It was the picture of the lawn chair, with the rusting pipe frame, with the paint peeling, that drew me to Verlyn Klinkenborg’s The Rural Life. I found a book chronicling the months and the seasons of this writer’s life in several rural settings. Klinkenborg writes essays at times for the New York Times editorial pages, again under the heading The Rural Life.
A cover can draw me to a book as much as the next person, but I am more discerning than that. I read the first few lines:
“ Every year about now, I feel the need to keep a journal. I recognize in this urge all my worst instincts as a writer. I walk past the blank books – gifts of nothingness – that pile up in bookstores at this season, and I can almost hear their clean white pages begging to be defaced.” (Page 3)
I was hooked. Do we not all feel more devoted to our journaling and chronicling in January? Do we not all set ambitious goals about how much we will write this year?
Since much of the book gathers Klinkenborg’s essays, essays of a length suitable for the New York Times’ editorial pages, this is another book that you can read in small periods of time. You can read an essay in a short coffee break, for example, and then imagine yourself in the country as you return to your own daily work. You can feel yourself move from the fast pace of an urban workplace to the more deliberate pace that Klinkenborg describes.
Life on a farm brings us back to the effort to tame the natural world so that we can support ourselves through producing our own food. These essays remind us that it is, in a sense, we who are tamed. Like no other experience, country life brings human beings back in touch with nature, back in touch with the rhythms we were meant to live by.
The Rural Life is a book of great essays by a wise, accomplished writer. They provided me with a thoughtful relief from my urban life.
(Note: I read 2003 Little, Brown and Company edition of The Rural Life.)