Thursday, January 29, 2009

The end. On Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"

It is finished.

Dillard has been the surprise of my year.

I was once introduced to her by a bartender I worked with but because I think he was more interested in having a threesome than talking about spirituality, I cast him into the fires of hell - right along with Dillard. Now that I am a bit more, ahem, mature I realize my heinous and capricious act. When Dillard made her gracious way back into my life via a very dear friend whom i respect quite a bit, Mrs. Jillian, I decided to pay attention.

Dillard has brought me into a world that I would never have known, not being the woodwose or dryad many around me are. Into this world I have entered and left with thanks for hosting such a great party. She gave me chills, she gave me comfort, she gave me fodder for thought, she gave me answers I needed.

The last paragraphs are lingering in my mouth like a buttery worthers...I twist and turn my tongue all around to catch every last morsel. To have read this specific book just as I was stumbling upon the inevitability of my own death was nothing short of a godsend.

She approaches life, death, fecundity, nature just as they are and i find this matter-of-fact point of view refreshing. She never over spiritualizes or stands to be didactic, instead she opts for observation. She takes the reader in her pocket and they get to observe with her. They observe trees, bees, muskrats, creeks, mountains, air...and find within all a deep and lasting comfort in their instinct and stability and learn lessons of mortality, perseverance, and fecundity.

Some excerpts I love:
In chapter 10: Fecundity: "What I have been after all along is not an explanation but a picture. My rage and shock at the pain and death of individuals of my kind is the old, old mystery, as old as man, but forever fresh and completely unanswerable. My reservations about the fecundity and waste of life among other creatures is, however, mere squeamishness. It is true that many of the creatures live and die abominably, but I am not called upon to pass judgment. Nor am I called upon to live in that same way, those creatures who are mercifully unconscious" (179).

In chapter 12: The Horns of the Altar: "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 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" (242).

And last, in chapter 13: The Waters of Separation: "You see creatures die, and you know you will die. And one day it occurs to you that you must not need life. Obviously. And then you're gone. I think that dying pray at the last not "please," but "thank you," as a guest thanks his host at the door...Divinity is not playful. The universe was not made in jest but in solemn incomprehensible earnest. By a power that is unfathomably secret, and holy, and fleet. There is nothing to be done about it, but ignore it or see. And then you walk fearlessly, eating what you must, growing wherever you can, like the monk on the road who knows precisely how vulnerable he is, who takes no comfort among death-forgetting men, and who carries his vision of vastness and might around in his tunic like a live coal which neither burns or warms him, but with which he will not part" (270).

The imagery of saying thank you when I leave has given me unspeakable comfort.

I am in awe of Annie.
post script: i just noticed that the google ads on the side of my blog are all about death and life insurance. it's official. i talk about death too much.

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