Jayber Crow, pilgrims, and tattoos

If I had guts at all, I would get a tattoo that says, in my handwriting, “pilgrim,” an allusion to this passage in Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow. I feel a kinship with Jayber and have a sense of his wandering.

Knowing my readership and writer-ship, I’m sure Berry’s Port William crew will be mentioned more than once on this site, but I thought I would be the first to bring him into the conversation, a la Jonah “Jayber” Crow. He narrates:

I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circle or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I have deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led–make of that what you will. (p. 133)

About Lauren Sawyer

I am a Ph.D. student studying social ethics in New Jersey. I love coffee, rainy days, and John Updike. Learn more about me at laurendeidra.com.

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