Live Virtual Group Session: 12PM EST January 20th 2023

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

For this session we read an excerpt from the essay “Damage” by Wendell Berry, posted below. 

Our prompt was: Write about a time you tried to repair something.

More details will be posted on this session, so check back again!

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Monday January 23rd at 6pm EST, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions.


"Damage" by Wendell Berry

I

I have a steep wooded hillside that I wanted to be able to pasture occasionally, but it had no permanent water supply. 

About halfway to the top of the slope there is a narrow bench, on which I thought I could make a small pond. I hired a man with a bulldozer to dig one. He cleared away the trees and then formed the pond, cutting into the hill on the upper side, piling the loosened dirt in a curving earthwork on the lower. 

The pond appeared to be a success. Before the bulldozer quit work, water had already begun to seep in. Soon there was enough to support a few head of stock. To heal the exposed ground, I fertilized it and sowed it with grass and clover. 

We had an extremely wet fall and winter, with the usual freezing and thawing. The ground grew heavy with water, and soft. The earthwork slumped; a large slice of the woods floor on the upper side slipped down into the pond.

The trouble was the familiar one: too much power, too little knowledge. The fault was mine. 

I was careful to get expert advice. But this only exemplifies what I already knew. No expert knows everything about every place, not even everything about any place. If one's knowledge of one's whereabouts is insufficient, if one's judgment is unsound, then expert advice is of little use. 

II 

In general, I have used my farm carefully. It could be said, I think, that I have improved it more than I have damaged it.

My aim has been to go against its history and to repair the damage of other people. But now a part of its damage is my own. 

The pond was a modest piece of work, and so the damage is not extensive. In the course of time and nature it will heal. 

And yet there is damage to my place, and to me. I have carried out, before my own eyes and against my intention, a part of the modern tragedy: I have made a lasting flaw in the face of the earth, for no lasting good. 

Until that wound in the hillside, my place, is healed, there will be something impaired in my mind. My peace is damaged. I will not be able to forget it. 


Credit: Wendell Berry, Damage, 4 Hastings West Northwest J. of Envtl. L. & Pol'y 71 (1997)


 

19 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 12PM EST January 20th 2023

  1. Rita B

    Sorry, I don’t repair relationships – by Rita Basuray

    Oof, the thought of repairing something is painful. I don’t repair relationships. If a relationship is broken already, then it was meant to be, as I feel, communication is a 2-way street. If the thread is broken already, and no one tried to repair the fraying thread – while it was unwinding, what’s the point now?

    Humility might help jump-start the process of repairing after the thread is broken, but wouldn’t that one sided?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elizabeth

      Rita— I agree that relationships are two-sided and it is very difficult for one person to repair a relationship. I thought that your line about the pain in repairing the relationship was very powerful…Not to mention all the effort and energy it takes to do so. I do think relationships can be repaired, but it has to be a two-way situation. It involves a lot and is an undertaking of both parties willingness.That is pretty rare these days.

      Liked by 2 people

    • al3793

      Rita,
      Your speaker sounds accepting of what can’t be fixed. I also hear the wisdom of humility and it gives me hope of repair in the event both individuals want to work towards that. Some much packed into a few lines. Andre

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Elizabeth

    What about the time we don’t want to repair something?
    What if we knew a person wouldn’t change?
    What if we settle for civility rather than relationship?
    What if we don’t have the desire or energy to put in the effort to expand it any further?
    What if this is good enough for now?

    Liked by 1 person

    • michele348

      To know in your heart that you have tried, maybe that would be enough. They say time heals most ills…I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but it seems to lessen the impact it has upon our hearts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elizabeth

        Sometimes we have to know when it’s not even worth trying. I think sometimes the surface relationship is easier when it is necessary for at least one of the parties…at least for some time. Thanks for your words. Also, in your work I don’t sense tension between the narrator and brother as many expressed in the session , just divergent paths. I don’t know if that was your intent.

        Liked by 1 person

    • al3793

      These six works are so important: “this is good enough for now”. Your comment picks up the maturity I heard in the voice of Berry’s speaker.
      We can even shorten the mantra to three words, “it’s good enough…” Thank you, Elizabeth. Andre

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elizabeth

        Andre, I am fond of messages being concise—thanks for that 3 word mantra. Also, I started looking at the link that you sent me about Wendell Berry and it talks about his stewardship of the earth, which I mentioned in my comment to you related to the Genesis story…talk about synchronicity!

        Like

  3. About a time I tried to repair something~~~

    Time and distance separated us.
    As children, I was the younger sister, and he was the older brother.
    I looked up to him, literally as a child, but as time passed, I admired his sense of responsibility, of caring, and of wisdom.

    Life diverges, as it does for many.
    Memories tend to get clouded over in dust.
    After several years of not being in the same space at the same time, we found ourselves face-to-face.
    All grown up, adults both of us, we professed the love and admiration for each other that had been stored in our hearts these many years.
    His words meant so much to me and still do, especially since, within 2 years, he was gone from this earth.

    My regret was not having this experience soone,r so that both of us might have received the blessing that the experience supplied;
    the end came much sooner than ever expected.

    Liked by 1 person

    • al3793

      Michele,

      These two lines flow so well, and the internal alliteration is beautiful:

      After several years of not being in the same space at the same time, we found ourselves face-to-face.
      All grown up, adults both of us, we professed the love and admiration for each other that had been stored in our hearts these many years.

      Interest that was is store in the bank of our heart is not “clouded over in dust.”

      Andre

      Liked by 1 person

  4. al3793

    Write about a time you tried to repair something…

    I always loved the snow.
    My earliest childhood memories are of playing in it,
    building snowmen, snow forts, sledding, snow ball fights.
    The feel of snowflakes falling slow and free upon
    frosty cheeks is one of nature’s gifts to man,
    especially when you can hear them touchdown
    as you walk along a freshly blanketed
    white Appalachian mountain path
    accompanied by crooked shadows
    cast by the moonlight of a full moon
    against the trees, silent eavesdroppers.
    It’s an image that will replenish a wounded spirit.
    All that is required is to conjure the memory.

    But now I’ve tainted the path with my footsteps.
    If the snow is deep enough the path remains immaculate
    but it has lost its pristine innocence.
    There is no fixing it.
    I must wait for the next snowfall, if it comes,
    and embark on the path once again.

    (PS: I did take some liberty to “repair” my original text in the few minutes after the session.)

    Liked by 1 person

      • al3793

        Thank you, Michele. I had many beautiful winter walks in those mountains and have been left with a responsibility and inclination to act.

        Like

    • Elizabeth

      Andre, no problem, taking liberty in “repairing” a piece of work. It shows that you care about it. Also, while you do care about the pristine nature of the snow, your leaving your mark in it means you leave a part of you there at least temporarily. There is something positive to be said about that interconnectedness.

      Like

      • al3793

        Thank you, Elizabeth. My Wendell Berry barometer was ticking as we read the essay. Speaking of interconnectedness, the people in Leslie County, KY frequently reminded me that once you drink the water in the Middle Fork of the KY River, you never really leave it; you will always come back. I visit there almost daily in my conjured memories. Be sure to read Berry’s short story Fidelity…page after page of beautiful prose and a remarkable tale. His NEH Jefferson Award Lecture is also beautiful. https://www.neh.gov/about/awards/jefferson-lecture/wendell-e-berry-biography

        Like

      • Elizabeth

        Thanks, Andre…it reminds me that I learned we are made up of all of our many encounters and our ancestors’ encounters— physically and emotionally. I also am reminded of the Genesis story… Man is made from earth, and then he is given stewardship over it… Talk about interconnectedness. And thanks for the suggestion about the short story.

        Like

  5. Helen Mia

    Write about a time you tried to repair something…

    I was a ballerina dancing around and around
    in an emerald, green jewellery box
    that felt like soft plastic marble with slight silvery cracks running through it
    they looked like lightening
    I had to stand poised, or
    Dad would have to try and glue me back together.

    She was wearing a shimmering pink and silver net tutu
    that had a little bit of gold embroidery
    covered in sparkly sequins around her neck
    and just up from the tummy there were tiny bright pink love hearts
    I called her my Miss Pinky girl

    As she spun around to the music perched on her mirror
    I dreamt when I grew up I would become a dancer
    and spin in circles for ever and ever
    shiny golden veils like butterfly wings fixed to my fingertips

    holding my dress up around my ankles
    so that I would never trip over the frills
    I’d where a dress covered in all my favourite
    beads, sapphires, rubies and diamonds
    made out of coloured glass

    She seemed so sad when she stood still
    The music had stopped…
    Her arms and hands lay crossed around her pink velvet dress
    And Dad didn’t have to repair her in the end….

    Liked by 1 person

    • michele348

      Such a beautiful descriptive piece! Many of us, as little girls, can remember such a jewelry box perched upon our dresser. But I also detect a bit of sadness from the writer of dreams/goals not met, risks not taken. Helen a very thought provoking piece!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Andre

      Helen, I tried to send this Sunday but was having technical difficulties. I will try again.

      I am moved in so many ways. I love the “tiny bright pink love hearts”, the attempt to “never trip over the frills”, the “slight silvery cracks”. I also note a shift in the speaker’s person from first “glue me back together” early in the story to third, “Dad didn’t have to repair her” at the end.

      Your speaker beautifully conjures the imagination of a childhood of close reading the dazzling image of this ballerina that imprinted on the mind of every young would- be dancer. Then the story brings me into that child now grown up carefully and with the wisdom of experience on its meaning. Thank you. Andre

      Like

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