Last night, I presented my final paper for graduate seminar. It was about some of Wendell Berry's poetry and Barry Lopez's small book of stories from Field Notes.
I don't quite know how I feel about Wendell Berry now. Well, as a student, I don't have to feel much of anything, but as a reader I'm required to come up with something profound to feel about his work. I've got nothing. But, I'm afraid I don't love it anywhere near as much as I think I'm supposed to. I'm not sure we'll be reading Wendell Berry 20 years from now with the same gusto. Well, Certain Christian communities will read his work forever, I imagine. I'm absolutely astonished how much his philosophies have shaped some churches. Wow. The First Church of Wendell Berry. I'm not sure I want a part of that. One of the papers last night was about the Buddhist themes of his Sabbath poems. It was very interesting. You can make a very strong case that he's a Buddhist and not a Christian after all. (I don't know what he is.)
As I drove away past Flower Hill and the ancient oaks, past the crickets that make the quintessential sound of summertime, past the little houses and fields I realized how I've come to love this place and how it has come to love me. It means more to me than a graduate degree. It means redemption and hope and the chance to prove to myself that I'm not as stupid as I've been told. As I write this, I realize that it's been a long time since anyone made me feel stupid. And that's progress.
I'm proud of myself. This semester was hard. I never would have imagined how hard. But, I did it. And I'm thankful. It is, as my friend Amy would say, a B.F.D. for me.
I realize that the person who left class last night in my body, even though I'm registered to come back in the fall, won't be the person who comes back. It's a sad and a happy thought. I'm not my own anymore. My vision of how being a graduate student would be has been drastically altered. I'm grateful and excited and nostalgic for what might have been. I think that nostalgia comes from not fully understanding what will be.
So, for now, I'm home. I'm going to finish (or start) getting the little room cleaned up and ready. I'm going to cook. I'm going to walk the dog. I'm going to read what I want to read and I'm going to go to church. I'm going to garden and plant tomatoes. And I'm going to wait.