Sunday, November 27, 2011

Now in November

In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974), Annie Dillard writes, "This year I want to stick a net into time and say 'now,' as men plant flags on the ice and snow and say, 'here'(75).

If only it were that easy.

Dillard spends much of her time describing and analyzing the natural world in prose that is beautiful, fluid, poetic. Thoreau was nature's philosopher; Dillard is her prose-poet.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is thus as much about seeing as it is about writing and feeling.
So I blurred my eyes and gazed towards the brim of my hat and saw a new world. I saw the pale white circles roll up, roll up, like the world's turning, mute and perfect, and I saw the linear flashes, gleaming silver, like stars being born at random down a rolling scroll of time. Something broke and something opened. I filled up like a new wineskin. I breathed an air like light; I saw a light like water. I was the lip of a fountain the creek filled forever; I was ether, the leaf in the zephyr; I was flesh-flake, feather, bone.(34)
I went to the beach yesterday, because I always find the best shells during low-tide in winter. And there's almost never anyone there.

I like shells with color and whorls, pinks and purples and blues. I like the precision of the little ones.

People think you can't find any interesting ones on the beaches in RI, but I think maybe the people who can't find them are the ones who aren't interesting, because they aren't seeing them.

I brought one home last night that is one of my favorite types, and when I looked at it this morning and dug the sand out, there was another tiny shell just like it hidden inside.

It's the same with the light and the sound: you never know what the light at the beach will be like, or how the water will sound when you stop and listen to it.

Sometimes you go to the beach in November and expect it to be gray and sad, the end of a season, but it's more beautiful in winter's light than it has been all summer long.

The beach in the summer is a feeling and a smell, but the beach in November is a sight and a sound.

Dillard tells of how the Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis, once said,
My father gave me a canary and a revolving globe ... I used to open the cage and let the canary go free. It developed the habit of sitting at the very top of the globe and singing for hours. For years, as I wandered insatiably over the earth, greeting and taking leave of everything, I felt that the top of my head was the globe and a canary sat perched on the top of my mind, singing.
Dillard concludes,
Cruelty is a mystery, and the waste of pain. But if we describe a world to compass these things, a world that is a long, brute game, then we bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and light, the canary that sings on the skull. (9)
What would the world sound like if we let our mind-canaries sing?

What would the world look like if we see ourselves as flesh-flake, feather, bone, born at random down a rolling scroll of time?

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."