Wendell Berry is my hero! His many essays on American agriculture are so in-depth and beautifully written that whole landscapes of understanding are born by just reading his works. His writing is grounded in the notion that “one’s work ought to be rooted in and responsive to one’s place”. He reminds me of my other hero, John Muir in the way that he captures our imagination. Living in the early 1900’s the voice of nature was yet to be recognized and described – John Muir did this perfectly and very effectively. I was reading a snippet of a story written by a fellow adventurer of John Muir and was struck by the description, as was the writer, of the way Muir related so intimately to the plants and flowers as if greeting an old family member; cooing and exclaiming all the while, picking and stashing samples until his jacket was full!
This reminds me of yet another hero and a perfect moment that describes this intimate connection. We often visited our then centenarian neighbor, Josephine Quirelo (nee Vogliotti) in the height of summer and would bring her vegetables and especially tomatoes. We were so proud of the tomatoes we grew (and still grow), the seeds of which she and her family had saved for well over 80 years, and we were so excited to bring her some to eat. She greeted us and held the tomato in her cupped hands, smelling the distinct aroma and looked at us both with wide eyes and declared “this is one of ours isn’t it?” It still brings a tear to my eyes as I remember her filling up with joy and relaxing with ease in the knowledge that her tomato would remain a legacy for many more years to come. For over 25 years (that makes them well over 100 years a Murphys’ heirloom) we have planted this same variety, and in fact today, May 2nd I planted the first succession of these babies. I am in present moment awareness, listening and hearing Josephine’s joyful exclamation.
One asks oneself “what motivates and inspires the work I do?” and my reply is love and beauty, compassion and caring in the greater context of making a difference.