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Food and poetry

Wyoming and Colorado bears

Bear-jackers, headed down the road to bruin. Wyoming, left courtesy Julia Corbett, Colorado, right, courtesy Dave Heivly, Snowmass Village Police Department.


When New York Times columnist Mark Bittman spent a day this spring with Wendell Berry, the man he calls "the soul of the real food movement," he found the political activist and prolific writer of novels, essays and poems so relaxing it was "positively yogic." Berry was preparing to go to Washington, D.C., to give the 2012 Jefferson Lecture, the highest honor the federal government gives for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities, but he still had time to talk for hours and give a tour of the Kentucky countryside where he was born and has lived for most of his life. Berry's planned talk -- "It All Turns on Affection" -- was thoughtful about the country's experience with booms and busts, recalling the Western writer Wallace Stegner, who coined the word "stickers" to describe people who dig in locally and do their best to build lasting community. As always, Bittman says, Berry's talk -- as it has for decades -- includes tasty, quotable lines that sound like aphorisms, and he provided some of his favorites. Here are just a few from Berry's writings: "You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it," "What I stand for is what I stand on," "Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup," and the calm and lovely poem: "When despair for the world grows in me / and I wake in the night at the least sound / in fear of what my life and children's lives may be,  / I go and lie down where the wood drake / rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.  / I come into the peace of wild things  / who do not tax their lives with forethought  / of grief. I come into the presence of still water.  / And I feel above me the day-blind stars / waiting for their light. For a time / I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."

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