My Friend, Hannah Coulter

My grandmother would blush like a schoolgirl…when I asked her questions I had no business asking. She and my Grandpa told us wonderful stories about their life together. About their courtship and about the early years of their marriage; hard, lean, and good. But if I began to push too far for the romantic details, her eyes would twinkle, her cheeks flush, and she would say, “I guess that’s kind of private.”

Not all the particulars are the same, but the world of  Hannah Coulter is very like my grandmother’s. Same era. Both of them farm wives, wed to the soil as much as their husbands. Both with a tenacious, indomitable spirit, and a feminine grace.

Wendell Berry tells the story in Hannah’s voice. And when she speaks of the love she and Nathan shared, I sometimes feel like I’m peaking behind my grandma’s twinkling eyes and rosy cheeks, to a story women of her generation just didn’t tell. Of a tenderness that thrust it’s feet into the soil as they wrested a living from the ground. Of lovemaking that was a culmination of long days of gathering hay, and feeding the animals, and sharing meals. The all day kind of loving that grows and seasons with years.

You may have a long journey to travel to meet somebody in the innermost inwardness and sweetness of the room of love…The meeting is prepared in the long day. In the work of years. In the keeping of faith. In kindness…

You come together to the day’s end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms. It goes away. And there you are, where giving and taking are the same. And you live a little while entirely in a gift.

The words have all been said, all permissions given. And you are free in the place that is the two of you together. What could be more heavenly than to have desire and satisfaction in the same room? If you want to know why, even in the midst of telling of sorrow and sadness, I am giving thanks. This is why.

I will miss Hannah’s voice. As I miss Grandma’s. She has been a worthy friend; telling stories of folks very like those I grew up with. People who take care of one another. Who sit a spell on the porch, and talk deep. Who share in the labors of the day, and also in celebration and grief. People who understand the land and its wants and needs. Who sorrow to see the demise of the small farmer and the slipping away of a life that has been good to them.

Thank you to my friend, Ian, who recommended Wendell Berry’s Port William novels to me in the Lost Books post. I can hardly wait to pick up another one. And thank you to www.christianaudio.com for offering the audio download FREE this month. I encourage you to take advantage of this offer. Get to know my friend, Hannah. I think you will be glad you did.