The Poetry of Sabbath Walks

For thirty plus years the poet and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry, has spent Sundays walking his farm along the Ohio River. Mr. Berry writes: “On Sunday mornings I often attend a church in which I sometimes sat with my grandfather, in which I sometimes sit with my grandchildren. But I am a bad-weather churchgoer. When the weather is good, sometimes when it is only tolerable, I am drawn to the woods on the local hillsides or along streams. In such places, on the best of theses Sabbath days, I experience a lovely freedom from expectations – other people’s and also my own. I go free from the tasks and intentions of my workdays, and so my mind becomes hospitable to unintended thoughts: to what I am willing to call inspiration.”

photo of Wendell Berry

Mr. Berry is inspired by the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.’ In the unhurried pace of his Sabbath walks he listens, reflects and often responds with a poem. ‘This New Day’ is an anthology of Sabbath inspired poems going back to the 1970’s.

Listen to ‘Poem IV’ inspired by a walk in 1998:

The woods and pastures are joyous
in their abundance now
in a season of warmth and much rain.
We walk amid foliage, amid
song. The sheep and cattle graze
like souls in bliss (except for flies)
and lie down satisfied. Who now
can believe in winter? In winter
who could have hoped for this?

Whether you be religious, spiritual or not, may we too find our Sabbath moments. Moments to listen for those voices that speak to us from the land and from within. Wendell Berry reminds us that taking time to walk and reflect, offers the space to be inspired. Where will your Sabbath walk take you?

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