Desire Like Dynamite, Jayber Crow, and A Rocha

I had a dream that the mountains cried like a child for their mother

There was poison in the seam and I saw eastern Tennessee flooding under

Black the hope, the Holy Ghost

a deaf man hears inaudible thunder

The hush, the chill, the iron will of man

Sweeping everything in sight…with dynamite

The other day I was driving down the road listening to Sandra McCracken’s latest album, Desire like Dynamite. The title song is maybe my favorite on the album. In it, Sandra compares “the iron will of man” across the landscape to our struggle with will and desires within us and our children.

Then suddenly, I encountered one of those blessed moments of connection that happen with good art and literature. I was back in the concluding chapters of Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow, watching Jayber sleep in the Nest Egg, a treasured bit of forest on a neighbor’s farm:

Everything there seemed to belong where it was. That was why I went there. And I went to feel the change that that place always made in me. Always, as soon as I came in under the big trees, I began to go slowly and quietly. This was not because I was hunting (I hunted in other places), but because in a place where everything belongs where it is, you do not want to disturb anything. I went slowly and quietly. I watched where I put my feet. I went for solace and comfort, for a certain quietness of mind that came to me in no other place. Even the nettles and mosquitoes comforted me, for they belonged where they were.

At the end of the novel, the Nest Egg is gone, sacrificed to the iron will and carelessness of man.

I dreamed I heard the sound of the last Great God bird singing

Lying in the trees I could hear the ax machines that were ringing

This is like a fable to be told but I’d rather put it down

Will we choose the noise of our desire,

Or the hope that makes no sound?

Those who have ears, as the smoke it clears

will see things as they are

to bend the will, you first must change the heart…

If you’d like to read about Sandra’s visit to Mr. Berry’s farm, go here.

Also, please consider giving to the Nashville A Rocha project, which encourages people in integrating faith, creation care, and hospitality. You can get some music for a small amount of support to their campaign, which ends on July 2.

Nearness to Joy

The grief that came to me then was nothing like the grief I had felt for myself alone, at the end of my stay in Lexington. This grief had something in it of generosity, some nearness to joy. In a strange way it added to me what I had lost. I saw that, for me, this country would always be populated with presences and absences, presences of absences, the living and the dead. The world as it is would always be a reminder of the world that was, and of the world that is to come.

p. 132, Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry

I just would like to put in another plug for Berry’s work.  I started reading his writing in a collection of short stories, called Fidelity, and moved on to Hannah Coulter. Now I’m deep into what most people say is his other masterwork, Jayber Crow.  It’s every bit as good as people say it is — maybe better.