Wednesday, June 29, 2011

First Day

I have often heard the expression "This is the first day of the rest of your life." Today that really feels true for me. Starting today, I don't go back to the regularly scheduled program that I have followed for so long. Being and educator has been more than a job and it will continue to be part of my identity. But now I'm looking forward to expanding horizons.

The first day of the rest of my life began as I hope the pattern will be. Early coffee, walk by the lake with Bill, light breakfast, garden work, then on to whatever else the day brings.

Dew soaked feet follow
Familiar garden pathways
Morning work delight

In cleaning out my office files, I found a poem I thought long lost. I discovered this poem by Wendell Berry at the very beginning of my teaching career. It spoke to me of the role a teacher as well as a farmer. I have remembered and reflected on the essence of the poem many times over the past 27 years, but I had lost the text and reference. Its return to me is a gift as I transition to the next phase of life on this hill in East Tennessee. I hope Mr. Berry will not mind if I share it here.

by Wendell Berry

If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven, 
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
here, Their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows. The river will run 
clear, as we will never know it,
and over it, birdsong like a canopy.
On the levels of the hills will be
green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand, 
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields. 
In their voices they will her a music 
risen out of the ground. They will take
nothing from the ground they will not return,
whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds, 
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its possibility.