I read my first Wendell Berry book – Nathan Coulter – in 2018. Published in 1960, it is the first of Mr. Berry’s acclaimed Port William books set in the imaginary Kentucky town he created to tell his stories. Mr. Berry was 26-years old when he wrote the book. He was 84-years old, and I was 69 when I read it. Wikipedia lists eight Port William novels by Mr. Berry, the last – Andy Catlett: Early Travels – published in 2006. I’ve read them all and am currently finishing That Distant Land, a collection of some 25 short stories about the Port William people I’ve read about in his novels.
His books are not action-packed. They are complex stories told in a simple way about people who work the land in the rural environment of Port William that thrive in his mind’s imagination. Few can be called rich, some are poor, all are human with the strengths, the faults, and shortcomings we all bear as members of the human race.
I share these paragraphs from a wonderful story I completed last night from That Distant Land. The story is titled “A Friend of Mine.”
As [Elton] worked now, he thought of the older men he had known – men of another time and kind, perhaps – who seemed always reconciled to the hardship of their work…
Art Rowanberry was one of that old kind. When the work piled up or did not go right Elton fretted. But Art, no matter the difficulty or the urgency, always had something cheerful to say. Art was getting old and he had worked hard from childhood, yet he would still run like a boy to get on a lift. The important thing, Art said, was for a man to feel good and be satisfied with what he had.
What a perfect way to describe a person’s satisfaction with life!
The important thing is for a man to feel good and be satisfied with what he has.