Monday, March 4, 2013

A new favorite poem

What a perfect poem and the perfect time of the year to find it!

I was reading Wendell Berry's poems in his book A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979 - 1997, wondering if I should keep it to read all the way to the end or take the book back to the library today when I knew I would be driving that way. Fortunately, I kept reading this morning just a little bit more and found this poem. It is poem I from year 1997, the poem I was meant to read from this book.

Best of any song
is bird song
in the quiet, but first
you must have the quiet. 

~ Wendell Berry

Besides having quiet surrounding you, you must also have quiet in your mind and heart. Having experienced this song along with the quiet that allowed it to enter my mind and my heart, I am aware that I am always ready to hear it and always eager to hear it. In fact, I know that I hear the songs in my memory, perhaps in every cell of my body, which sustains me through the winter days. 

Ah, that word 'sustain'. Here are a few ways of defining the word 'sustain', which so many people (and corporations) are trying to understand and use these days:

A verb meaning:
1. To strengthen or support physically or mentally.
2. To keep in existence; to maintain.
3. To supply with necessities or nourishment.
4. To support from below, to keep from falling.
5. To support the spirits, vitality. 

From Latin sustinere: sub–from below + tenere–to hold

I like that image, holding from below, which reminds me of the vital importance of our precious soil, needed for our food production of course, to supply us with necessities or nourishment, but properly cared for soil provides more than just the nutrients that are needed for life. Well cared for soil provides for our sense of place, bird song for the soul, and nurtures a sense of belonging to our larger community, including all the life we cannot see in the soil, all of which are needed to keep us (civilization) from falling. 

Our farm's soil is still covered, both with cover crops and snow, but the birds that stayed through the winter are already sharing their bird song (their songs of hope) with those who listen, telling us that spring is on the way. More birds and their songs, more signs of hope, will be coming, as our soil has rested and been refreshed, indeed sustained, by our care and also by the care of the larger forces, to nourish us and our community. 

What birds are you hearing? What hopes do you have?

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

PS - While sorting through my slides this afternoon for an upcoming talk, I found this beautiful and poignant quotation about our soil, also by Wendell Berry, this time from his book The Unsettling of America, 1977. 

"The soil is the great connector of lives, 
the source and destination of all.
It is the healer and the restorer and resurrector, by which
disease passes into health, age into youth,
death into life.
Without proper care for it, we can have no community, 
because without proper care for the soil,
we can have no life."


Robbie Palm said...

so true..The other day I noticed the birds singing more and thought, " Oh, how I miss early mornings in the garden with my singing friends."...."without proper care for it, we can have no community." ...beautiful post...:-) robbie

Susanna said...

Andy and I just moved from semi-in-the-country to more-in-the-country, so we're hearing more birds on our walks these days. I couldn't tell you what they are, but I LOVE hearing them. Of course, there are the chickens, ducks, guineas and peacocks that we pass at a nearby farm, too! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh Diana I love this post! I was walking with Mick and our Golden Retriever Koda this morning and the snow was falling and the cardinals were giving us a concert . . . and then the doves took flight in the trees above . . . it was like something out of Narnia! I'm so enjoying the beauty of this day while at the same time I'm excited for all that Spring will bring! Hard to believe our Woodstock Farmer's Market will open in just 8 weeks!Thank you for your beautiful writing! Bright Blessings to you Diana! Heidi

Elaine said...

I wasn't sure where to begin catching up on the wonderful posts I've missed during the past couple of months. I picked this one at random -- a very good choice indeed.

Beautiful thoughts and wise insights, Diana. I will need to -- and I do want to -- re-read your meditation several times. It's very nourishing and rich (in a healthy way).

I hear birds every morning. Their song makes me happy -- even joyful -- like nothing else. Hopeful, too, though I confess I need to work on adjusting my attitude as its natural inclination is not always in the -ful direction.