Wendell Berry’s “Nature Consumers”

“It is maybe most of all … silence that they are so intent to guard themselves against. And there is indeed a potential terror in it. It raises, still, all the old answerless questions of origins and ends. It asks a man what is the use and the worth of his life.” — Wendell Berry

Updated 4.29.2019

It was probably ten years ago or so now when I first picked up a copy of Wendell Berry’s wendellberrybyguymendescollection of essays, The Long-Legged House at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland with a good friend, now deceased, who had introduced me to Berry’s work some years before. Cliché, but I was immediately captured by the timelessness of his concerns articulated in this 1965 publication—a theme that runs through much of his work. His essay found therein, titled ‘Nature Consumers,’ along with chapter two, book one of Thomas A. Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, is among the few most influential pieces of literature I’ve ever read, having revisited each of these chapters dozens of times. It doesn’t have to be brilliant—it need only hit you at the right time and space.

They have each become so ingrained in my psyche that I find myself regularly quoting them and referencing them without actually referencing them—you know, when something becomes so familiar to you that it is less a reference than it is your own exhale. Many have heard me say, “We are all frail; consider none more frail than yourself,” which comes straight from that chapter in Kempis’ Imitation.

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On Autumn

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Officers Row, Vancouver, WA | by Justin Augustine Lee | 9.2018

Like clockwork, but one that accepts fine-tuning every so often, autumn arrives to Portland, Oregon.

It’s a season that is marked less by the turned-page of a wall-calendar or the orientation of the earth to the sun as told by the stars, than by the final bursts of color the leaves give, asking that you acknowledge them one last time before bowing out after their closing act; or the crispness of the night, which works feverishly to regain control in its bout against the heat and the light of the summer—a season that will murmur just a few faint sounds until it becomes the past. All the land and its various parts which make up this orchestra—all the movements that mark this score—is busy in its preparations for rest, for darkness and for the cold and rain which will come. Continue reading