Thursday, March 03, 2005

wisdom from annie dillard

Yesterday I picked up Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard from the library. I had put a hold on it a few weeks ago, because I wanted to read a whole volume by this woman, whom I’ve only seen quoted.

In fact, I have one of those quotes on the bulletin board beside my desk. (This to help me guard against the bad habit I have of mental squirreling away, then never coming back to exploit the hoard.)

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book, give it, give it all, give it now...Some more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, frm beneath like well water.

"Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."

I’m partway through the second chapter of Pilgrim. Oh my. She is good. Here are a few bits from the chapter "Seeing"

"Unfortunately, nature is very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t affair. A fish flashes, then dissolves in the water before my eyes like so much salt. Deer apparently ascend bodily into heaven, the brightest oriole fades into leaves. These disappearances stun me into stillness and concentration; they say of nature that it conceals with a grand nonchalance, and they say of vision that it is a deliberate gift, the revelation of a dancer who for my eyes only flings away her seven veils....

"It’s all a matter of keeping my eyes open. Nature is like one of those line drawings of a tree that are puzzles for children: Can you find hidden in the leaves a duck, a house, a boy, a bucket, a zebra, and a boot? Specialists can find the most incredibly well-hidden things..."
(Harper's Magazine Press, 1974, p. 16,17)

I wonder, what seven-veil dancer will I see today– if I keep my eyes open? What images will leap from a tangle of lines? How will I use my gift?

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