Leaving Port William

I haven’t been writing much lately about my quest to read 30 books this year lately, frankly because it hasn’t been going so well. I got significantly bogged down in The Devil in the White City, but persevered. Then, I decided to check out Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, a book I’ve heard a lot about (my friend Brandy loves it, I saw it mentioned in a Mat Kearney tweet last week, and anyone I know who has read it says they were sad when it was over.)

I truly didn’t know what to expect. Berry’s writing style is so different from mine and at first, I found it off-putting. But the characters, the town of Port William, and, yes, even the writing style began to draw me in to this little town and the people that populated it. They began to feel like friends. They are farmers, barbers, housewives, mothers, people of faith, old, young, and in between. Somehow, Port William reminds me of home and my roots on the farm. It calls me to a place of quiet rest.

Last night, I got to a portion of the novel when a character passed away. This particular character reminded me a lot of my dad. Some of the descriptions, the way he thinks or speaks, and the way he works just called to mind my dad. And I loved this character for his quiet integrity and gentle spirit.

Athey’s decline in health reflected the way both of my grandmother’s slowly faded from life, still struggling to hold on to dignity. “The eyes have a light,” Wendell Berry wrote simply about Athey’s death. “They give a light. I saw it go out in Athey’s.”

What beautiful, true words! Athey was gone from the world of Port William, and I cried like I knew him.

Because I did. I knew his well-worn farmer’s hands and his gentle spirit and the soft voice I imagined he spoke with. In my mind, he looks like my grandfather and loved his land and his family the way my Grandad loved his land and his family.

I only have a little left to read in Jayber Crow, but I feel myself slowing down—because I don’t want to leave Port William.


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