Inside Story | Sojourners

Inside Story

For many years we've talked about interviewing environmental and culture essayist Wendell Berry. And for many years it didn't happen: Our schedule or his would change, time would roll on, and the unfulfilled idea would turn up again at the next planning retreat. For a while, we even established a correspondence with Berry, hoping to "interview" him through the dying art of letter-writing. But this was no substitute for going to see the man himself and the parcel of Kentucky that shaped him.

Finally, this past February associate editor Rose Marie Berger and Web editor Ryan Beiler (in his preferred role of photographer) were able to make the road trip to visit Berry. In some ways the trip itself brought home the issues of environmental damage and paradoxes of progress that Berry explores. The route from Washington, D.C., took Berger and Beiler through mountains and hills, beautiful landscapes. But it also took them past one of West Virginia's largest coal-burning power plants, which produces enough steam and particulates to drastically affect cloud formations. And they rolled through oil refineries near Ashland, Kentucky - grim and grimy complexes on either side of the highway.

Berger and Beiler spent an afternoon talking with Berry at his kitchen table, on his farm near Port Royal, Kentucky. Outdoors, llamas moved among a flock of sheep - guard llamas that make a racket if predators come near. Berry took a break to go feed the birds. It was a good place to be, even for a short while, not so much a retreat from human conflicts and environmental degradation but rather an outpost of hopeful, thoughtful resistance.

- The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine July 2004
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