Two and a half years ago (2011) I wrote to Wendell Berry. I had just turned 30 and, reflecting back upon my life, I felt the need to write him a letter of thanks for the guiding force his words had been to me. At the time, I had known of his work for ten years and had his book “The Art of the Commonplace” for nearly as long. Below is an excerpt of my letter to him, and below that is the great compliment I received from him only weeks later.
It is a gift to know where one has come from and to treasure its history. I can’t remember where I first heard this, but the Aymara people of South America believed we are all walking backwards through time. The future always behind us and unknown. Our past always before us. The past develops, as a landscape slowly forming as mountains and hills, with streams becoming rivers and oceans. Our own history, all of our experiences, forming as a living landscape of our membership to it — of shared experiences and to the vision of a new day and true home. It is a day where we never turn from the past, but to see it with a sharp vision, knowing intimately the pebbles and the stones in the path we’ve walked. I take great comfort in this thought, though I still feel the anxiety of not knowing what develops before me. “I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley.”
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