Perry Mann’s Thanksgiving Essay

After reading this you may want some of his other essays. For $3 postage I will send you Mann and Nature. You may order Secular Mann from amazon or buy it at Taylor Books in Charleston, WV or send me $8 and I will mail you a copy

http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151122/GZ04/151129955/1455

In her introduction to Mann and Nature, Ann Farrell Bowers paid this tribute to Perry Mann: “He was my high school English teacher, and his effect on me was profound. It has been said that it takes only a few good teachers to change a life forever, and he was mine.”

Mann and Nature is a collection of essays by Perry Mann about growing up during the Depression on a subsistence farm with his grandparents in southern West Virginia, his life-long relationship with gardening, and his reverence for nature. They celebrate local agriculture and hard work and the benefits from both in language that is beautiful and poetic: Suddenly the woods were filled with rays and sparkles and pings of drips, all of which had different pitches and produced a xylophone effect. It was a fairyland of sun and sounds and sights. If I could be frozen in time by some sculptor, like the figures on the Grecian Urn in the poem written by Keats, I would choose to be standing with buckets in hand in those sun-drenched woods transfixed by the glory of sights and sounds of dripping sugar maples.

In the company of Thoreau, Rachel Carson, and Aldo Leopold, Mann reminds the reader of the consequences of plundering the resources of nature for profit. However, at 91 Perry Mann remains optimistic about the human condition: No lobbyist can bribe nature. In the end, all politicians and everyone else must accept the mandates of nature and the consequences of violating them. In that is my optimism.

Through the seasons Mann celebrates the beauty and mystery of nature and encourages the reader to go outside, to plant a garden, to take a walk, to observe the hummingbird, a shrew, an ancient oak, or an ear of corn, and after such observations reflect on the lessons of Mother Nature.

Included in his essays are recipes for his prized bread and butter pickles, his homemade bread, and a vegetarian delight of a cabbage nest filled with zucchini, squash, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, broccoli, onions, garlic, and tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and topped with two ears of corn steamed and garnished with Parmesan cheese. This meal is a testament to his definition of happiness: It may be happiness is producing by hand and mind what is essential to live and the use and enjoyment of it to sustain life with enough surplus to give time for rest and reflection.

Perry Mann has been recognized in Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth. On the back cover of Mann and Nature: A Collection of Essays, compiled by Ann Farrell Bowers, Shetterly wrote these words of praise: “Working and living with nature have taught Perry Mann to respect the great web of life, which he believes is much stronger than any human activity. By abusing the earth and not realizing what we need to support the health of this web, he believes we are in danger of destroying ourselves and much of the earth’s life forms with us.” Not well known outside of his community in West Virginia, Perry Mann presents the importance of thousands of unheralded and critically important voices across our country.”

Introduction to Secular Mann by Julian Martin

“I am the village atheist,” he told me shortly after we met. But evidently the voters of Summers County, West Virginia, didn’t mind. They twice elected him prosecuting attorney and to the West Virginia legislature. His daughter has also been twice elected prosecuting attorney.

To Hinton in Summers County, I had made a pilgrimage to meet a man whose every op-ed in the Charleston Gazette caught and held my attention. I might say his idealism appealed to me, but Perry Mann isn’t an idealist—he lived and appreciated an ideal life and based his essays on his life experience.

Perry Mann has been recognized in Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth. On the back cover of Mann and Nature: A Collection of Essays, compiled by Ann Farrell Bowers, Shetterly wrote these words of praise: “Working and living with nature have taught Perry Mann to respect the great web of life, which he believes is much stronger than any human activity. By abusing the earth and not realizing what we need to support the health of this web, he believes we are in danger of destroying ourselves and much of the earth’s life forms with us. Not well known outside of his community in West Virginia, Perry Mann presents the importance of thousands of unheralded and critically important voices across our country.”

Chris Chanlett honored his friend Perry Mann in the Charleston Gazette: “His sheer eloquence gives comfort to his faithful and challenge to his antagonists. He loves the arena of intellectual disputation and maintains a genial demeanor as he skewers fundamentalists. In over 1,500 columns he has sustained a radical critique of modern trends with a synthesis of liberal and conservative beliefs.”

In her introduction to Mann and Nature, Ann Farrell Bowers paid this tribute to Perry Mann: “He was my high school English teacher, and his effect on me was profound. It has been said that it takes only a few good teachers to change a life forever, and he was mine.”

You will find here Perry Mann’s understanding of and expansion on thoughts from among others: Spinoza, Andre Sakharov, Tolstoy, Elie Wiesel, Thomas Jefferson, Henry George, Karl Marx, Jesus, Arnold Toynbee, William Blake, Richard Dawkins, Copernicas, Darwin, Mark Twain, A. E. Housman, Descarte, E. L. Doctorow, William James, and Pagans.

You will also find praise for famous composers and thoughts on such topics as free will and determinism, Christian fundamentalism, Moslem terrorism, hope without a heaven, homosexuality, World War II, George Bush, Iraq, Robert E. Lee, Washington and Lee University, socialism and capitalism.

These essays are among the hundreds that Perry Mann wrote between 1999 and 2014. They were originally published in the Charleston Gazette and the Nicholas Chronicle, both West Virginia newspapers.

 

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s