Some morsels from Wendell Berry

I am currently reading Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry. This is actually the book I inflicted on my whole book club, who probably think it’s the slowest book in the universe. But as I read, it is getting more and more beautiful. Here’re some bits:

If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line – starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the King’s Highway past the appropriately named dangers, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City. But that is not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circling or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led – make of that what you will.

And this:

I became a sort of garden fanatic, and I am not over it yet. You can take a few seed peas, dry and dead, and sow them in a little furrow, and they will sprout into a row of pea vines and bear more peas – it may not be a miracle, but that is a matter of opinion.

And this, about the community church gathering:

I thought that some of the hymns bespoke the true religion of the place. The people didn’t really want to be saints of self-deprivation and hatred of the world. They knew that the world would sooner or later deprive them of all it had given them, but still they liked it. What they came together for was to acknowledge, just by coming, their losses and failures and sorrows, their need for comfort, their faith always needing to be greater, their wish (in spite of all words and acts to the contrary) to love one another and to forgive and be forgiven, their need for one another’s help and company and divine gifts, their hope (and experience) of love surpassing death, their gratitude.


  • Ali I've just stopped by after a very long absence from your blog – I just don't read blog posts these days! But I love it that you are enjoying Mr Berry. That is such a beautiful book. Wendell Berry's novels remind me a little of Marilynne Robinson's style – reflective and a little slow moving, but very beautiful.

  • I understand, I don't read blog posts these days myself, and then very occasionally I write one, which is probably some kind of sin. It took me a while to warm to this main character and his ways but it is now getting beautiful, and it is Marilyn-Robinson-esque!

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