Tag: Wendell Berry

In Defense of Place

In Defense of Place

_TSL4000Experiencing a sense of place helps us connect who we are to the land, water, wildlife…all life…in an area. It gives us a eco-spiritual sense of Oneness with life. “A sense of place results gradually and unconsciously from inhabiting a landscape over time, becoming familiar with its physical properties, accruing history within its confines, ” is how Kent Rydon describes it.

Wallace Stegner says we love, value and invest our labor and emotions into a particular area and that gives us a sense of place. Wendell Berry said, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” The human being’s deep connection to a particular area or place is how we form a deep bond with the planet and in particular a familiar place on the planet.

_TSL3998The human experience of the landscape grows from identifying oneself in relationship to a particular piece of land.

JB Jackson said, “It is place, permanent position in both the social and topographical sense, that gives us our identity.”

The beginning of this sea turtle nesting season is the fifth season I’ve volunteered with Share the Beach, a volunteer organization dedicated to helping sea turtles. This is the third season I’ve walked one particular section of the beach. I dream of it weeks before the sunrise walks begin. I crave its beauty throughout the year and especially when the walking patrols end.

_TSL4093When I attended our team’s first meeting this year I was shocked to see my section had been switched. I felt panic and got defensive. WHY can’t I walk ‘my’ section? It was simply an error on the schedule but I was surprised to see how upset I got.

Today was the third Sunday morning of walking the section I have come to call Friend. When another team member dropped me off at my car, after we each finished our respective sections, this person suggested we switch sections throughout the summer. Without taking a breath I replied, “Why would I do that?”

_TSL4059As I was driving home I was once again bewildered by the stance I took, protecting the time I have with this section of beach. Precious time….sacred land and water. I began to explore my feelings and the shield I am erecting between anyone who dares come between this mile and a half stretch of beach and me. I realized a deep sense of place has formed between my heart, my being and this area.

One of the reasons cited for humans lack of care and concern about our planet is poor development of a sense of place. If we aren’t connected to the land and water and all life within it, we are much less likely to safeguard it from development, pollution and other assaults against it.

_TSL4079At first I was self-critical of my reactions and then I realized that the deep love I have developed for this small stretch of beach has enriched my life profoundly. I recognize the great blue herons that hunt in the shallows. Last year a pair of oyster catchers foraged along the shore for several weeks and every time I saw them excitement stirred within my heart. Various tracks leading from the protected wildlife refuge onto the areas of human foot traffic tell stories each morning I visit and its always sweet to see evidence of the daily lives of the creatures who inhabit the dunes and marshes.

A sense of place is vital to not only the health of the planet but to our health as well. As Wendell Berry wrote, “Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.”

IMG_4326The small stretch of shoreline has been a friend who has aided in my growth and healing. To not show up for Sunday morning visits would leave a dark emptiness within me. I want to see if it’s okay, if there are injured wildlife or trash or holes that could injure or kill a sea turtle. I take ownership for the well-being of the creatures that live here. I feel connected to it.

“I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.” Thank you Wendell Berry for writing exactly what I feel.

_TSL4092Join in communion with a place that is sacred, special. Develop a relationship with it, get to know its residents. When we have a clear sense of place, we can then stand in defense of place.




The box of books came yesterday, filled with Wendell Berry works. It was like opening a little treasure chest.

As I carefully took them out I noticed there were three copies of a book of poetry he wrote called Leavings. Oops…did I order three? Obviously I was supposed to pay attention to this book.  So…today I simply share Wendell Berry’s words and my images. May they bring you peace…joy…beauty. And some things to ponder.

SimoneLipscombLIKE SNOW

Suppose we did our work

like the snow, quietly, quietly,

leaving nothing out.

SimoneLipscomb (1)LOOK IT OVER

I leave behind even

my walking stick. My knife

is in my pocket, but that

I have forgot. I bring

no car, no cell phone,

no computer, no camera,

no CD player, no fax, no

TV, not even a book. I go

into the woods. I sit on

a log provided at no cost.

It is the earth I’ve come to,

the earth itself, sadly

abused by the stupidity

only humans are capable of

but, as ever, itself. Free.

A bargain! Get it while it lasts.

SimoneLipscomb (2)GIVE IT TIME

The river is of the earth

and it is free. It is rigorously

embanked and bound,

and yet is free. “To hell

with restraint,” it says.

“I have got to be going.”

It will grind out its dams.

It will go over or around them.

They will become pieces.

SimoneLipscomb (4)XII.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.Hosea 4:6

We forget the land we stand on

and live from. We set ourselves

free in an economy founded

on nothing, on greed verified

by fantasy, on which we entirely

depend. We depend on fire

that consumes the world without

lighting it. To this dark blaze

driving the inert metal

of our most high desire

we offer our land as fuel,

thus offering ourselves at last

to be burned. This is our riddle

to which the answer is a life

that none of us has lived.

Wendell Berry from the book entitled, Leavings. Published by Counterpoint 2010.

What Love Can Do

What Love Can Do

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Lately I’ve been asking the question, How can we really make a difference? Actually, for several months now I’ve been walking with this prayer in my heart and mind. I breathe it in the morning….walk with it during the day….rest my head on my pillow at night with this koan echoing through my spirit.

SimoneLipscombDocumenting the Gulf Oil Spill broke my heart and mind open. It brought me to my knees in the truest sense because I saw how everything precious and sacred can be taken away by careless human acts and ongoing choices and behaviors that are centered on profit…at any cost. After struggling with emotions of anger, grief, frustration, helplessness and more I connected with Joanna Macy‘s work and traveled to spend a week with her and others committed to creating positive change in our world. Without hesitation I can say that the week spent in Massachusetts helped me climb out of the emotional hole that I fell into witnessing first hand the oil spill.

Once among the living, however, my sense of direction faded. I realized I could no longer approach my work with anger or frustration because what I felt so strongly was love…for the planet, for creatures, for humans. I couldn’t bombard people with the horrific images that had filled my nightmares any longer. I didn’t want to be in denial about what is happening in our world but focusing on the terrible seemed only to perpetuate more of it. I felt that people were grieving the destruction of life, even if they weren’t consciously aware of it. And perhaps seeing beauty would inspire them to engage, encourage them to care a little more.

Water captivates me and my favorite images center around water...waterfalls...big water...underwater.

The theme of beauty and more specifically, focusing on beauty, became the answer I began to hear each time I asked the question, What can I do to make a difference? Yet that answer didn’t give me complete satisfaction or a sense of true direction. It was a start though.

Many more months have passed and the question still pulls me to deeper understanding. It seems quite simple but how difficult it can be to live the answer I received: Love. Love is the answer I’ve been hearing lately.

It sounds cliche. It sounds so ’60’s. Yet as I’ve explored and read….listened deeply to my core…it’s that simple.

Standing in love doesn’t mean we are powerless or squishy. Sometimes love looks powerful and strong. Other times it is enfolding, soft. It seems we are at a point of powerful change in our world. It takes radical courage to live from Love for most of what is modeled in our world is power-over, squishing the competition, winning at any cost….more…more…more. To observe this way of being and step away from it, to stand centered in love and compassion is radical. And yet history  has proven that power for power’s sake never works.

Or moments of intense stillness and inner quiet.

In some philosophies there is a diagram that is helpful. In it two lines intersect. One runs up and down and is considered to represent Spirit. The other crosses it and is representative of the physical path. In the center, at the intersection where Spirit and physical meet, is the point of becoming. It’s the place where we can, in a physical experience, balance our life with the qualities of Spirit, of Love.

Wendell Berry states, “Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a practice.” He also said, “What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness.” This leads me to conclude that what leads to love isn’t hate…it’s love.

800_1019If we really want to change the world for the better, our first task then is to clear all obstacles within ourselves that keep us from truly knowing love. This means letting go of judgment of self and others, letting go of hate of self and others. Selfishness, ego…all must go as we open our hearts to the absolute power of love. When we do this, when we have such radical courage, we will see what love can do.

Patience….Faith…Hope for the Planet

Patience….Faith…Hope for the Planet

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On the spiritual path it is said that once you have had an awakening it is impossible to forget what you know. In other words…you can’t really go back to sleep and pretend you don’t know the truth…I think the same is true of our environmental and social ills. But then they too are part of our spiritual path are they not? It’s all the same journey, no matter what label we attach to it.

800_0234I happened upon a Bill Moyers interview with Wendell Berry that helped me breathe–it felt like I had been holding my breath for months.

Berry reminded us to do what we can and to be realistic…we’re not going to fix something quickly. We have to have patience. He talked of being in an emergency situation and how that is the most difficult time to have patience and yet, with our planetary situation, patience is called for….faith, he said, is another word for patience.

The take-away from the interview between Moyers and Berry was this: keep doing whatever you can and do it as often as you can. Now is not the time to give up.

simonelipscombIt’s not easy. It can feel like a very lonely, isolated existence. Yet whatever each of us feels ‘called’ to do to make a difference contributes to positive momentum and resolution. Maintaining balance while committing oneself to the task is challenging…beyond belief challenging. But the alternative is giving up and that’s simply not an option.

For me, the only thing left is faith…a glimmer of hope…and love. And the greatest of these is love. Ultimately I believe it is love that will lead us forward into a better way of living with each other and the planet.

Joanna Macy lead our group to greater understanding of how to help our planet and each other at Rowe, MA
Joanna Macy lead our group to greater understanding of how to help our planet and each other at Rowe, MA