Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TO A SIBERIAN WOODSMAN (after looking at some pictures in a magazine)

1. You lean at ease in your warm house at night after supper, listening to your daughter play the accordion. You smile with the pleasure of a man confident in his hands, resting after a day of long labor in the forest, the cry of the saw in your head, and the vision of coming home to rest. Your daughter’s face is clear in the joy of hearing her own music. Her fingers live on the keys like people familiar with the land they were born in. You sit at the dinner table late into the night with your son, tying the bright flies that will lead you along the forest streams. Over you, as your hands work, is the dream of still pools. Over you is the dream of your silence while the east brightens, birds waking close by you in the trees.

2. I have thought of you stepping out of your doorway at dawn, your son in your tracks. You go in under the overarching green branches of the forest whose ways, strange to me, are well known to you as the sound of your own voice or the silence that lies around you now that you have ceased to speak, and soon the voice of the stream rises ahead of you, and you take the path beside it. I have thought of the sun breaking pale through the mists over you as you come to the pool where you will fish, and of the mist drifting over the water, and of the cast fly resting light on the face of the pool.

3. And I am here in Kentucky in the place I have made myself in the world. I sit on my porch above the river that flows muddy and slow along the feet of the trees. I hear the voices of the wren and the yellow-throated warbler whose songs pass near the windows and over the roof. In my house my daughter learns the womanhood of her mother. My son is at play, pretending to be the man he believes I am. I am the outbreathing of this ground. My words are its words as the wren’s song is its song.

4. Who has invented our enmity? Who has prescribed us hatred of each other? Who has armed us against each other with the death of the world? Who has appointed me such anger that I should desire the burning of your house or the destruction of your children? Who has appointed such anger to you? Who has set loose the thought that we should oppose each other with the ruin of forests and rivers, and the silence of the birds? Who has said to us that the voices of my land shall be strange to you, and the voices of your land strange to me? Who has imagined that I would destroy myself in order to destroy you, or that I could improve myself by destroying you? Who has imagined that your death could be negligible to me now that I have seen these pictures of your face? Who has imagined that I would not speak familiarly with you, or laugh with you, or visit in your house and go to work with you in the forest? And now one of the ideas of my place will be that you would gladly talk and visit and work with me.

5. I sit in the shade of the trees of the land I was born in. As they are native I am native, and I hold to this place as carefully as they hold to it. I do not see the national flag flying from the staff of the sycamore, or any decree of the government written on the leaves of the walnut, nor has the elm bowed before any monuments or sworn the oath of allegiance. They have not declared to whom they stand in welcome.

6. In the thought of you I imagine myself free of the weapons and the official hates that I have borne on my back like a hump, and in the thought of myself I imagine you free of weapons and official hates, so that if we should meet we would not go by each other looking at the ground like slaves sullen under their burdens, but would stand clear in the gaze of each other.

7. There is no government so worthy as your son who fishes with you in silence besides the forest pool. There is no national glory so comely as your daughter whose hands have learned a music and go their own way on the keys. There is no national glory so comely as my daughter who dances and sings and is the brightness of my house. There is no government so worthy as my son who laughs, as he comes up the path from the river in the evening, for joy.

Wendell Berry, USA
from “Openings,” 1968

6 Comments:

Blogger darklake said...

Nice. That fellow can certainly turn a phrase, can't he.

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Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Haven't found anyone better. His writing never gets old. For example, I could read this one over and over. And then again.

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