“By then, he’d come a long way down the road.”
That’s Wendell Berry, writing about the protagonist of his short story Making It Home.
As I told you last week, I’ve never read any of Wendell Berry’s fiction.
I plan to change that, at some point. Until then I have Berry reading his own short story Making It Home.
It’s a luxury. To be able to click on a few buttons at 9:30 am on a Wednesday morning and listen to Berry read his own story. When many people are already taking instructions from others and executing assigned duties. In a fashion not that different from what Art refers to as the reduction of being in the army.
At first, before he was all the way in it, there was something he liked about the war. A reduction that in a way was pleasing.
From a man used to doing and thinking for himself he became a man who did what he was told.
Art’s war is over. He is returning to his Kentucky farm. He reminds himself that he was a soldier after he was a man and a man after he was a farmer. In other words, he was a farmer first, then a man, and now a solider. And he carries with him all the thoughts of a soldier who has engaged in warfare, but also the thoughts of any man who has truly left someplace and returned again, and also the eye of a farmer who must have a unique relationship with all the land he passes through.
In the story, it’s 1945. When leaving was a thing. Now it’s 2017, and staying is.
Staying is the new leaving.
The rewards of staying are not as immediate as those that come with a departure — new people, new circumstances— but I believe there are rewards nonetheless.
For instance, you could plant a tree today and every year see it grow taller until it is taller than anybody you ever knew.
Can I live from Duarte? I’ve talked shit about Duarte. On here, as well as off. How would it affect my daily routine and my attitude if I believed I was going to stay here?
Art’s journey is from where he does not know to where he does know. From the Western Front of World War II to his Kentucky farm. There is another way to make this journey though, from what one does not know to what one does know. It can be done without ever leaving where you are. If you stay, as the days pass, you go from not knowing a place to knowing it. And you realize at some point, you have made it home.