With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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I hesitate to take issue with the ponderings of an eloquent, and dead, cultural historian, but I would like to offer another point of view on Thomas Berry’s “profound interaction” with the meadow by his boyhood home [“The Meadow across the Creek,” September 2009].
Let’s imagine Berry is twelve in 2009, and his father moves the family from a “more settled part of a Southern town out to the edge of town,” where he builds a home on a hill next to a lovely, lily-filled meadow in which crickets sing. The father’s contractor topples trees, regrades the hill (plowing up lilies and crickets), and builds a three-thousand-square-foot home with a three-car garage. In the garage are two SUVs — one to get Dad to work in the town they just left; the other so Mom can drive the kids to soccer practice, also in the town they just left. The third stall is crammed with the riding lawn mower that’s needed to cut the half acre of grass that their irrigation system waters daily, and perhaps a couple of ATVs and snowmobiles, both essentials of country living. Flowing outward from this garage is a blacktop driveway the size of a city lot.
The young boy gazes from his home’s deck onto the meadow below, and the meadow becomes sacred to him and affects his feelings about “what is real and worthwhile” in this world.
Within a few years his dad is harping about the bumpy dirt road he must drive to get to the highway, and he lobbies the county to pave it. Then the real nightmare begins. The farmer who sold them the lot is now selling the meadow to a developer! The outraged father storms city hall, crying out in horror that others would allow “his” meadow to be desecrated this way.
Meanwhile those folks who stayed “in a world of concrete and steel, of wheels and wires,” who “no longer read the book of the universe,” often walk, ride the bus, or bike to work, shop at the corner market, live on a sixty-foot-wide lot or in a condo of twelve units per acre, and get to know their neighbors. They live in a manner that I diffidently call “indigenous.”