Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hannah Coulter

Ever since I read Jayber Crow back in 2006, I have been eager to read another Wendell Berry. So, after three years, I picked up Hannah Coulter, and the deliberate and thoughtful words of Wendell Berry flowed once again.

Years ago, I read that "Thoughts tend to disentangle themselves when they flow over the tip of a pencil." Berry takes life and seems to disentangle it over the tip of his pencil. He makes clear the uncertain ability to make words of life. Many things in life are just inexpressible in words. Yet, Berry has done it. His books seem to be a study of life and people.

Hannah Coulter, like Jayber Crow, followed me around by day after I had read that night. Whatever the reason, whether inherent in Hannah's story or simply my point in life, Hannah Coulter was a sad book. Not that the story is intended to be sad, but Hannah's story seems to relate the reality of the fleeting vapor of life and how short it really is.

A new book must start tonight. My intention was to read a book about the Children's Crusade, but it will undoubtedly be sad, especially following Hannah. So, I may pick up Mister Teacher, another book by English school teacher Jack Sheffield. Easy, light, encouraging.

Just eight pages into Hannah Coulter, and I had to reach over for my highlighter. Following are some marked quotes that I found particularly reflective.

"And Grandmam, as I have seen in looking back, was the decider of my fate, She shaped my life, without of course knowing what my life would be. She taught me many things that I was going to need to know, without either of us knowing I would need to know them. She made the connections that made my life."

"A lifetime's knowledge shimmers on the face of the land in the mind of a person who knows. The history of a place is the mind of an old man or an old woman who knows it, walking over it, and it is never fully handed on to anybody else, but has been mostly lost, generation after generation, going back and back to the first Indians."

"Of all the times with the children, those are the ones I love best to remember, when they were still young enough to live free in their imagination."

"What Nathan had done was what should have been done. The place never looked as if something had been changed. It looked right. It looked the way it ought to have looked. It looked right because the right man was doing the work."

"He hated waste, and he was not a waster. It is not surprising that he did not waste words."

"It just never occurred to either of us that we would lose them that way. The way of education leads away from home. That is what we learned from our children's education."

"The change you had is the life you've got...but you mustn't wish for another life. You mustn't want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: 'Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks.' I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions."

"You must not let your hope turn into expectation."

"I'm going to live right on. Dying is none of my business. Dying will have to take care of itself."


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