Enriching the Earth
To enrich the earth I have sowed clover and grass
to grow and die. I have plowed in the seeds
of winter grains and various legumes,
their growth to be plowed in to enrich the earth.
I have stirred into the ground the offal
and the decay of the growth of past seasons
and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.
All this serves the dark. Against the shadow
of veiled possibility my workdays stand
in a most asking light. I am slowly falling
into the fund of things. And yet to serve the earth,
not knowing what I serve, gives a wideness
and a delight to the air, and my days
do not wholly pass. It is the mind’s service,
for when the will fails so do the hands
and one lives at the expense of life.
After death, willing or not, the body serves,
entering the earth. And so what was heaviest
and most mute is at last raised up into song.
~ Wendell Berry
The summer solstice marks the turning point into deepening darkness. Just as our celebrations of the winter solstice mark the return and intensification of light, there’s a way in which the summer solstice is about welcoming the dark.
I have been pondering this lately, with the help of this poem by Wendell Berry, that probes the relationship between fecundity and the passing of things. Darkness, loss, and death are subjects we generally avoid. But the solstice is a time to remember their inevitability, and see how life both serves the dark and grows from it.
The poet points out that we are all in this inexorable darkening. Slowly falling into the fund of things. But within the darkening arc of our lifespan, there are smaller cycles of day and night. We experience many shadowy underworld adventures of mystery, disorientation, unknowing, dismemberment, and then the return to light.
At the solstice I remember these times too, and I feel gratitude for the gifts and harvests of these inner seasons. May this also serve life. May it enrich the earth.