Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: Stalk it!

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We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – even of silence – by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting.

I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you’re going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop; let your musky flesh fall off in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles.

– Annie Dillard, Living Like Weasels


Notes:

Bubbles came up on the water. Then blood came up, and the water stilled.

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A writer named Lorne Ladner described it. Bubbles came up on the water. Then blood came up, and the water stilled. As the minutes elapsed, the people in the crowd exchanged glances; silent, helpless, they quit the stands. It took the Seminoles a week to find the man’s remains. At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then—and only then—it is handed to you. From the corner of your eye you see motion. Something is moving through the air and headed your way, on two white wings. It flies directly at you; you can read your name on it. If it were a baseball, you’d hit it out of the park. It is that one pitch in a thousand you see in slow motion; its wings beat slowly as a hawk’s. One line of a sonnet, the poet said—only one line of fourteen, but thank God for that one line—drops from the ceiling.

~ Annie Dillard, from “The Writing Life


Notes:

Lightly child, lightly

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I cannot cause light;
the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.
It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind.
Light, be it particle or wave, has force:
you rig a giant sail and go.
The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind.
Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail,
whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.

~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Notes:

  • Poem: Thank you Beth for your ongoing inspirations: Alive on All Channels
  • Art: Silvia Angelova (Bulgaria) (via The Sensual Starfish).
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Related posts: Annie Dillard
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

What made me look up?

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Michael Goldman wrote in a poem,

“When the Muse comes
She doesn’t tell you to write; /
She says get up for a minute,
I’ve something to show you,
stand here.”

What made me look up at that roadside tree?

~ Annie Dillard, The Present, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Image: AMCH-Photography

Sunday Morning: Spring

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So. I have been thinking about the change of seasons. I don’t want to miss spring this year. I want to distinguish the last winter frost from the out-of-season one, the frost of spring. I want to be there on the spot the moment the grass turns green…But it occurred to me that I could no more catch spring by the tip of the tail than I could untie the apparent knot in the snakeskin; there are no edges to grasp. Both are continuous loops. […]

I don’t want the same season twice in a row; I don’t want to know I’m getting last week’s weather, used weather, weather broadcast up and down the coast, old-hat weather. But there’s always unseasonable weather. What we think of the weather and behavior of life on the planet at any given season is really all a matter of statistical probabilities; at any given point, anything might happen. There is a bit of every season in each season. Green plants— deciduous green leaves— grow everywhere, all winter long, and small shoots come up pale and new in every season. Leaves die on the tree in May, turn brown, and fall into the creek. The calendar, the weather, and the behavior of wild creatures have the slimmest of connections. Everything overlaps smoothly for only a few weeks each season, and then it all tangles up again. The temperature, of course, lags far behind the calendar seasons, since the earth absorbs and releases heat slowly, like a leviathan breathing. Migrating birds head south in what appears to be dire panic, leaving mild weather and fields full of insects and seeds; they reappear as if in all eagerness in January, and poke about morosely in the snow. Several years ago our October woods would have made a dismal colored photograph for a sadist’s calendar: a killing frost came before the leaves had even begun to brown; they drooped from every tree like crepe, blackened and limp. It’s all a chancy, jumbled affair at best, as things seem to be below the stars. Time is the continuous loop, the snakeskin with scales endlessly overlapping without beginning or end, or time is an ascending spiral if you will, like a child’s toy Slinky. Of course we have no idea which arc on the loop is our time, let alone where the loop itself is, so to speak, or down whose lofty flight of stairs the Slinky so uncannily walks.

~ Annie Dillard, Untying the Knot. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 


Photo: jaimejustelaphoto

Now-you-don’t-see-it, now-you-do.

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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. For nature does reveal as well as conceal: now-you-don’t-see-it, now-you-do.

~ Annie Dillard, Seeing. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. (HarperCollins. 2009)


Credits: Lamp: ronbeckdesigns – “Perch Light :: Umut Yamac” via Your Eyes Blaze Out

 

TT*: Hear the playing cards slap in the spokes

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The child is riding her bicycle up the hill. I stand and look around; the thick summer foliage blocks the road from view. I turn back toward the river and hear the playing cards slap in the spokes. They click and slap slowly, for the hill is steep. Now the pushing grows suddenly easier, evidently; the cards click and slap. At once, imperceptibly, she starts down. The pace increases. The cards are slapping and she is rolling; the pace speeds up, she is rolling, and the cards are slapping so fast the sounds blur. And so she whirs down the hill. I can see her through the woods downstream where the road evens out. She is fine, still coasting, and leaning way back.

~ Annie Dillard, “Aces and Eights.” Teaching a Stone to Talk.


Notes: TT* = Throwback Thursday. Image: Maurizio Raffa via Sensual Starfish

Sunday Morning: The inrush of power and light

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Share Inspired by Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:

“We bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and light, the canary that sings on the skull. Unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous…”


Image Source: The Coast by NRS Films via vimeo.

 

The whole show has been on fire from the word go

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“We bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and light, the canary that sings on the skull. Unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous. About five years ago I saw a mockingbird make a straight vertical descent from the roof gutter of a four-story building. It was an act as careless and spontaneous as the curl of a stem or the kindling of a star. The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped. His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air. Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass. I had just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there…

We don’t know what’s going on here. If these tremendous events are random combinations of matter run amok, the yield of millions of monkeys at millions of typewriters, then what is it in us, hammered out of those same typewriters, that they ignite? We don’t know. Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. [Read more…]

Floating on their backs and saying, Urr.

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I was catching on to sea lions. Walk into the water. Instantly sea lions surround you, even if none has been in sight. To say that they come to play with you is not especially anthropomorphic. Animals play. The bull sea lions are off patrolling their territorial shores; these are the cows and young, which range freely. A five-foot sea lion peers intently into your face, then urges her muzzle gently against your underwater mask and searches your eyes without blinking. Next she rolls upside down and slides along the length of your floating body, rolls again, and casts a long glance back at your eyes. You are, I believe, supposed to follow, and think up something clever in return. You can play games with sea lions in the water using shells or bits of leaf, if you are willing. You can spin on your vertical axis and a sea lion will swim circles around you, keeping her face always six inches from yours, as though she were tethered. You can make a game of touching their back flippers, say, and the sea lions will understand at once; somersaulting conveniently before your clumsy hands, they will give you an excellent field of back flippers. And when you leave the water, they follow. They don’t want you to go. They porpoise to the shore, popping their heads up when they lose you and casting about, then speeding to your side and emitting a choked series of vocal notes. If you won’t relent, they disappear, barking; but if you sit on the beach with so much as a foot in the water, two or three will station with you, floating on their backs and saying, Urr.

~ Annie Dillard, “Life on the Rocks: The Galapagos.” Teaching a Stone to Talk.


Notes:

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