Sunday, June 24, 2007

Wendell Had It Right

I remember when I was just a girl, not a little girl, I was about twenty years old, I heard a poem called, "Marriage." And it moved me. I was a speech/drama/film/creative writing/art major when I finally got my head together and dropped back into high school and went on to Jr. college.

Okay. Yeah. I know. My head wasn't too together if I had all those creative arts majors. I may have been flaky, but you gotta admit, I had to have a whole lotta fun in college back in the day. Anyway, this was back when I only dreamed about marriage. I believed in it. Wanted it. Begged God for it. Every hopefull-quickly-turned-to-hopeless touch I shared with men who would not be my beloved burgeoned my sentimental, girlish, "I'm the princess deep down inside. Can't you see me?" hope. I kept waiting, even then, for the one, giving myself foolishly away.

Even then.

I was in an Reader's Theater troupe back then, and we were one of the best in the country. We'd travel all over and compete, and in one of our shows I heard a reader perform a poem by Wendell Berry.

You know how sometimes you hear somebody's work, and you just know, without knowing, that you'll come back to that person--that artist. It may be years later, but one day, he or she will be important to you. That's how I felt about Wendell Berry. I didn't know who he was back then. I was 20 years old. Well read for a ghetto girl, but I was no scholar, and this was more than twenty years ago. But I remember clearly, the name of the poem was "Marriage." I remember the lines that moved me as if I wrote them myself. I remembered that I'd get back to that Wendell Berry guy. The words so resonated with me, that it was as if my soul nodded yes, took the words, folded them up, tucked them away and saved them in some nook where they would keep. Until this week. I need them like I need water this week.

What a hellish time it's been. The emotional terrain around here has resembled a war torn country this week. You couldn't walk around without wondering if an explosion could spontaneously erupt right in front of you. Or an assassination could take somebody out right before your eyes. I've been walking around in the debris of anger, blame, and guilt of my own making. And his. Lord, have mercy.

And then the words I helds so long shook loose from that hiding place in my soul, and there they were, still folded as neatly as they day I tucked them away. I scrambled around to find a copy of the poem. Just a tidbit on the net. Finally I got a copy of Berry's collected poems. It was even better than I remembered in context with other magnificent lines.

From Marriage, by Wendell Berry

It is to be broken. It is to be
torn open. It is not to be
reached and come to rest in
ever. I turn against you,
I break from you, I turn to you.
We hurt, and are hurt,
and have each other for healing.
It is healing. It is never whole.

That's how the poem ends. Those are the last lines. Those are the lines I remembered all these years. We hurt, and are hurt, and have each other for healing. It is healing. It is never whole.

I'm grateful for that wise and winsome man. That tall Kentucky wonder of a man. I love him. I love him for being that honest and real. He had it right, at least that is how it is for me. This week we hurt, Ken and I, we broke, and we tore open, but somehow, we found our way back to each other, emotionally bruised and battered, soul weary, but once again in each other's embrace. We have each other for healing. It is a mystery. Maybe it is all the prayers. The girlfri
ends have been praying for us! And a boyfriend or two, too. Maybe it is 14 years of loving one another. Or maybe the cost of splitting up a family is just too high. Maybe because I knew way before I ever got married--Wendell told me. It is never whole. Maybe that's why I'm still here. And Ken, he's still here. He has his own reasons. Maybe they are much the same.

Or perhaps, it's just enough that it is healing.


spwriter said...

Now that's one good-lookin' couple of misfits.

Great thoughts, my good friend. Great thoughts. Your words draw a tear or three from this old face for so many reasons. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us (and for being just the kind of friend who understands those reasons of mine). You're the best, Mair. it just me...or do you look even more radiant next to Ken?

relevantgirl said...

Thanks for this. I'm amazed, actually, at how tenuous marriage is. It's an apt metaphor for life. We all naively think we're in control one minute, only to realize through circumstances we're not. I'm thankful for God's grace to you through Wendell's words.

Joni said...

Thank you for sharing your experience and the segment of the poem. I know every marriage has its bumps and bruises along the way.

Seeing the sweet photo is reassurance to us all that no matter how tough the going gets, God can always help us put it all back together.

Yes, you two look good together. Complete.

Heidi Renee said...

I love Wendell Berry even more now because of that poem. I had never read it before - thank you. Sometimes I feel so very crazy because our marriage isn't as easy as other people's look.

This helps.

Love you Raga dear and am holding you in the light - thanks for including your DH in the picture - I feel closer knowing what he looks like now too!

Elysa said...

Oh I am praising God right now. I've thought of you so often in the last few days and even told my husband about your prayer need. I've been checking the blog a few times a day hoping for a good news post and here it is.

We both know that there will be other rough patches up ALL of our marriages...but each one can give us hope that if we could get thru "that one" we can get thru the "next one".

Smiling thru thankful tears,
Elysa Mac

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Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

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Jesus an Essenes ?


Kerala, India

Victoria Gaines said...

Since you shared Berry's poem, I need to get my hands on a copy--thanks.

I've long been one of your silent admirers. Everything you share motivates me to write from a more transparent place.

It's scary, though (being vulnerable)...

God bless you. I loved the pic!


Queeny said...

"It is healing, it is healing, it is healing." Hallelujah, it IS healing!!!

Charles R. Alexander said...

The photo here of you two makes me smile—big time! It's such a happy thing!

Joey Quinton said...

May God richly bless you both, my sister! Since you like Wendell berry I just have to share the following with you, which is one of my favorite Berry poems and one from which I draw great peace from.

Just found out that I can't put it in the comments due to space restrictions.

Please visit my website, beloved, and see my poem to you!

upwords said...

I love that poem and that picture. That one deserves a frame.

a girlfriend

tonya said...

Well said. Marriage takes more work than we realize. May God's love continue to comfort and heal you both.
God bless.

CHickey said...

Inspiring words, Claudia. Truly inspiring.

laundrygirl said...

Great post.
I need to write that poem down and tuck it into a special place where I can go back to it again and again...

Paula said...

I am always blown away by your ability to give voice to the deep places. . . . and what a great picture! Gonna keep praying for you guys.