11 February 2007


i'm still making my way through pilgrim at tinker creek. it's a book that must be read slowly and deliberately as annie dillard sees with the detailed eye of a scientist and writes with the refined language of a poet. the chapter i was reading today is titled "winter". as i was making my way through the chapter, this being the middle of february, i found it easy to pay attention to the things she was describing.

she talked of the creek frozen over by the winter cold. what i was most transfixed by was her description of the life that pulses beneath the layers of ice--frogs buried deep in the mud at the bottom of the creek, absorbing bits of oxygen through their porous skin, turtles breathing posteriorly where sensitive tissues filter oxygen straight to the blood and act as gills.(how bizarre and amazing!)

these creatures who would otherwise be unable to survive the harsh winter weather, are able to tuck themselves safely under water, away from the deadly path of the frostbitten landscape. but because they go dormant, they are survivors. they lie in wait through the winter months, knowing that with the advent of spring comes the thaw, when they will once again be able to return to the surface, to land, and breathe in the life-giving air through more familiar means.

this passage struck me because this season is my winter too--due to more than just the cold weather and leafless trees. this is a season of barrenness and my heart feels chilled and frostbitten. but reading these words--words of life teeming beneath a frozen exterior--i wonder at the possibility of life beating inside me right now. how long will this winter last? what will the promise of spring awaken in my heart? do i have what it takes to be a survivor too?

while these questions don't have ready answers, i will use this time to try and find beauty in the barren landscape. and i will wait for the snow to melt...

07 February 2007

the tree with the lights in it

"when the doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw 'the tree with the lights in it'. it was for this tree i searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years. then one day i was walking along tinker creek thinking of nothing at all and i saw the tree with the lights in it. i saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. i stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. it was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. the flood of fire abated, but i'm still spending the power. gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. i was still ringing. i had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment i was lifted and struck. i have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. the vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but i live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam."

i've been rereading annie dillard's pilgrim at tinker creek and this passage always stops me in my tracks, makes me yearn for some such gift of sight--a way of seeing that confirms one of my deepest longings--to be myself seen, which is to say, to be wholly known. my heart is still so full of longing...