roots and crowns

Before coming back I had been willing to allow the possibility — which one of my friends insisted on — that I already knew this place as well as I ever would. But now I began to see the real abundance and richness of it. It is, I saw, inexhaustible in its history, in the details of its life, in its possibilities. I walked over it, looking, listening, smelling, touching, alive to it as never before. I listened to the talk of my kinsmen and neighbors as I never had done, alert to their knowledge of the place, and to the qualities and energies of their speech. I began more seriously than ever to learn the names of things — the wild plants and animals, natural processes, local places — and to articulate my observations and memories. My language increased and strengthened, and sent my mind into the place like a live root-system. And so what has become the usual order of things reversed itself with me: my mind became the root of my life rather than its sublimation. I came to see myself as growing out of the earth like the other native animals and plants. I saw my body and my daily motions as brief coherences and articulations of the energy of the place, which would fall back into the earth like leaves in the autumn.

— Wendell Berry, “A Native Hill” (1968). Closely related to themes in my essay on “Filth Therapy.”