Franciscan Media provided a book for my review. All thoughts are my own. Links are non-affiliate.
In July, my parents invited my family to head to Michigan with them for the week. One night, we all went out to dinner together and my mom told me a story about my great-grandparents.
On the end of a dirt road sat an old homestead. Only the stone foundation remains. There, my great-grandparents lived and worked, making their life in tune with their land, a very Wendell Berry kind of life.
As times changed around them, they remained as they were, an outhouse and no electricity. Finally, the electric company needed a place to run their lines and needed a piece of the old homestead to do it. In return, they would provide electricity to the house.
One lightbulb. My great-grandparents had one lightbulb installed, because as my mom tells it, anymore would have been just too frivolous.
I've been rolling this around in my head. I don't know how many lightbulbs I have in my house. As I feel my moral superiority for keeping the air conditioning off on an 80 degree day, I'm reminded, I'm not all that connected to my surroundings.
With this trip on my mind, I picked up my newest read from Franciscan Media, Wendell Berry and the Given Life.
Seven thoughts on this book:
(1) This is a book club kind of book. You'll want to talk about it with your friends. You'll want to tease out the complexities and thoughts. It's so packed with big thoughts, big ideas, big dreams for what our lives can be.
(2) If you love Wendell Berry, you probably need this on your wishlist. This is a structured and thoughtful breakdown of his thoughts and ideals.
(3) If you, like me, are having a hard time with the mid-30's angst of all the big questions:
- Where am I going in my career (or relationships or life in general)?
- Is this what our family looks like forever?
- Will we have any more big adventures?
The concept of the given life, rather than the built life is a kind a spiritual salve. Just soaking into the first chapter felt like a deep breath from my center, pulling loose some of those tightened anxieties.
(4) "...to be at rest is to fit in the place you are meant to be, to accept and work well within the confines of creatureliness." pg 21
This reminded me very much of the common phrase, "Bloom where you're planted." My constant struggle is wanting more, to do more, to go for more. The thought that sometimes, I may need to stop and evaluate if I want more for the more, or more as I grow into who I am meant to be.
(5) "We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do." pg 29
There have been times in my life where my first thought upon reading this would have been, "Ummmm, I'm poor enough, thanks very much!" I remember doing the poverty food challenge with my family one year where we lived on what the average person would get on food assistance and I literally changed nothing about my meal planning.
Certainly others have more extreme versions of poverty. I've always had the blessing of a clean home and more than enough to eat, even if it was beans and rice.
But, the reality of today is, I do have more than I need. And it's a challenge I need to embrace to live more simply, to be poorer in my living so I can be richer in my giving.
(6) "There seems to be something in the human condition that is restless unless formed in stability." pg 77
I was formed in the most stable environment you could imagine. My parents are rocks that have been married 43 years this November. Still, I struggle with an internal wanderlust that will never quiet. Within the bound of my own stable surroundings with my husband of 13 years, I seek constant change. The color of my walls, the pillows on my couches, the rooms each of us sleep in, the arrangement of the furniture, I crave change, need it, can't breathe without it.
(7) Not every thought resonated with me, but I felt like there were good thoughts to turn over, to pull apart, to examine. I'm not going to leave my lightbulbs behing (sorry Great-Grandpa Dockery!), but I'm thinking about what we could grow in our yard. I'm slowly transitioning to buying meat from local farmers, rather than the grocery store.
Little steps, thoughtful moves, doing what I can in the live I have been given. Which isn't on acreage, but it is on a yard with enough room for some carrots and potatoes. Not every piece of a Wendell Berry life will fit into your life or my life. But, we can take the pieces that fit. We can pick up our little pieces of land and grow some tomatoes on our balcony. We can rejoice in nature around us. We can plan our errands thoughtfully to conserve gas. Little pieces, little steps, more thoughtfulness.
This book is available in hardback, Kindle, audiobook and CD. If you read it, or have read it, I'd love to pick your brain.
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