Hardwick Postcard #7: Middle School

At the middle school concert’s intermission, my merry-eyed daughter sat behind me with a girl I didn’t know, so I turned around and introduced myself. Being 12, the girls laughed at this weirdly formal introduction, and then the couple beside me began laughing, too. I had been sitting beside the girl’s parents.

It’s a little world we live in.

I chatted with the new friend’s parents. Quickly, the girl’s mother and I realized we had both served on an elementary school board. The lights dimmed just as we started a conversation that could have launched into a very long conversation about school consolidation.

For all its myriad faults, public education — at least in Vermont — is still all about the local community. Chances are, at a middle school concert, you’ll sit beside people you like, and, equally possibly, besides people you don’t.

But you’re all still there.

My father sent me this Wendell Berry essay. Read it.

In 1936, moreover, only a handful of people were thinking about sustainability. Now, reasonably, many of us are thinking about it. The problem of sustainability is simple enough to state. It requires that the fertility cycle of birth, growth, maturity, death, and decay—what Albert Howard called “the Wheel of Life”—should turn continuously in place, so that the law of return is kept and nothing is wasted. For this to happen in the stewardship of humans, there must be a cultural cycle, in harmony with the fertility cycle, also continuously turning in place. The cultural cycle is an unending conversation between old people and young people, assuring the survival of local memory, which has, as long as it remains local, the greatest practical urgency and value. This is what is meant, and is all that is meant, by “sustainability.” The fertility cycle turns by the law of nature. The cultural cycle turns on affection.

Wendell Berry


Main Street, Hardwick, Vermont

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