Pilgrimpace's Blog

wendell berry
April 29, 2016, 4:24 pm
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I love Wendell Berry’s poetry.  I like to read a poem from This Day each week – there is always something that illustrates what it is to live and connects me to the earth while not shying away from what is difficult.  They touch on wholeness more than any writer I know.


There is a great posting about Berry in Brainpickings here.  If you don’t know Brainpickings, it is well worth subscribing to, a wonderful piece of creativity falling into inbox each Sunday like a scoop of good icecream.

The last few weeks have been good but very full.  I am enjoying a couple of days to catch up and restore myself.  It’s been wonderful today to work in the garden a bit, to do some writing, to read.  And this blog is another earthing in reflective practice.

A Homecoming

One faith is bondage. Two
are free. In the trust
of old love, cultivation shows
a dark and graceful wilderness
at its heart. Wild
in that wilderness, we roam
the distance of our faith;
safe beyond the bounds
of what we know. O love,
open. Show me
my country. Take me home.

– Wendell Berry

love is what carries you
March 18, 2016, 8:16 pm
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Love is what carries you,
for it is always there,
even in the dark,
or most in the dark

– Wendell Berry

endings : beginnings
December 31, 2015, 6:03 pm
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I don’t tend to make a big thing of New Year.  As friends have pointed out, looking back in such a dark time of the year doesn’t always lead to balance or optimism.  I think Lent, for me, is more than enough of an opportunity for some deep self examination.

Can I wish you all a Happy New Year.  I love using this blog as a chance to share thoughts, reflections and quotes about the things that give me life. Thank you to everyone who has commented here, on facebook and twitter, and – best of all – in actual conversation.  All of you who read this are in my prayers.

Here are some quotes people have shared today:

I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises.

We live the given life, and not the planned – both by Wendell Berry

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking/finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins – Rilke

Tomorrow I will follow the pattern I fell into last year (read about it here). I will be up before dawn and out with my pack and boots following some hills until dark.

Blessings for 2016. I look forward to some really creative and nourishing possibilities.  I’m really looking forward to Sabbatical time in the autumn and a long walking pilgrimage in Wales.

If it’s hard for you at the moment – solidarity, love and prayers. Let’s walk together through the year following whatever paths there may be.


this day
March 11, 2015, 2:56 pm
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Now that illness is receding there is space and time and energy to read.

I’ve long enjoyed Wendell Berry’s poetry and I have taken This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems from my shelf.  These poems come from solitary Sunday walks around his farm in Kentucky.  I love the mix of nature, love of earth, spiritual longing, political anger.  I really recommend you read this if you can get a copy.


This poem, as a taster, sums up a lot of these weeks for me:


The winter world of loss

And grief is gone. The night

Is past. Along the whole

Length of the river, birds

Are singing in the trees.


Again, hope dreams itself

Awake. The year’s first lambs

Cry in the morning dark.

And, after all, we have

A garden in our minds.


We living know the worth

Of all the dead have done

Or hoped to do. We know

That hearts, against their doom,

Must plight an ancient troth.


Now come the bride and groom,

Now come the man and woman

Who must begin again

The work divine and human

By which we live on earth.

lenten journey 7

I’ve been living a bit with the themes of living with questions, of waiting, of not knowing, or unknowing.  I find liminal times hard and tough but they are so important.

I have remembered a few days in a Cistercian Monastery in Spain where I had paused:


The sheer granite cold gripping its corridors

hid the warmth of welcome at the monastery.

Throughout the day and night

I made my way to a high perch

from which I followed

slow Spanish chant

in the dark Church,

each Psalm succeeded utterly

by pause.


Part of me was bored,

eager to rush on;

now I find myself

returning often in my mind.


I linger

creep up slowly

approaching carefully

as if on all fours

and finally peer over

the silent edge.


I’ve been thinking about poetic wisdom on all this, Wendell Berry’s ‘The Real Work‘:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

or RS Thomas ‘Kneeling

Prompt me God, but not yet, the meaning is in the waiting

I am also prompted to remember that I may be one to dwell a bit much in the places of dark questioning and that it is important to know the time to step out of these into the light, although I am sometimes afraid to do this.

we who prayed and wept
May 3, 2012, 10:21 am
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This poem seems apposite for election day and for the May Day theme.  If you’re in the UK, make sure you vote and vote hope not hate.

We Who Prayed and Wept

We who prayed and wept
for liberty from kings
and the yoke of liberty
accept the tyranny of things
we do not need.
In plenitude too free,
we have become adept
beneath the yoke of greed.

Those who will not learn
in plenty to keep their place
must learn it by their need
when they have had their way
and the fields spurn their seed.
We have failed Thy grace.
Lord, I flinch and pray,
send Thy necessity.

– Wendell Berry

traveling at home
November 5, 2011, 7:09 pm
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My friend Eve has sent me this excellent poem by Wendell Berry.  It certainly speaks to walking the Camino for the second time; to the certain stability which is more usual pattern of life, to anticipated walks in the next weeks along familiar paths.

Even in a country you know by heart
it’s hard to go the same way twice.
The life of the going changes.
The chances change and make it a new way.
Any tree or stone or bird
can be the bud of a new direction. The
natural correction is to make intent
of accident. To get back before dark
is the art of going.

July 7, 2010, 10:56 am
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I stood and heard the steps of the city

and dreamed of a lighter stepping than I heard,

the tread of my people dancing in a ring.

I knew that circle broken, the steps awry,

stone and iron humming in the air.

But I thought even there, among the straying

steps, of the dance that circles life around,

its shadows moving on the ground, in rhyme

of flesh with flesh, time with time, our bliss,

the earthly song that heavenly is.

– Wendell Berry

January 10, 2010, 4:25 pm
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My friend Eve has sent me this fantastic poem by Wendell Berry:


by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay.
Want more of everything made.
Be afraid to know you neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery any more.
Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something they will call you.
When they want you to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute.
Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace the flag.
Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands.
Give you approval to all you cannot understand.
Praise ignorance,
for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium.
Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit.Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion–put your ear close,
and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world.
Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable.
Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap for power,
please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head in her lap.
Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and politicos can predict the motions
of your mind, lose it.
Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go.
Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.