Saying goodbye to an old friend

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”  Wendell Berry

Farm

The lake at my grandparent’s farm. Photo by Hiro Takase

The farm where I grew up has been sold. With four heirs squabbling over what to do with it, the family decided to sell the land.

This is bitter news for me. It was here that I learned to hunt, to slop hogs, to raise vegetables, to pick and hand tobacco. In my grandparents’ home, which sat on the highest point of that 60-acre farm, our families gathered for Christmas Eve. Beside the house stood a tall cedar decked with colored lights, back then, the largest Christmas tree in the county.

That farm was its own world of work, food supply, social life, and recreation. We swam in the lake. In the plowed earth, just after a rain, a few minutes of careful searching would reward you with an arrowhead. This is where I began my collection, as well as a fascination with ancient history. I will never forget the awe I felt when I identified the style of a perfect little arrowhead I’d found and learned it was a Kirk dating back to 7800 BC.  That fascination inspired two works, Gooseberry and Aztec Midnight.

So I guess you could say the imprint of the land I grew up on will never leave me.

Mary Fahl’s Going Home pretty well expresses my hope for this lost piece of my life:

They say there’s a place where dreams have all gone
They never said where but I think I know
It’s miles through the night just over the dawn
On the road that will take me home

I know in my bones, I’ve been here before
The ground feels the same though the land’s been torn
I’ve a long way to go the stars tell me so
On this road that will take me home

Love waits for me ’round the bend, leads me endlessly on
Surely sorrows shall find their end and all our troubles will be gone
And I’ll know what I’ve lost and all that I’ve won
When the road finally takes me home

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Charlene Spretnak on Modernism

north-pole-sun-moon

“Today corrective challenges to some of the most destructive dynamics of “progress” are coming from entirely unexpected directions, the very areas that were marginalized by the modern age: the knowing body, the creative cosmos, and the complex sense of place.  … Our understanding of nature is now radically shifting, however, because of recent discoveries in the new sciences. Studies known as “complexity science” have revealed that properties emerge creatively within systems, while chaos theory has shown that nature moves in and out of patterns of self-organization. Nature at large – -from the turbulence of streams in an ecosystem to the self-organizing abilities of galaxies throughout the universe — is now understood to function much more like a creative unfolding than a mechanistic play of stimulus and response.”

Charlene Spretnak, The Resurgence of the Real

Dream Creatures

DreamCreature
Who says Ents aren’t real? All you need is time in the wild and a little imagination:

Italian photographer Elido Turco spent four years between 2004 and 2008 exploring a mirrored photography world that remains invisible to most of us. By taking photographs of tree bark and then mirroring the photographs he captured, he discovered a whole society of “Dream Creatures” were watching him each time he would take a stroll through the mountain paths.

Turco loves walking the mountain paths of his native Friuli with his wife, and for years he would use this time to try and find human forms and faces formed by the bark and roots of the trees in the forest.

Click here for more amazing images.

In Defense of Fantasy

Mystical

Here’s Lev Grossman writing in Time Magazine on the new popularity of fantasy fiction:

It’s interesting to compare the present moment to another one when fantasy was a big deal: the 1950’s, the decade when The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings were published, two of the founding classics of modern fantasy. By that time in their lives, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien had lived through some massive social and technological transformations. They had witnessed the birth of mechanized warfare – they were both survivors of World War I. They had seen the rise of psychoanalysis and mass media. They watched as horses were replaced by cars and gaslight by electric light. They were born under Queen Victoria, but the world they lived in as adults looked nothing like the one they’d grown up in. They were mourners of a lost world, alienated and disconnected from the present, and to express that mourning they created fantasy worlds, beautiful and green and magical and distant.

God knows, characters in fantasy worlds aren’t always happy: if anything the ambient levels of misery in Westeros are probably significantly higher than those in the real world. But they’re not distracted. They’re not disconnected. The world they live in isn’t alien to them, it’s a reflection of the worlds inside them, and they feel like an intimate part of it.

Modern man inhabits a world that is increasingly alien to him. There is no sense of place, of history, of community. The nobility and purpose of the Fellowship of the Ring, and the family and community spirit that inspire Katniss in The Hunger Games awaken us to the possibility of a life enriched by interconnection and mutual concern. And then there’s that sense of wonder we can recall from childhood, and can feel again in imagined worlds.

Tolkien and Beowulf

I was greatly pleased by the news that J.R.R. Tolkien’s son discovered his father’s manuscript of an original translation of Beowulf and had it published. And this thoughtful review in The Catholic World Report is just as enjoyable. Tolkien’s inspired translation is a forceful reminder that whatever perversions and distractions may delude and ensnare modern man, certain truths endure:

At the least, we can say that there is more reality to Old English folklore than in the perverse fantasies by which Americans now live. When a society promotes disloyalty and monstrosity so far as to celebrate dragons and vampires and witches, when respectability-craving “conservatives” can always find reasons to compromise with the next phase of an ongoing anti-Christian revolution, when piles of gadgets and toys and luxury goods are offered in compensation for the loss of faith, family, and roots—why, in such times we could do worse than to recall Beowulf’s trusty kinsman Wiglaf, who lives by the dictum that “[k]inship may nothing set aside in virtuous mind.”

This reminds me of Sam Francis’ review of James C. Russell’s The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity, which argued that northern European Christianity was heavily influenced by the pagan worldview of its adherents. Unlike the “world-rejecting” Oriental religions, northern Europeans embraced and celebrated the world, including their past:

The saints and Christ Himself were depicted as Germanic warrior heroes; both festivals and locations sacred in ancient Germanic cults were quietly taken over by the Christians as their own; and words and concepts with religious meanings and connotations were subtly redefined in terms of the new religion. Yet the final result was not that the Germans were converted to the Christianity they had originally encountered, but rather that that form of Christianity was “Germanized,” coming to adopt many of the same Indo-European folk values that the old pagan religion had celebrated.

I think J.R.R. Tolkien would approve.

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