as follows:

January 2010 Bernd Heinrich: Winter World
February 2010 Mary Oliver: Owls and Other Fantasies
March 2010 E.O. Wilson: Naturalist (his autobiography)
April 2010 Barbara Kingsolver: Small Wonders

(NOTE: Each month's book will be discussed at the meeting held on the FIRST SUNDAY of the following month. Example, January's book selection Winter World will be the topic of discussion at the February meeting.)

Cheers to the Readers' Club members and all the great authors we have enjoyed in 2009. Our January 2010 meeting will cap off our first year of monthly get togethers!

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