Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wendell Berry

I just now got a chance to read a small section of the Wendell Berry book, Traveling at Home, that Roger got me for our "12 years together" anniversary. I have yet to read any other author  that mesmerizes me and moves me with their words like Wendell Berry does.  His books have been the only books capable of evoking so much emotion from me. While I am reading them I truly feel lost in his field of words.
(I'll admit it, I cried while reading Hannah Coulter and The Memory of Old Jack.)

I began reading Wendell Berry's novels after the sudden death of a very kind old lady in our church, Mrs. Emily.  Mrs. Emily was the sweet childless widow that sat in the pew behind mine. We both shared a love for mangos and she would occasionally bring me one to church if she noticed they were "good and ripe at the grocery store." Every Friday Mrs. Emily would drive to Lexington, an hours drive, to get her hair fixed.  She formed a bridge club in her younger days that she still had going and never missed a Bridge game with her gals. 

We didn't really know much else about Mrs. Emily until the day we were called with the terrible news that she was on her death bed. You see, all that time that Mrs. Emily was bringing me mangos and patting me on the back with a big smile as she sat down in the pew behind mine, she was suffering with colon cancer that she was refusing treatment for. She later told us why, "I'm old and tired of fightin' to live. let me go home"

As we walked into her old, beautifully decorated, farm house to meet with her one last time. I couldn't help selfishly wishing, as I sat by her beside, that I had a little more time to get to know Mrs. Emily, to hear her story. 

She asked Roger to officiate her graveside funeral. 
It was his first funeral.  
A reception for close family and friends was held afterwards at Mrs. Emily's house.  
As I stood in the foyer of this grand old home, now empty of its last owner, yet full of her memories, I overheard someone say "It is weird being in here with those curtains open.  Emily always had the curtains closed."  As I stood in the foyer, looking out the windows, I could see Mrs. Emily's grave. I then found out that she did in fact have a child, a son, that had passed away at a young age, shortly after the sudden death of her husband. 
No wonder she kept her curtains closed.  
Mrs.Emily lived in the house directly across the street from the grave yard. The front windows faced the exact spot where her little family had been buried. 

A few days after Mrs. Emily's funeral my husband handed me my first Wendell Berry book, Hannah Coulter. Reading through that book somehow helped me mourn the death of Mrs. Emily. It gave me a small sense of closure even though I still wonder about Mrs. Emily's life story.

Tonight while reading through the first section of Wendell Berry's book, Traveling at Home, which is about this old man going for his daily walk across his property with his dog, the words began to fill me with memories of my Grandfather (pawpaw).  For the 15 minutes that it took me to savor the first little section of the book, I felt as if I were walking around in my Grandfather's mind. I love that about Wendell Berry's novels. He has such a unique gift for writing down the wonderings and ramblings of the simple minded in such a poetic way. 

I am brought comfort, unexplainable comfort, through his writing. 

I hope to one day pass these novels on to my children and grandchildren.

This is a picture of Wendell Berry and me following one of his poetry readings.

No comments:

Post a Comment