True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.
One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.
In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.
--- Wendell Berry
|Wendell Berry (Photograph: Guy Mendes)|
These words by Wendell Berry remind me of my father who said, “I’m closer to God when I walk on my land on Sundays than I have ever been in a church.”
Like Berry, my father loved the earth. He loved turning the rich dirt in spring and planting seeds that would one day produce plants that provided food for his family. My father enjoyed solitude. He could sit for hours, when he was older, in his chair out of the sun by the garage or in the shade of the 300 year-old oak tree beside our house.
I used to wonder what he was thinking about all that time he sat, smoking his cigarettes and gazing into space. He said once that at night when he had trouble falling asleep, he “made up” stories and that helped him to drift off. He read western books by authors like Louis L'Amour and said those were the kinds of stories he created in his mind. I wonder if he might have become a writer if he had been afforded an education.
Some people thought my father was not a believer because he did not attend church, but he once told me that he prayed every night that God would let him live until his children were all grown up and married. His father died when he was only ten years old. He was raised by a staunch Baptist mother.
My father also prayed to live as long as my mother needed him. He believed in prayer, and I like to think that when he walked over the pastures and through the woods on his farm, he communed with his God in a way that most of us could not understand. I feel sure he was thankful for his children and his wife whose love and support kept him persevering through hard times.
The minister at his funeral said it did not matter that he was not a member of a church. “Many good people don’t go to church. And I know your daddy was a good man.”
I miss going to church, especially on Easter Sunday. I belong to a small Presbyterian church but have not attended in many years. A church on Sunday morning fills with more air pollution than any place in town. All the women and most of the men wear some kind of fragrance, perfume or cologne. The fumes from those chemicals used to make those scents saturate the air and I, having sensitivity to those chemicals, develop a serious breathing problem.
On Easter, many churches decorate with lilies across the altar. I would not last ten minutes in the sanctuary even if I am wearing my charcoal mask. In some states where the public is more conscious of the danger of these chemicals, churches have banned the wearing of perfume. How nice it would be if the ladies and gentlemen in my little church, where Barry and I sang in the choir for many years, decided to become a forerunner in this effort to educate their members to the dangers of chemically scented products.
In the meantime, I will take time tomorrow, Easter, to sit on the sunlit porch high in the woods where birds and squirrels flit and scamper and, like my father, commune with nature and the wonder of this world I am so fortunate to inhabit. The air will be clean, crisp, and cool, and I will enjoy the solitude.
Happy Easter to all.