Wind-formed trees hang onto a steep beach on outermost Cape Cod. Photo taken in January 2009.
Wendell Berry knows Kentucky, where he has lived, written, and done some farming for most of his more than eight decades on earth. When one knows a place deeply, one writes about it well. In 2015 while being inducted into the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame, Berry said he’d lived and worked for two years in New York City in his late 20s. But decided to leave and go back to his home landscape of Kentucky.
Not all writers live and work with that sense of peace about where they belong.
“My point is that in 1964, for a young writer in Kentucky and in need of sustenance, sustenance was here,” he told his audience at the hall of fame induction. “In the fifty years that have followed, the gathering in Kentucky of Kentucky writers has grown much larger. It would take me a while just to call their names: old friends, allies, influences, members, permitting me to be a member, of an unending, enlightening, entertaining, comforting, indispensable conversation. My further point is that in 2015, for an old writer in Kentucky and in need of sustenance, sustenance is here.”
Even in a short time, a writer can capture a natural spot and its effect. The more subtle, sometimes, the more intense the writing. We look.
If I don’t know what to write, I go onto a wooded trail, preferably an incline. I look at the ground. Out of this simple act of faith, words arrive. I don’t call them to me; I wait until they step in.