A jug, a man and the circling world

A few months ago I attended a memorial for a friend—a man, a husband, a father, a community activist and a Quaker. I hadn’t known Nash as well as many of the 150 or so people there. We’d both worked in the Civil Rights movement for national church organizations decades earlier, and I remembered the photographs he’d taken of Mississippi’s Delta Ministry. When I met him a few years ago, I immediately felt connected.

At the end of the testimonials, someone who knew him far better than I did paraphrased a poem by Wallace Stevens that reminded him of Nash, and when I got home I looked it up. It was a whole new way of looking at him and, perhaps, at all the people who matter to us in the world.

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the mound
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

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