woods photo by cara davis

The current issue of Garden & Gun (Aug./Sept. 2011) includes a feature about Wendell Berry, a prolific American writer who was awarded the National Humanities Medal in March by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Berry, who has more than 50 books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction to his credit, is known for his connection to place – namely a farm in rural Kentucky where he lives and works, not many miles from where he was born. But Berry has traveled the world and influenced many in it over the years with his writing and ideas.

In the article, Berry, now 77, jokes with friends while bird watching about starting the “Slow Communication Movement,” in response to a culture of instant messaging and the “Society for Preservation of Tangibility” – a barb directed at society filled with digital avatars and electronic friends.

His witty take on the pitfalls of ever-advancing technology are rooted in a career known for its contributions to the subjects of conservation and land stewardship.

His writing studio features no electricity, but a large window that overlooks the river and allows natural light to flow in as he writes lines like this recent one from a recent poem:

It is a room as timely as the body
As frail, to shelter love’s eternal work,
Always unfinished, here at water’s edge,
The work of beauty, faith, and gratitude
Eternally alive in time.

The feature writer commented on Berry’s work: “In tumultuous and uncertain times, it is worth being reminded that these fine things – beauty, faith, gratitude – still lurk eternally beneath history’s dark veneer, and that an artist working alone in a room beside a river may catch a glimpse of them and render them into a lyric poem, a short story, or an essay.”

To that list I’d add “a photograph.”

Do you have spaces in your life that reconnect you to beauty, faith and gratitude?