Sabbath, Part the Second: Wendell Berry Poems

Since moving to Burundi, we have come to enjoy the in-country presence of the Miller family, who live in the capital and work with the same medical school as we do.  They are extremely gracious hosts, who continue to house us when we visit, but always in a way that we never feel like we are being a burden.

Joel and I enjoy talking books.  Several months ago, he loaned me “A Timbered Choir” by Wendell Berry, a poet/author from the American South who, for decades now, has spent his Sabbaths wandering through the rural hills around his farm and occasionally writing poems.  These are bound into a couple volumes.  He’s an old man now, and the aging process comes out in the progression of his poems throughout the years.  But with that kind of ritual, Sabbath walking for over 30 years, he has a lot of wisdom to share.

He speaks of trees, friends lost, the passing of time, birds sitting on high branches, invisible in the “at-home-ness”.  He speaks of the songs he hears all around him, and his own song that he tries to sing.  He speaks of rest, and his attempts to practice it.

Sabbath observance often feels frustrated by the imminent demands of parenting.  But Rachel and I usually understand one another’s need, and try to carve out a little time for solitude each Sunday.  

So lately, that’s where one could find me during that brief interlude, sitting outside on a log with a copy of the psalms and Wendell Berry’s “A Timbered Choir”, slowly reading, savoring the words, watching the branches move in the wind, trying to embrace the image of a day to come, when our rest is made complete, thanking God for the way he continues to transform and lead our lives.

“And I, through woods and fields, through fallen days,
Am passing to where I belong:
At home, at ease, and well,
In Sabbaths of this place
Almost invisible,

Toward which I go from song to song.” (-W.B.)


tscarlet said...

Okay...after hearing McCropders talk about the Sabbath book and the rest and freedom in taking Sabbath for a couple years now, I am officially adding it to my reading list. As I am up this Sunday morning with my To Do list, I read your words "something that I think I had rarely experienced, which highlighted how much of my identity rests on what I accomplish," and I realize this is so true of me. Thanks for these posts. Thanks for the reminder to stop and be still and listen.

Sarah Lynn said...

I came across your blog by way of reading about your group's work in Burundi, as my husband is currently a Will's resident. I love Wendell Berry's poetry, and loved this post. I'm enjoying reading your blog-the mix of Jesus, medicine, literature, family- all the good stuff. God bless!