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Sabbath Day

October 24, 2013

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap, 
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

Wendell Berry has just released This Day, Collected and New Sabbath Poems, from which the above was taken, and has simultaneously released a new collection of Port Royal fiction and a volume called New Collected Poems. Last week he received the Four Freedoms Award from the Roosevelt Center, and my church’s Green Team is reading his 2012 Jefferson Lecture (The highest award int he humanities) to ground our work in Christian and agrarian values. (The link above includes both the text and video)

I often turn to Berry when my soul needs to remember the vocabulary of place amidst our restlessness on earth. I am grateful for his grounding.

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I have skipped my sabbath for several weeks, and desperately needed one today, even as work remained to to be done. I slept almost until noon. Clearly, I am tired.

I spent the first part of the afternoon reading Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, the most devastating (and beautiful) book I have read in years.  It imagines the world suddenly bereft of humanity, and how long, if ever, it will take for the earth to heal. I am still not done, and do not yet see the end. But the long-term consequences of our carelessness and willful destruction of the planet are sobering.

I spent the second half of the afternoon working with August on his homework and playing outside. The last point is important because children today only spend an average of 40 minutes outside a week. A WEEK!!

Readers of this blog already know I have been deeply moved by Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Well tonight I had the opportunity to hear Stephen Kellert, author of Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World, speak at the annual benefit dinner for The Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center in Holmes, NY. Kellert spoke about our biological need for nature, the effects of nature on human health, and the challenges we face in spending unstructured time in nature. Camp provides all of these for children in one of the most heavily urbanized Tri-State areas of our country.

Since I just came from a fundraising dinner, I cannot but suggest that readers who feel drawn to give money to really good work helping real children become who God made them to be can easily send online contributions to  the camp right here. The evening itself was a great time with great friends, old and new.

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I know: “Nature Calls” was both fabulous and funny as a theme for the evening.

I now finish my day with some live streaming music and a few hours of work before bed. And I ponder: is there such a thing as a short sabbath? Or is sabbath constituted not only by the cessation of productive work but the duration of cessation.

I welcome  your thoughts?

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