Annie Dillard Quotes

Authors: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Categories: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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the-surest-sign-of-age-is-loneliness
as-soon-as-beauty-is-sought-not-from-religion-and-love-but-for-pleasure-it-degrades-the-seeker
there-is-a-muscular-energy-in-sunlight-corresponding-to-the-spiritual-energy-of-wind
every-book-has-an-intrinsic-impossibility-which-its-writer-discovers-as-soon-as-his-first-excitement-dwindles
i-think-the-dying-pray-at-the-last-not-please-but-thank-you-as-a-guest-thanks-his-host-at-the-door
cruelty-is-a-mystery-and-a-waste-of-pain
ecstasy-i-think-is-souls-response-to-waves-holiness-makes-as-it-nears-annie-dillard
the-interior-life-is-often-stupid-annie-dillard
we-live-half-our-waking-lives-all-our-sleeping-lives-in-some-private-useless-insensible-waters-we-never-mention-recall-annie-dillard
the-soul-may-ask-god-for-anything-never-fail-annie-dillard
the-dedicated-life-is-worth-living-you-must-give-with-your-whole-heart-annie-dillard
our-life-is-faint-tracing-on-surface-mystery-annie-dillard
our-life-is-faint-tracing-on-surface-mystery-like-idle-curved-tunnels-leaf-miners-on-face-leaf-annie-dillard
according-to-inuit-culture-in-greenland-person-possesses-six-seven-souls-the-souls-take-form-tiny-people-scattered-throughout-body-annie-dillard
On cool autumn nights, eels hurrying to the sea sometimes crawl for a mile or more across dewy meadows to reach streams that will carry them to salt water.' These are adult eels, silver eels, and this descent that slid down my mind in the fall from a long spring ascent the eels made years ago... sometimes as high as 8, 000 feet above sea level. There they lived without breeding 'for at least 8 years.' In the late summer of the year they reached maturity, they stopped eating, and their dark color vanished. They turned silver; now they are heading to the sea. Down streams to rivers, down rivers to the seas, south in the North Atlantic where they meet, they are returning to the Sargasso Sea, where, in floating sargassum weed in the deepest waters of the Atlantic, they will mate, release their eggs, and die. This, the whole story of eels at which I have just hinted, is extravagant to the extremes, and food for another kind of thought, a thought about the meaning of such wild, incomprehensible gestures. Imagine a chilly night and a meadow; balls of dew droop from the curved grass. All right: the grass at the edge of the meadow begins to tremble and sway. Here come the eels. The largest are five feet long. They stream into the meadow, sift between grasses, veer from your path. There are too many to count. All you see is a silver slither, like twisted ropes of water falling roughly... If I saw that sight, would I live? If I stumbled across it, would I ever set foot out of my door again? Or would I be seized to join that compelling rush, would I cease eating, and pale, and abandon all to start walking?

Annie Dillard
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cool quotesautumn quotesnights quoteseels quoteshurrying quotessea quotescrawl quotesmile quotesdewy quotesmeadows quotesreach quotesstreams quotescarry quotessalt quoteswater quotesadult quoteseels quotessilver quotesdescent quotesslid quotesmind quotesfall quoteslong quotesspring quotesascent quotesmade quotesyears quotesago quoteshigh quotes8 quotes000 quotesfeet quoteslevel quoteslived quotesbreeding quotesfor quotes8 quotesyears quoteslate quotessummer quotesyear quotesreached quotesmaturity quotesstopped quoteseating quotesdark quotescolor quotesvanished quotesturned quotessilver quotesheading quotessea quotesrivers quotesrivers quotesseas quotessouth quotesnorth quotesatlantic quotesmeet quotesreturning quotessargasso quotessea quotesfloating quotessargassum quotesweed quotesdeepest quoteswaters quotesatlantic quotesmate quotesrelease quoteseggs quotesdie quotesstory quoteshinted quotesextravagant quotesextremes quotesfood quoteskind quotesthought quotesthought quotesmeaning quoteswild quotesincomprehensible quotesgestures quotesimagine quoteschilly quotesnight quotesmeadow quotesballs quotesdew quotesdroop quotescurved quotesgrass quotesgrass quotesedge quotesmeadow quotesbegins quotestremble quotessway quoteseels quoteslargest quoteslong quotesstream quotesmeadow quotessift quotesgrasses quotesveer quotespath quotescount quotesslither quotestwisted quotesropes quoteswater quotesfalling quotesroughly quotessight quoteslive quotesstumbled quotesset quotesfoot quotesdoor quotesseized quotesjoin quotescompelling quotesrush quotescease quotespale quotesabandon quotesstart quoteswalking quotes
Think of a globe, a revolving globe on a stand. Think of a contour globe, whose mountain ranges cast shadows, whose continents rise in bas-relief above the oceans. But then: think of how it really is. These heights are just suggested; they're there... when I think of walking across a continent I think of all the neighborhood hills, the tiny grades up which children drag their sleds. It is all so sculptured, three-dimensional, casting a shadow. What if you had an enormous globe that was so huge it showed roads and houses- a geological survey globe, a quarter of a mile to an inch- of the whole world, and the ocean floor! Looking at it, you would know what had to be left out: the free-standing sculptural arrangement of furniture in rooms, the jumble of broken rocks in the creek bed, tools in a box, labyrinthine ocean liners, the shape of snapdragons, walrus. Where is the one thing you care about in earth, the molding of one face? The relief globe couldn't begin to show trees, between whose overlapping boughs birds raise broods, or the furrows in bark, where whole creatures, creatures easily visible, live our their lives and call it world enough. What do I make of all this texture? What does it mean about the kind of world in which I have been set down? The texture of the world, its filigree and scrollwork, means that there is a possibility for beauty here, a beauty inexhaustible in its complexity, which opens to my knock, which answers in me a call I do not remember calling, and which trains me to the wild and extravagant nature of the spirit I seek.

Annie Dillard
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so-live-ill-be-nun-for-you-i-am-now-annie-dillard
how-we-spend-our-days-is-course-how-we-spend-our-lives-annie-dillard
spend-afternoon-you-cant-take-it-with-you-annie-dillard
i-am-fugitive-vagabond-sojourner-seeking-signs-annie-dillard
Say you could view a time lapse film of our planet: what would you see? Transparent images moving through light, 'an infinite storm of beauty.' The beginning is swaddled in mists, blasted by random blinding flashes. Lava pours and cools; seas boil and flood. Clouds materialize and shift; now you can see the earth's face through only random patches of clarity. The land shudders and splits, like pack ice rent by widening lead. Mountains burst up, jutting, and dull and soften before your eyes, clothed in forests like felt. The ice rolls up, grinding green land under water forever; the ice rolls back. Forests erupt and disappear like fairy rings. The ice rolls up- mountains are mowed into lakes, land rises wet from the sea like a surfacing whale- the ice rolls back. A blue-green streaks the highest ridges, a yellow-green spreads from the south like a wave up a strand. A red dye seems to leak from the north down the ridges and into the valleys, seeping south; a white follows the red, then yellow-green washes north, then red spreads again, then white, over and over, making patterns of color too intricate to follow. Slow the film. You see dust storms, locusts, floods, in dizzying flash-frames. Zero in on a well-watered shore and see smoke from fires drifting. Stone cities rise, spread, and crumble, like paths of alpine blossoms that flourish for a day an inch above the permafrost, that iced earth no root can suck, and wither in a hour. New cities appear, and rivers sift silt onto their rooftops; more cities emerge and spread in lobes like lichen on rock. The great human figures of history, those intricate, spirited tissues whose split second in the light was too brief an exposure to yield any image but the hunched shadowless figures of ghosts. Slow it down more, come closer still. A dot appears, a flesh-flake. It swells like a balloon; it moves, circles, slows, and vanishes. This is your life.

Annie Dillard
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view quotestime quoteslapse quotesfilm quotesplanet quotestransparent quotesimages quotesmoving quoteslight quotesan quotesinfinite quotesstorm quotesbeauty quotesbeginning quotesswaddled quotesmists quotesblasted quotesrandom quotesblinding quotesflashes quoteslava quotespours quotescools quotesseas quotesboil quotesflood quotesclouds quotesmaterialize quotesshift quotesearths quotesface quotespatches quotesclarity quotesland quotesshudders quotessplits quotespack quotesice quotesrent quoteswidening quoteslead quotesmountains quotesburst quotesjutting quotesdull quotessoften quoteseyes quotesclothed quotesforests quotesfelt quotesrolls quotesgrinding quotesgreen quoteswater quotesforever quotesback quotesforests quoteserupt quotesdisappear quotesfairy quotesrings quotesmountains quotesmowed quoteslakes quotesrises quoteswet quotessea quotessurfacing quoteswhale quotesbluegreen quotesstreaks quoteshighest quotesridges quotesyellowgreen quotesspreads quotessouth quoteswave quotesstrand quotesred quotesdye quotesleak quotesnorth quotesridges quotesvalleys quotesseeping quotessouth quoteswhite quotesred quoteswashes quotesnorth quoteswhite quotesmaking quotespatterns quotescolor quotesintricate quotesfollow quotesslow quotesfilm quotesdust quotesstorms quoteslocusts quotesfloods quotesdizzying quotesflashframes quoteswellwatered quotesshore quotessmoke quotesfires quotesdrifting quotesstone quotescities quotesrise quotesspread quotescrumble quotespaths quotesalpine quotesblossoms quotesflourish quotesday quotesinch quotespermafrost quotesiced quotesearth quotesroot quotessuck quoteswither quoteshour quotesrivers quotessift quotessilt quotesrooftops quotesemerge quotesspread quoteslobes quoteslichen quotesrock quotesgreat quoteshuman quotesfigures quoteshistory quotesintricate quotesspirited quotestissues quotessplit quoteslight quotesexposure quotesyield quotesimage quoteshunched quotesshadowless quotesghosts quotescloser quotesdot quotesappears quotesfleshflake quotesswells quotesballoon quotesmoves quotescircles quotesslows quotesvanishes quoteslife quotes
books-swept-me-away-this-way-that-one-after-other-i-made-endless-vows-according-to-their-lights-for-i-believed-them-annie-dillard
she-read-books-as-one-would-breathe-air-to-fill-up-live-she-read-books-as-one-would-breathe-ether-to-sink-in-die-annie-dillard
I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who sprang through the open window by my bed and pummeled my chest, barely sheathing his claws. I've been bloodied and mauled, wrung, dazzled, drawn. I taste salt on my lips in the early morning; I surprise my eyes in the mirror and they are ashes, or fiery sprouts, and I gape appalled or full of breath. The planet whirls along and dreaming. Power broods, spins, and lurches down. The planet and the power meet with a shock. They fuse and tumble, lightning, ground fire; they part, mute, submitting, and touch again with hiss and cry. The tree with the lights in it buzzes into flame and the cast-rock mountains ring. Emerson saw it. 'I dreamed that I floated at will in the great Ether, and I saw this world floating also not far off, but diminished to the size of an apple. Then an angel took it in his hand and brought it to me and said, 'This must thou eat.' And I ate the world.' All of it. All of it intricate, speckled, gnawed, fringed, and free. Israel's priests offered the wave breast and the heave shoulder together, freely, in full knowledge, for thanksgiving. They waved, they heaved, and neither gesture was whole without the other, and both meant a wide-eyed and keen-eyed thanks. Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, said the bell. A sixteenth-century alchemist wrote of the philosopher's stone, 'One finds it in the open country, in the village and in the town. It is in everything which God created. Maids throw it on the street. Children play with it.' The giant water bug ate the world. And like Billy Bray, I go my way, and my left foot says 'Glory,' and my right foot says 'Amen': in and out of Shadow Creek, upstream and down, exultant, in a daze, dancing, to the twin silver trumpets of praise.

Annie Dillard
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cat quotesfighting quotestom quotessprang quotesopen quoteswindow quotesbed quotespummeled quoteschest quotesbarely quotessheathing quotesclaws quotesbloodied quotesmauled quoteswrung quotesdazzled quotesdrawn quotestaste quotessalt quoteslips quotesearly quotesmorning quotessurprise quoteseyes quotesmirror quotesashes quotesfiery quotessprouts quotesgape quotesappalled quotesfull quotesbreath quotesplanet quoteswhirls quotesdreaming quotespower quotesbroods quotesspins quoteslurches quotespower quotesmeet quotesshock quotesfuse quotestumble quoteslightning quotesground quotesfire quotespart quotesmute quotessubmitting quotestouch quoteshiss quotescry quotestree quoteslights quotesbuzzes quotesflame quotescastrock quotesmountains quotesring quotesemerson quotesi quotesdreamed quotesfloated quotesgreat quotesether quotesworld quotesfloating quotesdiminished quotessize quotesapple quotesangel quoteshand quotesbrought quotesthis quotesthou quoteseat quotesate quotesworld quotesintricate quotesspeckled quotesgnawed quotesfringed quotesfree quotesisraels quotespriests quotesoffered quoteswave quotesbreast quotesheave quotesshoulder quotesfreely quotesknowledge quotesthanksgiving quoteswaved quotesheaved quotesgesture quotesmeant quoteswideeyed quoteskeeneyed quoteseat quotesfat quotesdrink quotessweet quotesbell quotessixteenthcentury quotesalchemist quoteswrote quotesphilosophers quotesstone quotesone quotesfinds quotescountry quotesvillage quotestown quotesgod quotescreated quotesmaids quotesthrow quotesstreet quoteschildren quotesplay quotesit quotesgiant quoteswater quotesbug quotesworld quotesbilly quotesbray quotesleft quotesfoot quotesglory quotesamen quotesshadow quotescreek quotesupstream quotesexultant quotesdaze quotesdancing quotestwin quotessilver quotestrumpets quotespraise quotes
Last year I had a very unusual experience. I was awake, with my eyes closed, when I had a dream. It was a small dream about time. I was dead, I guess, in deep blank space high up above many white stars. My own consciousness had been disclosed to me, and I was happy. Then I saw far below me a long, curved band of color. As I came closer, I saw that it stretched endlessly in either direction, and I understood that I was seeing all the time of the planet where I had lived. It looked like a woman's tweed scarf; the longer I studied any one spot, the more dots of color I saw. There was no end to the deepness and variety of dots. At length I started to look for my time, but, although more and more specks of color and deeper and more intricate textures appeared in the fabric, I couldn't find my time, or any time at all that I recognized as being near my time. I couldn't make out so much as a pyramid. Yet as I looked at the band of time, all the individual people, I understood with special clarity, were living at that very moment with great emotion, in intricate, detail, in their individual times and places, and they were dying and being replaced by ever more people, one by one, like stitches in which wholly worlds of feeling and energy were wrapped in a never-ending cloth. I remembered suddenly the color and texture of our life as we knew it- these things had been utterly forgotten- and I thought as I searched for it on the limitless band, 'that was a good time then, a good time to be living.' And I began to remember our time. I recalled green fields with carrots growing, one by one, in slender rows. Men and women in bright vests and scarves came and pulled the carrots out of the soil and carried them in baskets to shaded kitchens, where they scrubbed them with yellow brushes under running water. I saw white-faced cattle lowing and wading in creeks. I saw May apples in forests, erupting through leaf-strewn paths. Cells on the root hairs of sycamores split and divided, and apples grew spotted and striped in the fall. Mountains kept their cool caves and squirrels raced home to their nests through sunlight and shade. I remembered the ocean, and I seemed to be in the ocean myself, swimming over orange crabs that looked like coral, or off the deep Atlantic banks where whitefish school. Or again I saw the tops of poplars, and the whole sky brushed with clouds in pallid streaks, under which wild ducks flew with outstretched necks, and called, one by one, and flew on. All these things I saw. Scenes grew in depth and sunlit detail before my eyes, and were replaced by ever more scenes, as I remember the life of my time with increasing feeling. At last I saw the earth as a globe in space, and I recalled the ocean's shape and the form of continents, saying to myself with surprise as I looked at the planet, 'yes, that's how it was then, that part there was called France.' I was filled with the deep affection of nostalgia- and then I opened my eyes. We all ought to be able to conjure up sights like these at will, so that we can keep in mind the scope of texture's motion in time.

Annie Dillard
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year quotesunusual quotesexperience quotesawake quoteseyes quotesclosed quotesdream quotessmall quotesdream quotestime quotesdead quotesguess quotesdeep quotesblank quotesspace quoteshigh quoteswhite quotesstars quotesconsciousness quotesdisclosed quoteshappy quoteslong quotescurved quotesband quotescolor quotescloser quotesstretched quotesendlessly quotesdirection quotesunderstood quotestime quotesplanet quoteslived quoteslooked quoteswomans quotestweed quotesscarf quoteslonger quotesstudied quotesspot quotesdots quotescolor quotesend quotesdeepness quotesvariety quotesdots quoteslength quotesstarted quotestime quotesspecks quotesdeeper quotesintricate quotestextures quotesappeared quotesfabric quotesfind quotesrecognized quotesmake quotespyramid quotesindividual quotespeople quotesspecial quotesclarity quotesliving quotesmoment quotesgreat quotesemotion quotesintricate quotesdetail quotestimes quotesplaces quotesdying quotesreplaced quotesstitches quoteswholly quotesworlds quotesfeeling quotesenergy quoteswrapped quotesneverending quotescloth quotesremembered quotessuddenly quotestexture quoteslife quotesknew quotesthings quotesutterly quotesforgotten quotesthought quotessearched quoteslimitless quotesband quotesthat quotesgood quotesliving quotesbegan quotesremember quotesrecalled quotesgreen quotesfields quotescarrots quotesgrowing quotesslender quotesrows quotesmen quoteswomen quotesbright quotesvests quotesscarves quotespulled quotessoil quotescarried quotesbaskets quotesshaded quoteskitchens quotesscrubbed quotesyellow quotesbrushes quotesrunning quoteswater quoteswhitefaced quotescattle quoteslowing quoteswading quotescreeks quotesapples quotesforests quoteserupting quotesleafstrewn quotespaths quotescells quotesroot quoteshairs quotessycamores quotessplit quotesdivided quotesgrew quotesspotted quotesstriped quotesfall quotesmountains quotescool quotescaves quotessquirrels quotesraced quoteshome quotesnests quotessunlight quotesshade quotesocean quotesocean quotesswimming quotesorange quotescrabs quotescoral quotesatlantic quotesbanks quoteswhitefish quotesschool quotestops quotespoplars quotessky quotesbrushed quotesclouds quotespallid quotesstreaks quoteswild quotesducks quotesflew quotesoutstretched quotesnecks quotescalled quotesscenes quotesdepth quotessunlit quotesdetail quoteseyes quotesscenes quotesincreasing quotesfeeling quotesearth quotesglobe quotesspace quotesoceans quotesshape quotesform quotescontinents quotessurprise quotesplanet quotesyes quotespart quotescalled quotesfrance quotesfilled quotesaffection quotesnostalgia quotesopened quoteseyes quotesconjure quotessights quotesmind quotesscope quotestextures quotesmotion quotes
Say you could view a time-lapse film of our planet: what would you see? Transparent images moving through light, 'an infinite storm of beauty.' The beginning is swaddled in mists, blasted by random blinding flashes. Lava pours and cools; seas boil and flood. Clouds materialize and shift; now you can see the earth's face through only random patches of clarity. The land shudders and splits, like pack ice rent by a widening lead. Mountains burst up, jutting and dull and soften before your eyes, clothed in forests like felt. The ice rolls up, grinding green land under water forever; the ice rolls back. Forests erupt and disappear like fairy rings. The ice rolls up-mountains are mowed into lakes, land rises wet from the sea like a surfacing whale- the ice rolls back. A blue-green streaks the highest ridges, a yellow-green spreads from the south like a wave up a strand. A red dye seems to leak from the north down the ridges and into the valleys, seeping south; a white follows the red, then yellow-green washes north, then red spreads again, then white, over and over, making patterns of color too swift and intricate to follow. Slow the film. You see dust storms, locusts, floods, in dizzying flash frames. Zero in on a well-watered shore and see smoke from fires drifting. Stone cities rise, spread, and then crumble, like patches of alpine blossoms that flourish for a day an inch above the permafrost, that iced earth no root can suck, and wither in a hour. New cities appear, and rivers sift silt onto their rooftops; more cities emerge and spread in lobes like lichen on rock. The great human figures of history, those intricate, spirited tissues that roamed the earth's surface, are a wavering blur whose split second in the light was too brief an exposure to yield any images. The great herds of caribou pour into the valleys and trickle back, and pour, a brown fluid. Slow it down more, come closer still. A dot appears, like a flesh-flake. It swells like a balloon; it moves, circles, slows, and vanishes. This is your life.

Annie Dillard
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view quotestimelapse quotesfilm quotesplanet quotestransparent quotesimages quotesmoving quoteslight quotesan quotesinfinite quotesstorm quotesbeauty quotesbeginning quotesswaddled quotesmists quotesblasted quotesrandom quotesblinding quotesflashes quoteslava quotespours quotescools quotesseas quotesboil quotesflood quotesclouds quotesmaterialize quotesshift quotesearths quotesface quotespatches quotesclarity quotesland quotesshudders quotessplits quotespack quotesice quotesrent quoteswidening quoteslead quotesmountains quotesburst quotesjutting quotesdull quotessoften quoteseyes quotesclothed quotesforests quotesfelt quotesrolls quotesgrinding quotesgreen quoteswater quotesforever quotesback quotesforests quoteserupt quotesdisappear quotesfairy quotesrings quotesupmountains quotesmowed quoteslakes quotesrises quoteswet quotessea quotessurfacing quoteswhale quotesbluegreen quotesstreaks quoteshighest quotesridges quotesyellowgreen quotesspreads quotessouth quoteswave quotesstrand quotesred quotesdye quotesleak quotesnorth quotesridges quotesvalleys quotesseeping quotessouth quoteswhite quotesred quoteswashes quotesnorth quoteswhite quotesmaking quotespatterns quotescolor quotesswift quotesintricate quotesfollow quotesslow quotesfilm quotesdust quotesstorms quoteslocusts quotesfloods quotesdizzying quotesflash quotesframes quoteswellwatered quotesshore quotessmoke quotesfires quotesdrifting quotesstone quotescities quotesrise quotesspread quotescrumble quotesalpine quotesblossoms quotesflourish quotesday quotesinch quotespermafrost quotesiced quotesearth quotesroot quotessuck quoteswither quoteshour quotesrivers quotessift quotessilt quotesrooftops quotesemerge quotesspread quoteslobes quoteslichen quotesrock quotesgreat quoteshuman quotesfigures quoteshistory quotesintricate quotesspirited quotestissues quotesroamed quotessurface quoteswavering quotesblur quotessplit quoteslight quotesexposure quotesyield quotesimages quotesherds quotescaribou quotespour quotesvalleys quotestrickle quotesback quotespour quotesbrown quotesfluid quotescloser quotesdot quotesappears quotesfleshflake quotesswells quotesballoon quotesmoves quotescircles quotesslows quotesvanishes quoteslife quotes
All at once, something wonderful happened, although at first, it seemed perfectly ordinary. A female goldfinch suddenly hove into view. She lighted weightlessly on the head of a bankside purple thistle and began emptying the seedcase, sowing the air with down. The lighted frame of my window filled. The down rose and spread in all directions, wafting over the dam's waterfall and wavering between the tulip trunks and into the meadow. It vaulted towards the orchard in a puff; it hovered over the ripening pawpaw fruit and staggered up the steep faced terrace. It jerked, floated, rolled, veered, swayed. The thistle down faltered down toward the cottage and gusted clear to the woods; it rose and entered the shaggy arms of pecans. At last it strayed like snow, blind and sweet, into the pool of the creek upstream, and into the race of the creek over rocks down. It shuddered onto the tips of growing grasses, where it poised, light, still wracked by errant quivers. I was holding my breath. Is this where we live, I thought, in this place in this moment, with the air so light and wild? The same fixity that collapses stars and drives the mantis to devour her mate eased these creatures together before my eyes: the thick adept bill of the goldfinch, and the feathery coded down. How could anything be amiss? If I myself were lighter and frayed, I could ride these small winds, too, taking my chances, for the pleasure of being so purely played. The thistle is part of Adam's curse. 'Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.' A terrible curse: But does the goldfinch eat thorny sorrow with the thistle or do I? If this furling air is fallen, then the fall was happy indeed. If this creekside garden is sorrow, then I seek martyrdom. I was weightless; my bones were taut skins blown with buoyant gas; it seemed that if I inhaled too deeply, my shoulders and head would waft off. Alleluia.

Annie Dillard
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The fact is,' said Van Gogh, 'the fact is that we are painters in real life, and the important thing is to breathe as hard as ever we can breathe.' So I breathe. I breathe at the open window above my desk, and a moist fragrance assails me from the gnawed leaves of the growing mock orange. This air is as intricate as the light that filters through forested mountain ridges and into my kitchen window; this sweet air is the breath of leafy lungs more rotted than mine; it has sifted through the serrations of many teeth. I have to love these tatters. And I must confess that the thought of this old yard breathing alone in the dark turns my mind to something else. I cannot in all honesty call the world old when I've seen it new. On the other hand, neither will honesty permit me suddenly to invoke certain experiences of newness and beauty as binding, sweeping away all knowledge. But I am thinking now of the tree with the lights in it, the cedar in the yard by the creek I saw transfigured. That the world is old and frayed is no surprise; that the world could ever become new and whole beyond uncertainty was, and is, such a surprise that I find myself referring all subsequent kinds of knowledge to it. And it suddenly occurs to me to wonder: were the twigs of the cedar I saw really bloated with galls? They probably were; they almost surely were. I have seen these 'cedar apples' swell from that cedar's green before and since: reddish gray, rank, malignant. All right then. But knowledge does not vanquish mystery, or obscure its distant lights. I still now and will tomorrow steer by what happened that day, when some undeniably new spirit roared down the air, bowled me over, and turned on the lights. I stood on grass like air, air like lightning coursed in my blood, floated my bones, swam in my teeth. I've been there, seen it, been done by it. I know what happened to the cedar tree, I saw the cells in the cedar tree pulse charged like wings beating praise. Now, it would be too facile to pull everything out of the hat and say that mystery vanquishes knowledge. Although my vision of the world of the spirit would not be altered a jot if the cedar had been purulent with galls, those galls actually do matter to my understanding of this world. Can I say then that corruption is one of beauty's deep-blue speckles, that the frayed and nibbled fringe of the world is a tallith, a prayer shawl, the intricate garment of beauty? It is very tempting, but I cannot. But I can, however, affirm that corruption is not beauty's very heart and I can I think call the vision of the cedar and the knowledge of these wormy quarryings twin fjords cutting into the granite cliffs of mystery and say the new is always present simultaneously with the old, however hidden. The tree with the lights in it does not go out; that light still shines on an old world, now feebly, now bright. I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down.

Annie Dillard
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A kind of northing is what I wish to accomplish, a single-minded trek towards that place where any shutter left open to the zenith at night will record the wheeling of all the sky's stars as a pattern of perfect, concentric circles. I seek a reduction, a shedding, a sloughing off. At the seashore you often see a shell, or fragment of a shell, that sharp sands and surf have thinned to a wisp. There is no way you can tell what kind of shell it had been, what creature it had housed; it could have been a whelk or a scallop, a cowrie, limpet, or conch. The animal is long since dissolved, and its blood spread and thinned in the general sea. All you hold in your hand is a cool shred of shell, an inch long, pared so thin that it passes a faint pink light. It is an essence, a smooth condensation of the air, a curve. I long for the North where unimpeded winds would hone me to such a pure slip of bone. But I'll not go northing this year. I'll stalk that floating pole and frigid air by waiting here. I wait on bridges; I wait, struck, on forest paths and meadow's fringes, hilltops and banksides, day in and day out, and I receive a southing as a gift. The North washes down the mountains like a waterfall, like a tidal wave, and pours across the valley; it comes to me. It sweetens the persimmons and numbs the last of the crickets and hornets; it fans the flames of the forest maples, bows the meadow's seeded grasses and pokes it chilling fingers under the leaf litter, thrusting the springtails and the earthworms deeper into the earth. The sun heaves to the south by day, and at night wild Orion emerges looming like the Specter over Dead Man Mountain. Something is already here, and more is coming.

Annie Dillard
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