Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hard but Good

One of the books that I have been dipping into is James Herriot's "All Things Wise and Wonderful." It's another 25 cent book. Definitely not the latest thing. Herriot relates his experiences as veterinarian - pre-penicillin! - in the English countryside in the 1930s. What is striking is the richness of the lives of the people and animals he writes about. There is bitter cold, rain, and war, dirty barns and deep snow, but there is also the deeply satisfying beauty of open countryside, and the unpredictable revelations that come from living with and among other species. There is also the unrelenting labor that comes with making a living in agriculture. "Them were hard days," says a retired farmer wistfully, "hard but good." Herriot also describes unflinchingly the characters who have been ground down to dour rancor by too many hard and hopeless days. That is one of the reasons that so few people today are in agriculture. You don't have weekends, holidays, or guaranteed sick days. You don't have much time or energy for philosophizing or art. And yet your life is art, but it's not the kind of art that is clean and shiny and for sale. It's unpredictable, often quite grubby, and just as often blazingly glorious. It is not something that you can buy at Neiman-Marcus, ever. You find your art in your hard but good days, in the poetry of making.

1 comment:

Haole Wolf said...

Your winter reading list is a fun combination of focused, wild and random. Thanks for sharing! I've read Mann and Herriot, but Vegetarianism as Eating Disorder sounds lively.

I've been reading a haiku novel: Haiku Guy by David G. Lanoue, who translates my favorite haiku poet for Issa poem of the day; Dan Koeppel's "Banana" -- I'm a sucker for histories filtered through one topic, like Salt, Cod, etc.; and The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel -- a really interesting critique of modern economics of a culture that "knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing." I love it. -- DC