Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Obligation of a Moral Man

In the Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry said, "The maintenance of a continuity, a vital connection, between childhood vision and adult experience is part of the obligation of a moral man." This line has stayed with me for many years, largely because I had a very defining childhood and my life in college and graduate school taught me that there was deep worth in many of my childhood visions. The simple callings of marriage, motherhood, land husbandry and an active and unadulterated faith, all visions of my childhood, were initially brought into question after leaving home. But the more time that I spent away from home, the more I recognized that I desired that my adult experience express a living form of my childhood vision.

Perhaps, because of that, or perhaps just for fun, Bentley Farm expanded today to include two parakeets, Oyster and Pearl. Since I was ten years old, I have always wanted a parakeet. I am not quite sure why I cared for these birds so much except that I know that I have always liked bird songs. We have had chickens for many years, but that never satisfied my bird-longing, most likely because their cluck doesn't sound much like a song. Dad always said that a parakeet was a fairly useless pet - it doesn't bark, it doesn't give you milk or eggs, it doesn't give you wool, you can't ride it, you can't pull a plow or a wagon with it and it can't turn into bacon. I realized these things to be true and so for twelve years no parakeets joined the Bentley flock.

As the eldest Angell, I have watched all of my siblings receive and raise pets, or more appropriately, livestock. Isaac started with Bob, the ox, and Autumn Jeanne, the cow. Rebecca has raised a succession of cows from Speedy to Speedette to Speediest. And all of the kids in between have owned and raised an Ayrshire cow, but I never had an animal. That is, unless you count Amy, the golden lab that ran away after I spent countless hours attempting to train her. Amy was not meant for me. She was bought for Nathaniel when he was about eight years old. She got bigger faster than Nate got stronger, and so I inherited Amy. It was admittedly a disaster adoption from the start. I had one wish during that time: I wanted to train my children better than I trained that dog.

But yesterday this all changed with the arrival of Pearl and Oyster. I think this is as Australian as our farm gets, and most likely the next posts concerning animals will revert back to the more traditional bovine and poultry.