I would like to offer my gratitude for the writing of Kentucky agrarian, Wendell Berry. His essays, poetry and fiction have fertilized a crop of great solace in my life, and helped to breed a healthy flock of good manners, to boot. As I travel this unlikely road of opportunity, as a woodworker and writer, sure, but most often as a jackass, I have his writings upon which to fix my mind and my heart, to keep my life’s errant wagon between the ditches, as it were. Mr. Berry’s sentences and stories deliver a great payload of edifying entertainment, which I hungrily consume, but it is the bass note of morality thumping through his musical phrases that guides me with the most constant of hands upon my plow. Ever at the ready to skip out of school and go fishing, I am reminded by influences like my parents’ teaching and Mr. Berry’s writing that I can achieve a more persevering glee by sticking to my responsibilities, which, if I have constructed them correctly, will bring a flavor of mirth all their own. I have learned by the hard way that although wholesome mirth may burn with a slightly duller flame, it is certainly more constant and appreciable by myself and my audience.
In his stories, I am reminded of, among other things, the inestimable value of a loving family; the one under my own roof, and under the roofs of my parents and siblings as well as my aunts and uncles and cousins, not to mention those of my friends and neighbors. Throughout my 44 years of life to date, regardless of waxing and waning fiduciary fortunes, I have ever lived with the stolid sense of confidence that only a strong and loving family can instill. It is with no small expertise that I can aver whom amongst the Offermans and the Roberts clan (on my mother’s side) is the clearest buffoon. In case the answer is less than clear to you, gentle reader, it’s the windy fellow with the whiskers typing this sentiment. Despite my own stumbling as I find my way in the world, my family of farmers, teachers, librarians, paramedics, nurses, and one brewer (‘tis the Lord’s work, Matt, keep it up) remains ever-ready to deliver the support of a casserole, a snowplow, a hug, or just another dozen night-crawlers for fishing. The fancier the world around me becomes, the more clearly apparent it is that only within a loving family is to be found life’s most substantial luxuries.
In a modern society that places an ever-increasing importance upon isolation and privacy, I am glad to be reminded daily of the dire necessity of the membership I hold in the fellowship of my family and my woodshop and my community. I give thanks for Mr. Berry’s essays like The Unsettling of America and Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, in which the reader is instructed to “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts”. Inside every human life there will occur times of hardship and times of rejoicing, which in fact could describe any single trip of my own to the privy, or “thunder-closet”, but with the wife and family that I possess, and more importantly, that possess me, I can remain calm in the knowledge that any storm can be weathered.
In his poetry, Mr. Berry pays eloquent homage to the butterfly, the dandelion and the Sycamore leaf, as well as the fencerow, the river and the barn. Merely have a gander at his story Making it Home and you will begin to see what I mean. Perhaps you, too, shall feel gratitude for his lovely and wholesome mirth.
Nick Offerman is an actor, writer and carpenter known for his role as Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks and Recreation.