Know Thy Place

As I’m here writing about neighborhoods, community engagement, place, I have been diving back into some of Wendell Berry’s works. He speaks with such authority about the land and the people who care for it that I take him as somewhat of an expert.

I was recently caught by this quote from his essay Damage in which he talks about unintentionally harming some property on his own land. He hired someone to bulldoze a small new pond so that he could pasture his little herd of livestock, but the land folded in on itself following a particularly wet fall and winter. This is what Berry says about it:

The trouble was a familiar one: too much power, too little knowledge. The fault was mine.

I was careful to get advice. But this only exemplifies what I already knew. No expert knows everything about every place, not even everything about any place. If one's knowledge on one's whereabouts is insufficient, if one's judgment is unsound, then expert advice is of little use.

Berry laments