One of my favorite journalists, commentator and essayist Verlyn Klinkenborg, published the final piece for his long-running column, “The Rural Life,” in today’s New York Times. His wise and observant prose-poems about his small farm and the nature that inhabits it were among the pieces of writing I most relished amid the dreck and disruption contained within the daily news.
Klinkenborg’s artful and well-wrought column will be greatly missed by many, I’m sure. I’m reprinting today’s essay in full here.
The first Rural Life appeared on the editorial page nearly 16 years ago. This is the last. This seems a good season to leave, with a long winter ahead, the wood stove burning, and plenty of hopes and plans for the coming year. When The Rural Life began, I didn’t imagine that it would last so long or chart so many changes in my life. Nor did I imagine that it would find so many good readers. But it has, and I’m grateful for that.
As for the farm, it will go on much as it has. The horses will stand broadside in the sun or paw the snow looking for last year’s grass. The roosters — two of them now — will breast the bright morning air as always while the hens go about their business. The dogs — two of them now, again — will chase each other through the snow. I’ll be fixing fence and hauling wood and feeding out hay and chopping ice in the horse tank when the power goes out. And I’ll be doing what I’ve always done: watching the way one thought becomes another as I go about the chores.
But what about your farm, the one you’ve pictured while reading The Rural Life all these years? I know, from talking to readers, that it’s far bigger and more orderly than mine. It has fewer rocks and richer soil and fences that somehow magically stay taut. It reflects who you are as surely as my place reflects who I am. And it seems to be just about anywhere, wherever there’s open land and some woods and enough time to walk the fence line. I’ve always wished that I could visit the farm that readers imagine I live on. It sounds like a very nice place.
I am more human for all the animals I’ve lived with since I moved to this farm. Here, I’ve learned almost everything I know about the kinship of all life. The only crops on this farm have been thoughts and feelings and perceptions, which I know you’re raising on your farm, too. Some are annual, some perennial and some are invasive — no question about it.
But perhaps the most important thing I learned here, on these rocky, tree-bound acres, was to look up from my work in the sure knowledge that there was always something worth noticing and that there were nearly always words to suit it.