Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A note from a guest

Last week, we interns joined in a 5-day "retreat" through the Bartimaeus Institute, led by Ched Myers and Elaine Enns. The institute focused on themes of ecojustice and Sabbath economics, and engaged participants in some radical Bible study. We also studied several "case studies" of folks involved in the work of loving creation, including Sister Dorothy Stang, a nun recently killed in Brazil for defending rainforest land from intruding ranchers. Last Wednesday, the 20-something other participants visited the "case study" of our farm to share dinner (and songs!), hear the stories behind our project, and to talk about farming and our farm community.

Dancing to Jay and Meg (from the group 'Psalters') at the Farmhouse last Wednesday
*Notice Sister Roseanne on the far right - these nuns know how to party.

I was struck by our guests' responses afterward and by how impacted they were by hearing from us and seeing this project firsthand. It almost required listening through others' ears to really understand the significance of our stories. Here's a note from Sam, one of the many people who visited our home last week (passed on by Sarah Nolan):
February 24th, 2010
Dear Sarah,

I once had the good fortune of having soup with Wendell Berry. At the time, I was a divinity school student, and a couple of friends and I had been talking a lot about intentional communities – what they were, how they worked, whether we might start one somewhere (anywhere, really – our first mistake). Perhaps foolishly, and probably seeking some sort of affirmation, my friend Steve decided to bring this up with Mr. Berry. His first response was that whatever far-flung ideas we had, an intentional community would have to be an agricultural one; it would have to be a land-based community. Maybe it was not surprising to us that he would say such a thing, but in retrospect I imagine he was pretty surprised. Here were some smart-seeming Yale students with almost no sense at all.

Long after the subject had been changed and we were all walking out the door saying our goodbyes, he made his second point: “Listen to your wives, boys – listen to your wives.”

In his little essay “In Distrust of Movements” Berry says that movements generally fail to accomplish their goals because they take aim at symptoms and not underlying causes; they usually fail to be radical enough. If he were to name the movement he thinks he might be part of, it would be called the “Movement to Teach the Economy What It Is Doing” (MTEWIID), which consists finally of a few elements. The movement must be dedicated to whole social, economic, and environmental systems and not mere solutions; it must be composed of people willing to undertake profound self-analysis; and it must content itself to being poor.

Berry concludes by writing, “The callings and disciplines that I have spoken of as the domestic arts are stationed all along the way from the farm to the prepared dinner, from the forest to the dinner table, from stewardship of the land to hospitality to friends and strangers. These arts are as demanding and gratifying, as instructive and as pleasing, as the so-called ‘fine arts.’ To learn them is, I believe, the work that is our profoundest calling. Our reward is that they will enrich our lives and make us glad.”

I was thinking these thoughts at the farm tonight and being very glad.



  1. I am the author of A Journey of Courage, the Amazing Story of Sister Dorothy Stang. Yes, her life was intimately connected to land-justice in the US and mainly in Brazil. She fits Wendell Berry's conditions well. If you want to know more about her the book is available from me or from
    Good luck. I will follow what you are doing.
    Michele Murdock

  2. Thanks Kat for posting the letter. And for sending me your poem.

    Out of curiosity...what does the green tshirt on the bottom-right of the photo say?

  3. I think it says, "Only when the last tree is dead, the last river dammed, the last field paved over will realize that we can't eat money." From Chief Seattle's last address.