Sunday, October 30, 2005


OF ACCIDENTS AND PURPOSE. I love this poem from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, 1998). We contemplate whether or not to fell a backyard sycamore that started as a mere twig brought home by Abby on Arbor Day when she was in third grade; twelve years later the gangly thing seems to be taking over the place, overshadowing a once productive garden plot and thinning the grass. But Berry's contemplation on an ancient sycamore on his Kentucky farm gives me pause. "It has gathered all accidents into its purpose." This phrase alone provides enough fodder to stew on for a long while.

In the place that is my own place, whose earth
I am shaped in and must bear, there is an old tree growing,
a great sycamore that is a wondrous healer of itself.
Fences have been tied to it, nails driven into it,
hacks and whittles cut in it, the lightning has burned it.
There is no year it has flourished in
that its death, through its living, brims whitely
at the lip of the darkness and flows outward.
Over all its scars has come the seamless white
of the bark. It bears the gnarls of its history
healed over. It has risen to a strange perfection
in the warp and bending of its long growth.
It has gathered all accidents into its purpose.
It has become the intention and radiance of its dark fate.
It is a fact, sublime, mystical and unassailable.
In all the country there is no other like it.
I recognize in it a principle, an indwelling
the same as itself, and greater, that I would be ruled by.
I see that it stands in its place, and feeds upon it,
and is fed upon, and is native, and maker.

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