We buried my father, John Watson, on the farm last weekend. It turned out to be more of a celebration of his 93 radical years than a mourning of their end. Like so many things about him, his funeral was homemade and idiosyncratic. While his worn out body returns to the soil, he lives on in the many other businesses – including ours – that have started on the farm and bear the mark of his original, challenging but gentle nature.
The American poet and farmer Wendell Berry was beside John’s bed when he died. Though frustrated by our collective failure to address environmental issues, John never lost faith in our ability to find the solutions. His hope really did spring eternal. This poem was my tribute to him; more for the hope it ends with than the frustration at the start.
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front (excerpt)
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbours 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.