Time and Place

I recently read Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry.  Jayber is a small town bachelor barber who attaches himself to the very small town of Port William. Here is one of the wonderful passages where Jayber philosophizes about time and place. He’s so eloquent and so country at the same time.  

” I have got to the age now where I can see how short a time we have to be here.  And when I think about it, it can seem strange beyond telling that this particular bunch of us should be here on this little patch of ground in this little patch of time, and I can think of the other times and places I might have lived, the other kinds of man I might have been.  But there is something else. There are moments when the heart is generous and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things.”

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

The shortness of time resonates with me.  The closer we get to the end the more obvious it becomes that time was always short, it just becomes clearer. It is important to be reminded of that. We might as well number our days because they are truly numbered. 

It seems like such a random thing to have been born in Texas and to have lived in Texas almost all my life. Who knows if I’ll die in Texas or not? And almost all the people in my wonderful and wide community are here now in Texas.  That is so obvious and yet so strange.  It’s not so different from family, we don’t get to choose our community so much as our time and place choose them for us. Even if I reach out and connect with others across the world to be part of my virtual community, I can’t go back and hang out with Rembrandt. We’re bound to time and place. Wendell Berry’s writing is so much about the working out of time and place. Rereading that sounds so academic. But when actually reading his novels it’s something much different.  It’s layered and lush. The characters and the land are complex, exciting, joyful and of course occasionally tragic.  Mr. Berry makes the idea of staying put in one place seem like the only obvious and best choice.

We’ve been in our current home on this acre and a half for 25 years.  I feel a kindredship with Jayber Crow and all the Port William community because of my connectedness to this home and this small plot of land. Terri’s chickens and our fig trees make a tiny mini-farm, but it also adds to it’s meaning. Part of the key to our great community here with family, neighborhood, church and friends is because we have stayed. We have not left. It’s true that we did not have to leave but also we have chosen not to leave. Our community here has grown and I cherish it. Staying put paid off. 

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