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dear “jayber crow”…

May 8, 2012

There is that great and terrible moment when you’re reading a book when the pages on your right begin to get very, very thin and you know, without a doubt, that this world that you’ve fallen into, fallen in love with, been shaken up by, walked amongst, and grasped in your mind’s hands; this world is going to fall silent. The words will end, the cover will close, and all that you’ve seen as beautiful and awful and loved will be sealed in those pages, those typed black letters.

Rarely, with certain books, even as I devour them hardily, I find myself stopping a few chapters shy, and feeling a sense of hesitation to finish the book at all. As I type, my thumbed copy of Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow sits by my bed, marked near the end, waiting to be finished.

Yet I keep holding off on the end, only because I have loved that book so wholly and I’m not ready to say goodbye to this melancholy barber just yet. I have to imagine that Mr. Berry wrote more books about the town of Port William simply because he couldn’t bear to say good-bye just yet to that lovely little spot in Kentucky and people like Jayber and Mattie and Athey.

It’s no secret that I dearly love Wendell Berry. As I prepare to finish Jayber Crow (which I just can’t recommend enough, it is SO beautiful), I wanted to share a few favorite excerpts:

“We walked always in beauty, it seemed to me. We walked and looked about, or stood and looked. Sometimes, less often, we would sit down. We did not often speak. The place spoke for us and was a kind of speech. We spoke to each other in the things we saw.”

“As I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of the rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here. Well, you can read and see what you think.”

“There are moments when the heart is generous, and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things.”

“But love, sooner or later, forces us out of time. It does not accept that limit. Of all that we feel and do, all the virtues and all the sins, love alone crowds us at last over the edge of the world. For love is always more than a little strange here. It is not explainable or even justifiable. It is itself the justifier. We do not make it. If it did not happen to us, we could not imagine it. It includes the world and time as a pregnant woman includes her child whose wrongs she will suffer and forgive. It is in the world but is not altogether of it. It is of eternity. It takes us there when it most holds us here.”

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