Contemplating a Wendell Berry Poem to Learn to be at Home

Beams of Love – Exploring Poetry

“The world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.”

Wendell Berry

Every aspect of Wendell Berry’s quote is rich, to be contemplated. Read each line, and sit with each image or thought. Dive in and take their journey.

A journey

Of one inch

Very arduous


And joyful!

By which we arrive at

The ground of our feet

Learn to be at home.

Dwelling is entering into a spiritual journey of our home. Each moment, space, and interaction in our physical home is a reflection of our inner Home – an opportunity to dive into the Great-Love-Ocean in which we are swimming.

A journey – Just how long is my journey? Something in me knows it’s not just this short blip on the earth. Am I so dense I need many incarnations? Or perhaps the journey – Berry did say, “A journey” – is all I need to consider now. This life is a block in the making of a great temple.

Of one inch – My journey is both short, and long. My life is short, when considered within the cosmos, yet each moment is as long as I live into them. My inch is made up of millions of layers of experience, thoughts, struggles, joys; and snap, it’s over. Life is paradox, in every way.

Very arduous – The unfolding of my life demands attention, reflection, sitting with difficult questions. There are no easy answers, although sometimes a burst of insight gives us peace. If I don’t get caught up in the work asked for to live a conscious life, I’m open to answers. Again, paradox – by falling into paradox, life unfurls. One of our readers recently wrote a post where you can read the poem “Our Great Paradox” found in Dwelling: An Exploration of Home.

Humbling – I can’t say anything about this. It does lead me to a Rumi line – I am so small/ How can this Great Love be inside of me? That’s the core of the paradox.

And joyful – I can be joyful when I’m humble, when I know my place, know the Great Love is inside of me. No paradox there!

By which we arrive at – We arrive as each step our foot meets the earth. We’re always arriving, further with each step. The paradox – we’re always arriving, and we’re always there.

The ground of our feet – The ground, which we primarily know via our feet, is that which holds our home. Without the earth, our body to connect us with the earth, and our humility to open us, we couldn’t access our Home.

And learn to be at home – This is a startling line, that we have to learn to be at home, to be where we are known and cherished. Maybe we were fortunate to know our home as young children, but then the day comes where we become estranged through life’s hardships. This is a beautiful dynamic – we then have the vision and fortitude to find our home, our spiritual center, through the rest of our journey.  

We learn to make our home – Dwell – both as we do our inner work, and in the way we live, centered by our physical home. Our inner Home and physical home mirror each other –

  • By preparing a small space to be still, meditate or read or pray, we clear a space in our mind and heart to receive the Great Love;
  • When we sit with a loved one, heart to heart, we open a space for Love to fill us;
  • When we pull back the curtain to let the sun shine in, we pull back the night’s veil to receive the new day and the many forms Love will come to us; by tending to our garden, loving each plant, we feel the presence of the Great Love nurturing us;
  • When we cook, cherishing each ingredient, being a part of their life cycle, we’re connecting ourselves with the Great Flow of Life;
  • By meditatively sweeping our floors, we prepare a clean mind and heart for the Great Love to come to us;
  • By sitting with a candle, being absorbed within its silent glow, we’re being held within the ineffable;
  • When we sit at our desk, and lean into its warm wood, I can feel its ground-Love-force weaving into mine;
  • By doing yoga, or any mind/body/spirit movement form, each morning, we’re aligning and opening ourselves into the cosmic life force that permeates all beings;
  • And when we lie down to sleep, into the soft embrace of the earth, we’re surrendering to and opening ourselves to swim in the mystery of the Great Love-Ocean.Beams

We learn to Dwell by going through the door, gratefully receive what gifts await us, and engage with them. They all say, “Live!”


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