Wendell Berry's hard words and the endings of stories

Excerpts from the essay "Waste" in Wendell Berry's What Matters? (2010):


"...a close inspection of our countryside would reveal, strewn over it from one end to the other, thousands of derelict and worthless automobiles, house trailers, refrigerators, stoves, freezers, washing machines, and dryers; as well as thousands of unregulated dumps in hollows and sink holes, on streambanks and roadsides, filled not only with 'disposable' containers but also with broken toasters, television sets, toys of all kinds, furniture, lamps, stereos, radios, scales, coffee makers, mixers, blenders, corn poppers, hair dryers, and microwave ovens.  Much of our waste problem is to be accounted for by the intentional flimsiness and unrepairability of the labor-savers and gadgets that we have become addicted to" (158).

"There is no sense and no sanity in objecting to the desecration of the flag while tolerating and justifying and encouraging as a daily business the desecration of the country for which it stands" (159).

"The truth is that we Americans, all of us, have become a kind of human trash, living our lives in the midst of a ubiquitous damned mess of which we are at once the victims and the perpetrators" (158).


I am convicted by the amount of "recycling" and trash that I produce in my home, and I am not quite clear on how to connect our (Luke's and mine) smithing work with the work of cleaning up our landscape without somehow sounding both polemical and self-righteous. Berry's essay itself is very confrontational and presents the thorny problem that I am both victim and perpetrator of environmental damage. I do find comfort in the fact that many of the problems of the world can only be solved by ridiculously inadequate means (that idea isnt mine--it's Berry's, I think). Maybe I don't need that new toaster and can buy one from the local thrift store or flea market and so on.

Berry's words inform me on why Luke and I are grateful to alter the stories of our materials.


These old saw blades become

A knife like Luke's Persian Chef:

These old Chevy springs


These broken Volkswagon front ends

become the source for these blades:

I suppose that in a way we are restoring the story both of the metal and the landscape on which it lay.