Monday, February 28, 2011


I just finished another book last week. It makes for seven so far this year (secret wish: 2011 will be the the year of the book. So far, so good.).
It was good. I don't want to hyperbolize in saying that it was amazing or incredible or ground-breaking, earth-shattering, mind-blowing, but life-changing might be apt.

I have a longstanding love affair going with a man.

His name is Wendell.
This latest book, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community is tempting to eclipse my first love, The Unsettling of America. In some ways, it's the same story re-told 20 years later. In other ways, it's refined stewardship, refined love. Refinements are nice.

I think a big factor in why I love W. Berry so much is that he makes me feel like I am at home. He helps me remember that earth is a sacred place, and that there is love in abundance. Lately, I have been feeling rather home-less. I have a roof over my head, but a roof that I can't afford any longer, and a home that feels like it has been invaded and changed. It's a strange feeling, one with which I am not well acquainted, and which I am having a hard time coping. Berry is a steward of the earth, and his words beg common sense, not political partying and raucous silliness.  He talks about sex as a communion, and as a integral part of communities. His words are clearsighted and beautiful.
I should stop raving about him and just encourage you to read his books.

And then I will tell you how it has changed me.

I read that the Bible is a a hypaethral book, one that is to be read open to the skies. Like so many ancient temples. I will let Berry do the rest of the explaining:  It (the Bible) is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. That is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary, but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air, and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances, will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine--which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.
What the Bible might mean, or how it could mean anything, in a closed, air-conditioned building, I do not know. I know that holiness cannot be confined. When you think you have captured it, it has already escaped; only its poor, pale ashes are left. It is after this foolish capture and the inevitable escape that you get translations of the Bible that read like a newspaper. Holiness is everywhere in Creation, it is as common as raindrops and leaves and blades of grass, but it does not sound like a newspaper. 
(As a side note, my baby brother wrote me from Germany, encouraging me to consider the lilies of the field, saying, "You don't have to run around frantically trying to find yourself and what you should do when all you've got to do is calm down and look to your father in heaven for guidance." What a great human being, B. Harris.) 
zinnia babies sprouted this week!
It makes me yearn for spring so much. It makes me wish for our garden and to community we built there. In some ways I hate that community, and the ways that it became so all-encompassing and so engaging of my life.  I maybe need a new community. Maybe I need to go home to help my dad build a house. And then again, that community is one of the major reasons I am still in Provo. Basically this all brings me to feeling rootless and ill at ease, unsure of my convictions and my decision to stay.
So I plant zinnias and rosemary and put them on the windowsill above the kitchen sink. I bake whole wheat bread and I pray for direction as to where I can put some roots into the soil so that again, I can open up that book and open my heart to the sky.

ps. If anyone wants to give me another reason to stay (or better yet, BE my reason to stay), I am open to suggestions. The only thing keeping me here now is my signature on a contract and the vague promises of summer.


Marge Bjork said...

AHEM. I am HERE. and hating on air conditioning.

Brooke said...

Alicia! So, I read your blog. I think you maybe knew that?

I am also in love with Wendell. I remember discovering him and feeling blown away that there was really a guy who wrote on all this stuff. I need to read more of him but he is always checked out at the library. Do you own any of his books?

I understand exactly what you mean about both loving and hating the garden community. oh boy have I felt that. sometimes it swallows your life whole. which is both beautiful and alarming depending on the day...

right now is a point when I am feeling a little estranged and cut-off from my community, a little ill-at-ease because of certain happenings and I am trying to wake up and remember that there are new communities out there to root myself in. or new communities to create.
but it is also so hard to leave behind things you love or to let them fade out, even when they come to a natural end.

ah, well. anyway.

my word confirmation is "hashex." I thought you should know.