By Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2011

This is my third trip to Rwanda in six years. Looking forward as we walk slowly, deliberately up these quilted fields, I anticipate the full vision of a mountain gorilla.

We come to a stone fence and for a brief moment, I wonder if we are in New England instead of Africa. Stone upon igneous stone is meticulously stacked together in a tight mosaic to create the boundary of the park. It is forty-six miles long, and it took three years to build. We climb over it, leaving the fields for the forest.

We are ducking and bending beneath the bamboo stands, frequently slipping in the wet, muddy ground as the trail steepens. Nettles, also a preferred gorilla food, line the trail, and we are warned not to touch.

Sound precedes smell.

Smell precedes sight.

Sight produces awe.

We hear grunts.

We smell the acrid stench of sweat on damp fur.

And suddenly, we see a Silverback, in dappled light, a gorilla breathing. No longer a fiction, but now a presence, the gorilla is eating bamboo. I can barely breathe, we are so close to this magnificent being in the forest. He beats his chest and makes eye contact. Instinctively, I look down. I look up. His gaze meets mine. I am looking at my primate self, with 98 percent of our genetic makeup the same. Nothing could have prepared me for this moment. Imagination pales in the presence of power: This animal is alive, grunting before me, before us. We stand still in awe, in wonder.

This is an excerpt from Terry Tempest Williams’s cover story in the July issue of The Progressive. To read the entire story, and all of the July issue, simply subscribe for $14.97. That’s a years worth of The Progressive for 75% off the newsstand price! Just click here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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