Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson

My friend Kate invited me to listen to Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson speak at the State Theater on Sunday afternoon. These two guys are so insightful, intelligent, curious, and inspiring. They spoke of the land, of agriculture, of fuel and food and earth. I took notes – these are just a few poetic things that were said.

  • We didn’t know what we were doing because we didn’t know what we were UNdoing. (Speaking of cultivating the land, changing ecosystems, etc.)
  • We need to keep money out of trouble.
  • Cities are built like ringworms – extending out, but rotten in the middle, like an old sycamore tree.
  • A hard-headed realist is one who doesn’t use all the information available.
  • Anything that is done is done by art. Art is a way of making something.
  • If a tragedy is too big, the human mind can’t comprehend it.
  • If you’re working on something you can finish in your lifetime, you aren’t thinking big enough.
  • We need to feature questions that don’t have available answers.
  • Leadership is coming from the bottom right now. There are people who have seen a problem and just starting doing something about it – not waiting for government approval or a pamphlet from a university.
  • The countryside is understaffed.
  • If the worst thing you fear actually happens, it will still only happen one day at a time.
  • The carbon in our bodies was cycled through a supernova twice, at least. Our origin goes beyond the womb. (Translation to me: I am stardust. So lovely.)
  • Wendell Berry says he attempts to avoid food that has been wickedly produced. My friend S. does this, too, I think. It’s very noble.
  • Whatever you do, do it with affection.

Wendell Berry also was kind enough to read one of his poems aloud to us – it was fantastic.


I was born in a drouth year. That summer
my mother waited in the house, enclosed
in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,
for the men to come back in the evenings,
bringing water from a distant spring.
Veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.
And all my life I have dreaded the return
of that year, sure that it still is
somewhere, like a dead enemyโ€™s soul. Fear
of dust in my mouth is always with me,
and I am the faithful husband of the rain,
I love the water of wells and springs
and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise
of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup.
My sweetness is to wake in the night
after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.

Hope you all have a great week!

6 responses to “Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson”

  1. Great poem. Funny how Wendell Barry should pop on my radar from two completely different directions in two days. The other person quoted him as saying “The mind that is not baffled is not employed./The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

    1. Ah, I love his writing. Very interesting that he’s popping up in your world lately…

  2. There’s a Carl Sagan quote similar to the stardust bit you mentioned:
    “Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can. Because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

    Such a neat thing to think about. We’re made of the same random matter everything else is!

    1. I like it! It’s sometimes so big to comprehend, but still worth pondering.

  3. thank you for being my date & beautifully intentional/meticulous scribe…. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. You know me, I’m a nerd… ๐Ÿ™‚

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