I’ve not read poetry by Hayden Carruth, but I will. Garrison Keillor notes that last week was Mr. Carruth’s birthday as was my daughter-in-law’s. He would have been 98-years old; she is not.

I have read three good books by Wendell Berry who Mr. Keillor refers to in his notes on Mr. Carruth…

“Carruth then decided to move to the rural communities of Vermont and New York State. He began to farm, worked as a mechanic, hired himself out as a field hand, and wrote nightly, sometimes not finishing with farm work until after midnight. He freelanced occasionally, but his income after several years was a scant $600, and at one point he had to steal corn meant for livestock to survive… Wendell Berry credits Carruth’s poetry for showing him that there was beauty to be found in places others considered “nowhere” as he weighed his own return to rural life.”

Many of Mr. Berry’s books are set in Port William, Kentucky, a fictional town he created in his first novel Nathan Coulter. I feel the simplicity of Mr. Carruth’s life as I learn new skills working with the land, skills that have introduced me to new tools and reintroduced me to many I haven’t used since I was under my father’s tutelage. One is never too old to learn.

Like the folks in Port William, I have electrical power in my shed that I use for a fan and small refrigerator. My outdoor plumbing is reserved for urination; I have an efficient and odorless indoor potty – a five-gallon pail with seat and bags – for the other. The solar shower works very well and must be monitored closely; the water can be scalding if left in direct sun for too long a time.

Like many characters in Mr. Berry’s novels, I venture to town, River Falls, two, sometimes three days a week primarily for groceries. My weekly bill has averaged $35 over three weeks. I checked my blood pressure this morning: 111/80 with a heartbeat at 60. I am eating healthily and exercising my mind and my body from sunrise to sunset.

I will thank Mr. Berry – and my friends Pete and Bonnie – for showing me ‘that there is beauty to be found in places others consider “nowhere.”’

I look forward to reading Hayden Carruth’s poetry. Perhaps this post will encourage you to read a Wendell Berry book and to seek out a hermitage in your community where you can go for a night or two to return to the simple, rural life.

Mitakuye Oyasin


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