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I’ve been away from the blog for some weeks, in part because I’ve been cleaning out my father’s house and preparing it for market. A rite of passage for adult children, of course, but made much easier for me by working alongside my incredible brother, John. (My sister had made an earlier trip that helped us make progress, too). Together, we spent weeks shifting and sorting, cleaning and clearing. And remembering the good years our family had had in that house. It meant a great deal to share that labor with John and my father.

To get there, I drove by myself from Michigan to New Mexico–and back again. I had a few adventures on the way (which I’ll save for another post), but there is nothing like driving alone for 3600 miles to cultivate attentiveness. There are clear dangers, of course, to zoning out, but to really notice what is passing by takes intentionality. To find it beautiful or full of blessing even more. It put me in mind of this Wendell Berry poem–a perfect reminder for summer, wherever we are, to help understand what little can be preserved. Vacations and houses and lives need being in them.

The Vacation

By Wendell Berry

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.

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