Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What is the Room of Love?

Part Two, Chapter 14

The room of love is another world. You go there wearing no watch, watching no clock. It is the world without end, so small that two people can hold it in their arms, and yet it is bigger than worlds on worlds, for it contains the longing of all things to be together, and to be at rest together. You come together to the day's end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms, it goes away, and there you are where giving and taking are the same, and you live a little while entirely in a gift. The words have all been said, all permissions given, and you are free in the place that is the two of you together. What could be more heavenly than to have desire and satisfaction in the same room?

Is this an old woman trying to put words to marital intimacy? Is she talking about sex here or her marriage as a whole?

I think we need to figure it out because she goes on and ends the chapter with

If you want to know why even in telling of trouble and sorrow I am giving thanks, this is why.

Hannah and Nathan and their room of love: what is it? Does Hannah's description of it (whatever "it" is) ring true for you? The chapter is full of realistic descriptions of marriage which I so appreciate and can relate to--especially the arguments and how they begin and end. But this description at the end of the chapter feels so abstract to me, I'm wondering if it's just me. I'm not necessarily being critical, I'm just being honest.

I'm curious what you think. I'm looking for some answers.

Pondering...what is the room of love?

:) Lynn


  1. I do believe that she is talking about marital intimacy. I just about spelled "martial", now that would have been a different kind of war. Anyway, I've got to say, after reading Hannah, I have no desire to read any more of this series. That's my honest opinion too. I truly enjoyed the first half of the book, then I got lost in her depression and never really recovered until the last chapter. And I agree with someone else's comment that WB developed Hannah's character so much in the beginning, taking effort and time to create an atmosphere, then the other chapters about the children seemed quickly spent. It left me wondering "where is the love?"

  2. This could be a song...sort of the sequel to "Who Wrote the Book of Love." What? You disagree?

    I have nothing literary to say tonight, but I will gather my book and brains tomorrow and think about The Room of Love. This is Carol's territory...looking for your comment, Carol (-:


  3. This quote was one of the first I focused on when I wrote about Hannah...

    *it contains the longing of all things to be together, and to be at rest together*

    and basically I thnk it's Wendell's answer to all the world's problems: loyalty in marriage is a primer for being loyal to your community, for being loyal to the world.

    In that relationship (happy or unhappy) is the secret to healthy living....

    *being at rest together* - can you do that?

  4. LOL, Junebug! Martial. And I'm glad you've stuck with us, even though the book didn't thrill you. I like to hear your opinions.

    Dana--good thoughts. Wendell's answer to all the world's problems: loyalty. I like that. We know he thinks the room of love, whatever it is, holds the key. Giving the book to his wife would seem to punctuate this idea quite nicely, don't you think?

  5. Thanks, Lynn. I am glad I read the book. I would read it again. Especially the part of the grandmother. I wish that after Hannah left her home she could have had more contact with her grandmother. Now that woman inspired me.

  6. I think WB "place-ifies" the way other authors personify. For him, place is key to living a life of meaning. I must admit I didn't grasp the idea of marital intimacy in this paragraph until you pointed it out, Lynn! When I read it again in that context, I saw it clearly and realized WB was taking marital intimacy and making a "place" for it. Hannah turns love into a room and it works in that context.

    I'm pretty sure I don't completely agree with WB on place being of utmost importance, but his ideas have certainly made me see place as being MORE important than I previously understood. I'm still working on a post about "place-ness" and hope to have it ready in a couple more days.

  7. Goodness, Di, I mentioned sex once (or twice, maybe) and I'm the expert now? (laughing)

    Sandy, your comment is Brilliant. I've never thought about "place-ifying" instead of personifying.

    I have enjoyed this chapter with every reading because Berry captures the ebb and flow of a healthy marriage. I especially lingered over the "come into alignment again."

    I think Hannah is describing the union and fusion of her life with Nathan. I get the sense that WB is trying to capture some of the mystery of two becoming one. And sure, the room is occupied by marital intimacy, but intimacy that goes beyond simply coupling. I love "The meeting is prepared in the long day, in the work of years, in the keeping of faith, in kindness."

    [Lynn! This is the hardest question you've asked so far.]

    The room is separate, I see that. It is a place that only has room for two. It is holy. Reading this again I am reminded of the Holy of Holies in the temple. The other phrase from a hymn niggles: mystic, sweet communion.

    I am intrigued by your comment Dana...loyalty in marriage being the cornerstone to building a good life.

    Isn't it interesting that when WB describes Hannah and Virgil's intimacy (very obliquely) it is also in "a house"? End of Chapter 6.

    "We lived the dearest minutes of our marriage in that dream house, in the real firelight, under the real stars. And when Virgil went away that time I had something of him with me that I would keep."

  8. Oh! You're just all so brilliant!

    Thanks for making the link back to Virgil and Hannah's encounter--it fits.

    And the whole notion of place-ness, giving ideas that are normally personified, a structure is exactly what's going on. Is this a masculine thing, perhaps? Is this how the masculine mind organizes the abstract? Or is this just Wendell? I hate labels so forget I just asked whether that's a masculine thing. Unless, of course, you'd care to answer. I'll listen. :)

  9. you guys are all too smart for me.

    i think it's all about the sex.


  10. I'm just kidding. a little.

    This was my favorite phrase in the section:

    ...it contains the longing of all things to be together, and to be at rest together...

    My dear one and I are REALLY good at being at rest together. Actually, I think the truth of the matter is that he is rest to me. Kinda like the old Billy Joel song 'You're my home' - I'll never be a stranger/and I'll never be alone/ whenever we're together that's my home.

    Ok, ok, I know, Billy Joel is no WB [though I'd argue 'Italian Restaurant' is close. :)] . But I also think that this chapter evokes the True homeness for which we all long and to which we live the most closely in the safety of our personal holy of holies [let's see.. how far can this analogy hold up...].. the sanctified intimate, if you will. oh, i'm getting my preach on, now....

    Like the forgiveness Hannah articulated to Ivy...I think WB has a particular gift for speaking the sacred out of the daily, or perhaps mundane is a better word.

    i just re-read this and I don't think I said anything. but I'll leave it here as an example of external processing. my synapses must be full of children today. sigh.


  11. Hmmm, interesting conversation. I think when I read this section in the book, my mind went to it being about the maturing of love which happens in a long and enduring marriage relationship. As I've just now re-read the posted paragraph I can pick up more on the marital intimacy aspect.

    Either way, it does seem to describe two lives that have seen a lot of hills and valleys together which brings them to a point of blessed oneness.

    Tammy ~@~

  12. I just *have* to ask:

    Tammy, are you Lynn's mom?

  13. Steph,

    I know just what you mean about re-reading and what did I say? This morning I would type a line, read it and erase it.

    I admit, I'd never before seen the Wendell Berry - Billy Joel connection! (wink)

    "he is rest to me" - the loveliest compliment you could give a husband....

  14. Um, nope, I'm not Lynn's mom :-)

    When I first started blogging, I only had a private family blog as a way to keep in touch with all my grown up kids. They thought it was way too weird for me to be listed as "Tammy" and insisted that I be *mom* because I was mom to them. So, alas, my blogger account remains in that name. I'm sure that places I comment think I must be really strange.....

    Tammy ~@~

  15. @Carol, please, my head is swelling! I loved your comments and will read the section more closely again.
    @Steph, I would put Italian Restaurant (and most of the rest of The Stranger) up there with WB in place-evocativeness. Billy Joel painted pictures of New York City for me a good 25 years before I ever set foot in the place. He and WB certainly paint very different places with their words, but they each paint his own place brilliantly.

    My husband told me he knew early in our relationship that we would last because he could rest so easily with me. ;)

    Happy Valentine's Day. Hope you all enjoy your "Rooms of Love". ;)

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