A Poem by Wendell Berry

Sometimes, when I feel the need for something stronger than prose, I search in vain for a poem that sounds good and beautiful and meaningful. I don’t think this means most poems are bad. A lot of them are, but I think what’s really happening is that I’m looking for a poem that says what I’m feeling but I’m not able to express in words. And that’s hard to find, but not impossible. Tonight I turn to Wendell Berry, who is a kindred spirit.

I went away only
a few hundred steps
up the hill, and turned
and started home.
And then I saw
the pasture green under
the trees, the open
hillside, the little ponds,
our house, cistern,
woodshed, and barn,
the river bending in
its valley, our garden
new-planted beside it.
All around, the woods
that had been stark
in the harsh air
of March, had turned
soft with new leaves.
Birdsong had returned
to the branches:
the stream sang
in the fold of the hill.
In its time and great patience
beauty had come upon us,
greater than I had imagined.

— Poem IV from 1992, A Timbered Choir (1998)

Seasons happen in my life, and not just four times a year. Sometimes more often, sometimes less often. But all seasons have a stark, harsh time, a waiting period, an unfolding of beauty, a time of singing, and a time of leaving off. This is the way the world works. Why should I expect it all to be the unfolding of beauty time? Why should I be impatient and hurt when I know I only need to wait and things will change? And why should I expect my seasons to look like all the others? For all I know, my best season on earth may be a day or two of incomparable joy that is enjoyed in the privacy of my own heart, and is then immediately drawn into the time of leaving off. And that’s okay. That’s how it works.


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