In praise of gray

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When Natalie d’Arbeloff changed the design of Blaugustine this past October, I left the following comment in praise of her new backdrop color:

Gray – oops, I mean grey – is always my favorite sartorial choice, though of course it doesn’t look good on everyone. Here, it definitely works for me – or maybe I’m just happy to see such a color-drenched blog vindicate my belief that grey need not be synonymous with drab. One can choose greyness as a worthy destination in its own right, not simply as some compromise between the extremes of black and white – which are in reality never “pure,” but must always contain some slight admixture of grey if we are to perceive them as other than blinding light and blind absence of light. In a certain sense, we might even be justified in saying that it is grey that approaches “purity”: pure pigment, cosmic dust, the gray matter/mater from which all else emerges.

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Natalie replied,

I wholly agree. It is a beautiful colour in its own right and sets off the primaries wondrously. A grey sky, for instance, makes other colours luminous. And there is an infinite variety of greys.

“I don’t know about wearing it, though,” she added. “You’ve got to be tall.” Like a beech tree?

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Black and white are always relative; it’s contrast that delights the eye. Or so my experiments with photography have led me to suppose. The following picture of an old, weathered stump of a black locust tree is the only one here actually taken under a gray sky. I think it has a little of that luminosity Natalie mentions – though again, the contrast with the yellow and brown of the background seems to play some role in bringing that out.

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As Pennsylvania’s numerous fieldstone barns and houses serve to remind us, gray works well in architecture. Paper wasps (as in the first photo above) might agree. I see more and more wooden houses painted various shades of gray, too, and have flirted seriously with the idea of painting my own house that color (it’s currently white, matching the other buildings on the farm).

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One reason I chose my current blog template was the presence of this very light gray behind the main text column.* In books, too, bleached white rarely looks as elegant as a page with some color in it. To be gray, it seems, is to be sturdy and full of years. I think there might be something to that metaphysics of gray that I cooked up on the spot back in October, when gray November still loomed ahead, and white snows made luminous by gray skies.


*Refers to my old site.

News briefs

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On Monday afternoon, the first coltsfoot opened in the middle of the driveway – the earliest wildflower in Plummer’s Hollow.

Spring comes to Blogistan. Leslee returns from Mexico, Karrie digs out from under a mountain of work, and Jarrett emerges from hibernation:

The rainforest winter is always claustrophobic — grey skies so low they seem to press us into the little grooves of our scurrying. At other times (and a bit further south) I’ve thrived in its indoor pleasures, but here it overwhelmed. If I’m fated to have another winter here, it will have to be under a skylight, I think, where I can hear the rain in its gentleness and capture any hint of actual light.

Paula visits with springtime ghosts.

“Tell me about camera, Uncle. Camera obscura, camera lucida.” The ghostly face wrinkled. A smile, perhaps.”Camera,” he explained, “is from the Latin for vault. As in I am lying in camera. There are light rooms and dark rooms. Rooms with and without doors. Do you understand?”

My uncle handed the camera back and wafted off toward the river.

Meanwhile, in her temple in South Korea, Soen Joon ponders more earthy spirits:

I’m quite fond of the kitchen god, despite having grown up in a godless kitchen. We had a little God (“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest…”) right before we ate, but compared to this kitchen god, offered rice each day, greeted respectfully in the morning by us all, flowers arranged for him by the kitchen bosalnim and even money from time to time, it looks to me like Jesus got the short end of the kitchen-god stick.

I guess we are what we worship. In northern Alabama, spring fever is taking a most peculiar form:

Everywhere we went, my husband ogled piles of dirt. “Look at that dirt! That’s good dirt. Where do you think they got that dirt?”I feared he’d have a wreck and I’d be left tearfully explaining to police officers that dirt envy did him in.

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Down in the boggy corner of the field, Indian hemp is still working on scattering its seeds.


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From a blog on the other side of the world
comes an unblogly thing:
a piece of poem set in a concrete slab
at the edge of the sea, cast up on the rocks
like the sole survivor from a wreck of words,
or as if the poet’s voice, like Alberti’s,
couldn’t take fresh water in its gills
& had to be restored to its native salt.


Something about a poem in a public place
disturbs me. Every time I’ve spotted one
among the advertisements on a city bus,
I’ve had to look away. It’s like
surprising a couple in flagrante delicto,
or overhearing someone’s cellphone conversation
with their therapist. At least with a reading,
merciful silence follows, & the bare podium.


Then there’s this business of objectification.
Poems grow like agates in the dark,
each according to its own mysterious rules.
Like agates, they are common & impossible to market.
But marketing needs the claim of uniqueness
more than anything, so poetry
gets pressed into service to provide ballast
on the ship of foolish products & bland commodities.


Poets, however, are taught to value the concrete.
Seeing such weighty jetsam,
I conceive a sudden ambition for my own work:
to see it published up on the ridge
on some ostentatious boulder, enough in the shade
that lichens of every crustose & foliose form
would find my lines ideal for a slow, private,
thoroughly absorbing read.

An opening

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A new theme at qarrtsiluni is open for submissions: an opening in the body. The editors are Rachel Barenblat of Velveteen Rabbi, an accomplished poet, along with my favorite author of all time, that rascal Anonymous. As Rachel explains it, they are interested in “physical bodies, orifices both natural and artificial, or corporate bodies, or communal bodies, the body of the church, a body of work, any kind of body that can open in any kind of way…”

In other words, the theme is very much open to interpretation. Have at it!

Questions for St. Isidore

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Does the glass cactus bloom for a velvet bee?

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If our days are numbered doors, does each door open on a different life?

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Why did the coyote cross the road?

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When they’re alone together in the broom closet, do the dust mop and the vacuum cleaner ever do the dirty?

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Why must the poor always give more than the rich, who regard every gift they receive as a payment justly due, and every payment they owe as an unmerited gift?

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Take a lesson from a Slinky: is life really an upward spiral, or a measured series of descents, ending in a snarl?

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If you have too much time on your hands, does it spread down your arms like a luxuriant pelt?

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Why should one walk the golden street in slippers? Why not in boots?

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St. Isidore is the patron saint of the Internet.

The blog in literature

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There is no pleasure to me without communication: there is not so much as a sprightly thought comes into my mind that it does not grieve me to have produced alone, and that I have no one to tell it to.

I rejoice in my spine, as in the firm audacious staff of that flag which I fling half out to the world.

The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance.
Jane Austen

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?
Jane Austen

There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.
Mark Twain

We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.
Mark Twain

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.
Charlotte Bronte

On day Lord Korechika, the Minister of the Centre, brought the Empress a bundle of notebooks. “What shall we do with them?” Her Majesty asked me. “The Emperor has already made arrangements for copying the Records of the Historian.”

“Let me make them into a pillow,” I said.

“Very well,” said Her Majesty. “You may have them.”

I now had a vast quantity of paper at my disposal, and I set about filling the notebooks with odd facts, stories from the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most trivial material. On the whole I concentrated on things and people that I found charming and splendid; my notes are also full of poems and observations on trees and plants, birds and insects.
Sei Shonagon

There is nothing in the whole world so painful as feeling that one is not liked. It always seems to me that people who hate me must be suffering from some kind of lunacy.
Sei Shonagon

Read you my epigrams? No, you burn
not to hear mine, but for your turn.
Martial (William Matthews, tr.)

If an epigram takes up too much space,
you skip it. It’s not substance you crave
but speed. I combed the markets for this spread
and you eat nuts and candied violets.
Fuss on your own budget, reader, and have
taste enough to salivate for bread.
Martial (ibid.)

The weird sisters, hand in hand,
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about.

He appeared to enjoy beyond everything the sound of his own voice. I couldn’t wonder at that, for it was mellow and full and gave great importance to every word he uttered. He listened to himself with obvious satisfaction and sometimes gently beat time to his own music with his head or rounded a sentence with his hand.

When I makes tea I makes tea, as old mother Grogan said. And when I makes water I makes water … Begob, ma’am, says Mrs. Cahill, God send you don’t make them in the one pot.
James Joyce

Yet he who grasps the moment’s gift,
He is the proper man.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?

Only he is an emancipated thinker who is not afraid to write foolish things.

What is the via negativa?

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Beth knows.


In other news, qarrtsiluni inaugurates a new theme, “Lies and Hiding,” with a poem about the vagaries of history by Maria Benet, which seems to reflect her own history as an Romanian immigrant. I guess it’s O.K. with poetry to give away the ending:

You are packed:
the clothes of your new life
folded and stashed in your mind–and again you rehearse:
the border, customs, forms
to fill. Again you write:
nothing to declare,
nothing worth currency.

Dick Jones shares two wonderful poems based on his travels in the Ural Mountains between 1989 and 2000. “BIRDS ON THE CHUSOVAYA RIVER” begins:

High flat sun, sour light
draining like whey
through muslin cloud.
This bird’s geometry — square-winged,
turning on the axis
of its hunger, reorders
the sky. The berkut, summer eagle,
sideslips into the treeline.

SB compiles some recent good news for internet addicts and writers of poetry. I particularly liked this quote (from the Independent): “Poetry, it seems, is not the new rock’n’roll, but the new Prozac.” (Fortunately, the author of the article is considerably wiser than this may suggest, and comes down rather hard on the notion that the best thing about poetry is that it might be good for you.)

Finally, Tom Montag‘s Morning Drive Journal feature helps remind me what a real winter might be like. This is how it was in Fairwater, Wisconsin on February 1, 2000:

It’s a lovely winter morning. A cold nip to the wind, partly cloudy, the sun hidden, a greyness. No frost on the windshield of the pick-up. I can see my breath in the air. A stillness, as if winter holds its breath, then the branch of a bush moves and the spell is broken. Clouds are smears to the north and east and west, haze above. If we could cup the day in our hand like water, what would it look like?

Christmas letter

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Dear Friends,

Well, Via Negativa is two years old now. I knew the birthday was coming up sometime around the solstice, but I missed it: it was last Saturday. And here I’d been assiduously taking notes for a “year in review” post (which, I see, I avoided doing in the first birthday post). Nuts. Well, here’s that post anyway.

2005 saw a lot of changes in Via Negativa, beginning in her sidebar. Three of my favorite brainiac bloggers – Abdul-Walid of Acerbia (formerly Elck of the vernacular body), Siona of Nomen est Numen, and Andi of Ditch the Raft – hung up their blogging hats. They each had very good reasons for doing so, I think, and it’s not their fault that I felt my enthusiasm for the medium ebb just a little after they left. But now one of them is back, blogging under a new name. Andi took her vows as a Korean Buddhist nun-to-be (haeng-ja), and just last week returned to the blogging fold as Soen Joon, with a blog called One robe, one bowl – the first cloistered blogger in my blogroll.

Three of the bloggers I read faithfully have scored major successes in the world of print publishing this year. Ivy – surely the hardest working poet online – had her first book-length manuscript, Mortal, accepted by Red Morning Press. Patry Francis, who blogs at the aptly named Marvelous Garden, having more than paid her dues with years of waitressing, had her first novel accepted by Dutton. And I was perhaps most excited to learn back in October that Beth successfully pitched her book on Gene Robinson to a small New York publisher. Back in January 2004, Beth’s post about listening to Bishop Robinson preach and then going to a shopping mall sparked a memorable discussion spanning three comment threads. That was, I think, the first really meaty blog conversation in which I took an active part, and it was a revelation to me. I added a comments feature to Via Negativa shortly thereafter.

This past September saw the birth of a new kind of online publication, qarrtsiluni – equal parts group blog and literary magazine. While there are all sorts of equally valid reasons for blogging, those of us involved with qarrtsiluni are hoping to inspire folks around the blogosphere to sometimes take a bit more time with their writing, starting with ourselves. And we want to encourage more collaborative literary and artistic efforts, taking advantage of the much greater opportunities for interaction and feedback available online than in print journals. So far, I think, qarrtsiluni has had a pretty good run.

One thing my sidebar doesn’t reflect too well is the exponential growth in country/nature blogs over the past year (see Rurality‘s sidebar for a good collection of links). I’ve added a few, but I’m always wary of expanding the list of “vaguely compatible blogs” beyond the point where it can still serve readers as a handy guide to a sampling of sites I find interesting. But this past week I decided to put in links to the parent sites of two blog carnivals – regular, community-generated compilations of links to the best posts about a given topic, in this case birds and invertebrates. I coupled them with the useful, weekly compendium of Buddhist-flavored posts at Blogmandu – an old-fashioned meta-blog – to create a new sidebar category, which I hope to expand in the coming year as similar efforts get off the ground, or as I discover more such places already in existence. They offer great solutions to the blog addict’s eternal dillemma: how to read more blogs and still leave time for, well, anything else.

There are many other things that excite me about the blogs in my blogroll: new experiments in writing or artwork, major life changes for the people whose lives they chronicle. I started jotting down notes, and the list quickly got out of hand. So you’ll just have to click through my links and discover them for yourself, I’m afraid.

I don’t want to sound more selfless than I am, either. Via Negativa has had a pretty good year in terms of its original content, too. Long-time readers probably have their own ideas of what the most significant developments were; here’s what stand out in my mind:

1. I got a camera, a hand-me-down birthday gift from a loyal reader (thanks, Matt!). Though only one megapixel, it’s proved more than adequate for the low-resolution pictures required for the Internet. I haven’t owned a camera since I was a kid – film processing was never something I thought I could afford – and I have really enjoyed the effect that taking pictures has had on my quality of attention.

2. I blogged an epic, Cibola (see sidebar links). At least six people claim to have read it all the way through, not counting myself. It had its moments.

3. An involuntary sojourn in lovely Summersville, West Virginia with a broken-down car led me to read the one poetry book I had on hand with the same approximate intensity with which the survivor of a shipwreck clings to a raft. That book was Paul Zweig’s Selected and Last Poems. Unlike Andi, however, I didn’t ditch the raft once I got home; I made a shrine out of it and began regular prostrations. So far I’ve written thirty-four poems in response to Zweig’s, and the project continues to hold my interest. Let’s face it, we can only ever write as well as we read, so why not make the effort to read more consciously? And the blogging medium seems ideal for experiments in antiphony.

4. After some fourteen months of finding captions for the same cartoon, many of them mildly amusing, I finally ran out of steam with the “Words on the Street” feature early last August. The efficient cause, I think, was that it lost out against my new-found enthusiasm for responsive writing – I didn’t have enough time to write two features in addition to a regular essay. The material cause? I was simply running low on ideas. But the final cause may have been the reality that, with all the photographs, Via Negativa no longer had to rely on a daily cartoon to provide graphic relief. Nevertheless, Diogenes the Bum had become in some sense his own person, and it has proved impossible to keep him from popping back up from time to time.

5. The travelogue I just completed was satisfying to write, and I learned (or perhaps relearned) a couple things from it: First, that the pieces I write off the cuff, following just a few leads, are in many ways more satisfying than those I plan out and research (the ivorybill posts). And second, that the time I spend here at home, following all my usual waking and beginning-to-write rituals, is absolutely essential. I really can’t write anywhere else. But given the necessary distance in space and time from the actual travelling, travel writing, I discovered, can be a blast!

6. Overall, I think I can discern a few trends. The lengthy treatises that I used to inflict on Via Negativa readers with monotonous regularity largely disappeared this year, though I doubt the overall word count has diminished too much. I don’t indulge in nearly as much speculative thinking as I did the first year – whether because I got that all out of my system, or simply because I haven’t read much philosophy lately, I’m not sure. There’s been a much higher proportion of poetry, though some of it has taken the form of prose.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that I can’t remember where I’ve been from one month to the next. On occasion, when I go back into the archives searching for a particular post, I find myself reading the adjacent entries with only the faintest recollection of having written them. That’s good, in a way, because it means I can keep coming up with the same ideas again and again and they’ll seem fresh every time. You may think I’m joking, but many of the poets I most admire seem never to have had more than a small handful of original insights. In fact, that may be part of their charm, what makes their oeuvre seem so tidy and unified in tone. Last year at this time I said, “Long live the melange!” But given my craving for variety, sooner or later variety itself may come to seem tiresome, and I’ll crave the simplicity and mystery of the eternal return. Even now, it might be possible to imagine all the words posted here to date as constituting some kind of interminable, profane mantra. Om mani padme jesus h. christmas hum!

Best wishes for a joyous and safe holiday season. Thank you all for reading, and I hope you’ll find the time to visit often in the coming year.

– Dave


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A rare visitor rounds the bend of the driveway below my house

The screech owls gave me another chance to listen more closely to their calling the night before last, so I was able to revise the poem I wrote in answer to Zweig’s “Listening to Bells” the other day. Take another look – I think it’s a little less “In lieu of,” a little more of a genuine listening now.

I also want to draw your attention – for the benefit especially of readers who might have been grumbling to themselves about the dearth of prose here lately – to some truly inspired writing by recent contributors to the comment strings. There’s a longish and delightfully chaotic kite-tail of comments helping to keep the Chant for the Summit of the World Body aloft. Two of my favorites in that string include one from Jean:

…[T]he world body doesn’t need a rest. None of these is about the world body doing anything, just about what people would like it to do, or think they would like it to do. In fact, the world doesn’t have a body, only a shadow, a reflection indicating the presence of body that actually isn’t there. It talks a lot about wanting to have one, but no one can agree about what kind of animal it should be, and Bush is determined it should not come alive, wants a robot or nothing.

Farther down, Rexroth’s Daughter – one of the pair of inspired misfits who call themselves Dharma Bums – added this:

Thanks for poetically revealing the myth perpetuated by google. The world body is like an urban legend. Repeated enough it becomes evidence of its own existence. The google bomb of self: A desperate need to believe in the reality of our own skins writ large.

Google bomb – the willful multiplication of incoming links with uniform wording or naming, in order to increase the attraction of a place or position by its sleight-of-hand substitution for the results of otherwise unrelated searches, using a god-like logarithm of our own invention – has to be one of the most accurate analogies for the formation of self I’ve ever seen. As the Wikipedia article points out,

Google bombs often end their life by being too popular or well known, thereby attaining a mention in well regarded web journals and knocking the bomb off the top spot. It is sometimes commented that Google bombing need not be countered because of this self-disassembly.

In a different, more animist vein, Beth left a vivid comment after the aforementioned “Listening” post:

…I dreamt of an owl last night, a big one – like a great horned – seen in the dream first through trees, and then flying over the roof of the moving car and then ahead of it, down the road and off into the trees again.

It was blue.

Thanks to everyone who comments and to all who visit here, whether with words or with the gift of silent presence. It’s never quite the quiet of a tomb, though I must admit, sometimes I feel that I ever stop chipping away at my epitaph, I’ll have to go lie down under it and mind my manners. And then it’s nothing but cut flowers – no gardening allowed! So gather ye rosebuds and all that. Or rose hips, really, by now…

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A pasture rose, New York aster, and the light above my writing table visible through the dining room door

UPDATE: Bloggers are invited to enter their favorite comments from among those left at their blogs for the 90 Great Comments Contest, hosted by Glittering Muse (and inspired in part by this very post, for which I’m honored).

Not far from nowhere: a memoir from the middle

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It’s Summer Book Week at Via Negativa. Since I’ll be gone part of the week on vacation myself, I decided it would be an ideal time to consider what constitutes the perfect summer read. Here’s a review I wrote last weekend.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI’ve never understood why summer reading is supposed to consist mainly of light, escapist fare. Isn’t summer vacation the one time when many people actually get a chance to relax and enjoy living in the moment? To my way of thinking, the perfect summer read draws you in, but doesn’t completely suck you in; is best savored in small bites slowly chewed rather than inhaled at one sitting; brings you to your senses rather than making you dead to the world. Tom Montag’s poetic memoir, Curlew: Home (Midday Moon Books, 2001) is just such a book.

Montag grew up on a rented farm “one mile south and a quarter mile west” of the town of Curlew,

dead center in the northwestern corner of Iowa. It is not far from nowhere, admittedly. When I was growing up, the town’s most remarkable feature was the short strip of pavement that constituted Main Street.

The book is not so much about Montag himself as it is about what it means to grow up in the middlewest, as he prefers to call it, raising food for people on both coasts who never give the continent’s vast midsection a second thought. It’s a kind of meta-memoir, a book about memory itself and the place of remembered landscapes in the imagination – especially urgent questions for a farm boy who, against all odds, grew up to be poet. As a fellow middlewesterner, reviewing the book for, notes, “Curlew, Iowa, and the Midwest become symbols of the greater reality of family, home, life, death and change. It is a book about what it means to be human.”

“Home is in your heart, you take it with you, you wear it like a stink,” Montag says. Don’t expect any weepy, County-Western-style sentimentalism here. Curlew: Home is infused with stoic melancholy, but also contains flashes of a cautious kind of joy. In this regard, as well as in its impressionistic style of composition, it reminded me strongly of old-time blues music – some talking blues epic by Leadbelly, say, where lyric alternates with narrative and the occasional shouted line.

Montag spent the month of October, 2000 traveling back to his childhood haunts, and intersperses journal-like episodes from “The Journey” with stories from his boyhood. Though not averse to drawing the occasional pithy moral, most of the time Montag wisely lets the people he interviews and the incidents he relates speak for themselves. As with blues lyrics or a Japanese linked verse sequence, a great deal of the reader’s pleasure comes from the sense of contrast and consonance between adjacent sections. (It’s interesting to see that these techniques were fully developed well before Montag began deploying them in his daily blog The Middlewesterner.)

Many of Montag’s stories glow with the light of the miraculous: the time his father witched for water, indicating not only where the well should be dug, but predicting the precise depth at which water would be found. The time Montag dreamed of having his legs run over by a tractor – and two days later having the dream come true. The time he broke his sister’s collar bone, much to their mutual surprise, or when his brother and he discovered the bitter mysteries of iced tea. Almost every character encountered in the book seems simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary, from Montag’s indomitable mother and his child-prodigy sister Colleen, to Curlew’s 93-year-old mayor and the outspoken, anti-corporate female postmaster Montag interviews on his visit in 2000.

The stories are rendered especially effective by their location within an overall trajectory of loss and longing. In the narrative present we see Montag restlessly circling the now-abandoned homesite, walking the four miles around the square of grid that had included his parents’ half-section farm again and again. We feel his shock at the emptiness as he stands among the windbreak trees where their farm had been, visits graveyards, stares at vacant lots where grade schools and grain elevators had stood. Miraculous things may have happened here once, but what’s to show for it, Montag wonders.

The tradition of stereotyping country people as clowns and simpletons is as old as agriculture, as old as literature. Curlew: Home helps demonstrate the literal groundlessness of that prejudice. It takes its place in a counter-tradition questioning the civilized fantasies of detachment from the earth that stretches from the ancient Daoist classics to Wendell Berry and Henry David Thoreau. From an early age, Montag and his siblings, like many farm kids, learn sober lessons about violence, suffering and moral responsibility.

A series of essays in Part Three details the inevitable cruelties of farm life: “Cutting Pigs” (everything you ever wanted to know about castration, but were afraid to ask), “Butchering Chickens,” “Killing Rats,” “Killing Pigeons.” The first in the series, “Feeding the Cattle,” sets the tone. One time, Montag writes, “I was slower getting out of the way then I intended to be,” and one of his father’s prize Herefords, all 1300 pounds of it, “put its foot exactly where my foot was. The full weight of pain.”

He slams the steer as hard as he can, first with an elbow, then a shoulder, but it doesn’t move. Finally he twists its ear with all his strength, and it “bellers” and lifts its foot just enough for him to extract his own. Then he goes to work dumping the feed in the trough as usual, bucket after bucket. Afterwards, he stands watching them, “like mountains pushing and shoving.”

Off to the west the sun was dropping down behind the trees in the grove. Long shadows were spilled like paint. Wind, cool and soothing. The sound of chickens, the sound of a car along the gravel road in front of our place, the sound of one of my sisters calling out “Supper!””There has got to be more than this,” I might have said to myself. I was watching the cattle feeding dumbly and I was looking at myself. Had I been bred into a life no less predetermined than the march of those steers toward the slaughterhouse, I wondered. “There has got to be more to life than feeding cattle.”

“Hey!” I shouted at the evening sky, just for the hell of it, just because I could. The sound roared from deep within and exploded out of me. None of the cattle turned to look at me, not a one of them.

I went to my supper.

At the other end of the series, Montag tells us “Why I Don’t Hunt.” In order to fully appreciate that story – like so many others – you’ll have to read the book, and even then you may not get it the first read through, as I did not. True epiphanies are hard nuts to crack, impossible to get at without shattering the shell of words.

All my life I’ve been waiting for that pheasant’s arc of flight to be completed. All my life the bird crumples and falls to earth. What is beautiful has been broken since.