A bit of background might be in order. For years, since i first heard his music on a CD titled “Carried Along,” Andrew Peterson has been one of my favorite songwriters. If you don’t know his work, you’ll thank me for this introduction. He is, simply said, a master at his craft. He composes, sings, performs, writes books and is a gifted visual artist. Best of all, he is a big hearted soul with a winsome and expressive affection for his family and his friends. Last weekend, on the 14th, he and i played a gathering in Louisville, Kentucky and then, on Sunday, drove to Port Royal, Kentucky with friend, Ben May. There we spent two delightful hours with Wendell Berry, an author who is a favorite to the three of us, and his wife Tanya. More about that perhaps in a future blog.
A CONVERSATION WITH CAREY WALLACE
Q. You begin the book with a quotation from a poem by Wendell Berry. What drew you to this quote? How does it reflect the spirit of the novel?
To me, Wendell Berry's lines mirror the story of The Blind Contessa's New Machine. We can think of the blind bird in two ways, he says, either as a trapped creature whose feet are "netted with darkness" or as a creature whose blindness has set her free to fly infinite distances ("her heart's distance," or anything she desires, and "the distance in her eyes" which is now infinite, because she is blind). Like the blind bird, Carolina's suffering eventually leads her out into a new freedom. I also love the element of hope built into the beginning of the quote with the words "until morning comes." The darkness in Berry's poem isn't permanent. In fact, the coming of new light is the first fact we hear, before blindness is even mentioned, and that hope should inflect everything that comes after it.
On this hot summer morning in suburban Collegeville, Pa., the Fraser children bounce out of bed and race downstairs. They're not running for the TV - they don't have one.
Instead, 10-year-old twins Eliza and Carolina and their brother, Perry, 6, head for the barn, where the hens are cooing and a baby rooster practices his wake-up call. They're already old hands at egg-hunting.
"I found one!" Perry shrieks.
In no time at all, he and his sisters collect five of these sublimely fresh eggs, soon to be scrambled into a delicious pile for breakfast.
I was sitting on the porch of Bed and Breakfast in Welch, West Virginia looking at a glass castle, rocking on a high-back rocking chair, when I heard man’s voice,
“Is it hot enough for you?”
“I think it is,” I said.
Food and agriculture affects everyone. Find out about legal and policy developments at the local and national level and how they relate to sustainability. Wendell Berry, noted author, environmentalist, and farmer, will provide an introduction. Speakers will address topics of community based agriculture, food labeling and regulation, and genetically modified organisms.
In addition to Wendell Berry, I will be sharing the stage with Cathy Franck of the Real Food WatchClub, LLC, Susan L. Hamilton of Metropolitan Louisville's Economic Development Department, and Sarah Fritschner of the Farm-to-Table Program. My contribution to the program will consist of remarks derived from Beyond Food and Evil, 56 Duke L.J. 1581 (2007). I am grateful to section chair Robert J. Ehrler and to section vice-chair Cathy Franck for the opportunity to take part in this program.
Practicing lawyers seeking 2.0 CLE hours will be charged either $75 (LBA members) or $150 (nonmembers). There is a special student rate of $12, which includes lunch. For more information, please contact Lisa Maddox.
Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking debut book, “The End of Nature,’’ appeared in 1989, while he was still in his 20s. Widely considered one of the nation’s top environmental journalists, he maintains a supersonic rate of activity. Besides his many books, he writes frequently for publications from Outside to the New York Review of Books and serves as scholar in residence at Middlebury College. In 2009, he founded 350.org, an international campaign to combat the climate crisis.
Wendell Berry made a choice to return home to Kentucky after he had “successfully made it out.” He had established himself as a writer, was working as faculty at NYU, and living in one of the largest and richest cultural centers of our country. He writes about the conversation he had with his colleague who was trying to talk him out of the move.
“His argument [Berry’s colleague's] was based on the belief that once one had attained the metropolis, the literary capital, the worth of one’s origins was canceled out; there simply could be nothing worth going back to. What lay behind one had ceased to be a part of life, and had become 'subject matter'…that a place such as I came from could be returned to only at the price of intellectual death; cut off from the cultural springs of the metropolis…Finally, there was the assumption that the life of the metropolis is the experience, the modern experience, and that the life of the rural towns, the farms, the wilderness places is not only irrelevant to our time, but archaic as well…”
The Art of the Commonplace
Essential essays are included in this volume from Wendell Berry's writings on agrarianism, agriculture, and community.
Long before organic produce was available at local supermarkets, Berry was farming with the purity of food in mind. Drawn from more than 30 years of work, this collection is essential reading for anyone who cares about what they eat.
As I navigate my own way in these murky waters, I’ve been encouraged by the words of Wendell Berry in his recent book Imagination in Place, which I’m currently reading. In one of the earlier chapters, Berry talks about the importance of both knowing and imagination for thoughtful living. His words suggest that to thoughtfully live into the world we must be able to simultaneously know some corner of it and its problems intimately and possess the capacity to re-imagine that corner of the world as something more than what it is now.
There is so much in my most recent conversation about all of this with Bill McKibben that will frame and deepen my sense of the nature and meaning of climate change moving forward. Among them is an exceedingly helpful four minutes, a brief history of climate change that we’re making available as a separate podcast. But what has stayed with me most of all, I think, is a stunning equation he is ready to make after two decades of immersion in the scientific, cultural, and economic meaning of our ecological present. He points out that cheap fossil fuels have allowed us to become more privatized, less in need of our neighbor, than ever in human history. And he says that in almost every instance, what is good for the environment is good for human community. The appeal of the farmers market is not just its environmental and economic value but the drama, the organic nature, of human contact.