My Life’s Place…

by Travis Pickell

I’ve been reading some Wendell Berry again since school ended and I think its good for my soul. This little passage struck me. It reminded me of the importance of belonging somewhere, of claiming a place as one’s own and loving it. Like many grad students, I feel very uprooted and wish I could find somewhere like this–not a small Kentucky town per se, but rather a place in which I belonged and could love.

“I was making myself at home. In the dark way of the world I had come to what would be my life’s place, though I could not yet know the life I would live in it. Jarrat Coulter would become my second father-in-law, and Burley would then be my uncle, though I would not so much as lay eyes on Nathan for more than three years. I had come unknowing into what Burley would have called the ‘membership’ of my life. I was becoming a member of Port William.

Port William in fact and mystery, in the light and in the dark–even the name is a stumper. Why in the world would you build a town on top of a hill, or anyhow a ridge, half a mile from the river, and call it a port?

Anybody who lives in Port William is apt to hear that question enough to get used to it. Ben Feltner, Virgil’s grandfather, always gave the same answer: ‘They didn’t know where the river was going to run when they built Port William.’

He meant, I guess, that Port William has always been, and maybe too that it will always be. I think so. You could say that Port William has never been the same place two minutes together. But I think any way it has ever been it will always be. It is an immortal place. Some day there will be a new heaven and a new earth and a new Port William coming down from heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband, and whoever has known her before will know her then.

Writing about Port William to Virgil in his absence and distance, I realized that the story of even so small a place can never be completely told and can never be finished. It is eternal, always here and now, and going on forever.”

-Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter (42-3)