Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Slip

Well, coming off vacation into Christmas week caught me a little busier than I expected. So this week I give way to another trusted voice. Wendell Berry is one of the most prophetic and challenging voices in the American church. His writings on the biblical concepts of sabbath and jubilee have left me uncomfortable many times. But, for all his great essays, I love him for his poetry (found in some of his best collections like this, this and this). So this week an Advent poem from Wendell Berry.

Please take a minute to post a comment on a favorite line or image from the poem. Whoever you are, however often you read this blog, if you are a part of Servant's or not, let us hear your feedback.

The Slip
The river takes the land, and leaves nothing.
Where the great slip gave way in the bank
and an acre disappeared, all human plans
dissolve. An awful clarification occurs
where a place was. Its memory breaks
from what is known now, begins to drift.
Where cattle grazed and trees stood, emptiness
widens the air for birdflight, wind, and rain.
As before the beginning, nothing is there.
Human wrong is in the cause, human
ruin in the effect–but no matter;
all will be lost, no matter the reason.
Nothing, having arrived, will stay.
The earth, even, is like a flower, so soon
passeth it away. And yet this nothing
is the seed of all–the clear eye
of Heaven, where all the worlds appear.
Where the imperfect has departed, the perfect
begins its struggle to return. The good gift
begins again its descent. The maker moves
in the unmade, stirring the water until
it clouds, dark beneath the surface,
stirring and darkening the soul until pain
perceives new possibility. There is nothing
to do but learn and wait, return to work
on what remains. Seed will sprout in the scar.
Though death is in the healing, it will heal.

~Wendell Berry


At 1:08 AM , Blogger The Wingnut said...

Never did I think that soil erosion could be such a spiritual event.

What I found most interesting is the idea that even in nature, things that seem like total destruction are really simply creative events, bringing new and different life to the places they occur.

Wendell Berry just made my "must read" list!


At 3:13 PM , Blogger pastor jeff said...

When I named Wendell Berry as "one of the most prophetic and challenging voices in the American church", I neglected to say that he isn't a pastor, or professor. He is a farmer. I think that is one reason I love his poetry. Something feels like home after growing up around my mother's Mennonite farming family.

Every time I read this poem I'm struck by the line "There is nothing to do but learn and wait, return to work on what remains." It is my reminder that most things, soil erosion and the coming Kingdom included, are out of my control. They are not guided by my ambition or timing. The season of Advent teaches me that in matters of justice and redemption, there is nothing to do but learn and wait. To return to work on what remains.

At 11:36 PM , Anonymous Sara Melton said...

"...emptiness widens..."
Hmmm. I love this expression. I'm thinking about how music is the combination of sound and silence. Nature is the combination of substance and emptiness.


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