Annie Dillard

Another piece rescued from oblivion, originally posted on March 12th, 2011

Tinker Creek

“In blogging, less is more. Discuss.” That could have been an essay topic in the days of my youth, had blogging then been a word.

An old friend who used to post as Rob. and later Bob, did it for the interaction rather than the self-expression or self-revelation, in which genres he was reticent. His most popular post, measured in number of comments, merely said “Boo!” I think I can claim the credit for introducing him to Blogger, but I made up for this act of kindness by posting argumentative comments (which annoyed him), as well as commenting on his commenters’ blogs, thereby luring them to my own new blog. In fact I think that is how I met Hayden.

My own entries have evolved into protracted dithyrambs. This shall change! If I were not too lazy, I’d act on my plan to write about four writers whom I most specially admire. But their superabundant brilliance actually encourages me into further indolence, rather than provoking me out of it; for they have said so much that I would have liked to say myself, if only I could. Since they can and I can’t, I can write correspondingly less, and focus on “the process of simply being”, as Hayden inspiringly suggested the other day.

So, lolling in bed on a Saturday morning, I’ve conceived a new efficient method of book-reviewing: (i) to review the whole author, not individual books; (ii) to use the author’s own words, and select a brief quote or two which encapsulates the impact the author has had on me. Rather than engage my brain in the hard tasks of synopsis and analysis, I can have the rest of the day free!

So, let’s try it for Annie Dillard. This is from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, page 268, near the end. She has been describing a disconsolate moment, uncharacteristically for her, when she gazes at the sky and sees what seems like a Martian spaceship. It turns out to be “a maple key, a single winged seed from a pair.” She throws it back into the sky and watches it fall again.

O maple key, I thought, I must confess I thought, o welcome, cheers. And the bell under my ribs rang a true note, a flourish as of blended horns, clarion, sweet, and making a long dim sense I will try at length to explain.

Which she proceeds to do, bless her!

Click here for the original comments.

6 thoughts on “Annie Dillard”

  1. The “maple key” part sounded familiar, and clicking the link to the comments, I can see that it was, and I can see that it caught my attention back then as well.

    Hope you are doing alright, Vincent. It’s been awhile since this was posted. Between work and other stuff that keeps me occupied, time gets away from me.


    1. I hope you’re doing OK too, Bryan, loved your latest piece, more of a fascinating short story than a dream.

      Yes, I guess it’s been a while for both of us. I haven’t given up posting here, but … well, these are different days, it seems. If I could only find words …


      1. I came across this strange video earlier today:

        Not that I spent a lot of time in bathrooms listening to these particular muffled songs. But even still, it makes me feel how relentlessly time moves on all the same.


  2. Strange indeed. I had to look at the comments to get a grasp of what it means to others. I suppose the relentless movement of time can be viewed in various ways. When you’re young it’s about growing up & leaving behind childhood. Perhaps in your mid-years you feel only minor changes in yourself over several decades, while radical changes happen in the world: technology, music, your home landscape, types of trouble reported in the news….
    Then you have old age. It can be a frightening thing, like going down a slope with no brakes; while competence of all kinds is noticeably eroding. So you look for whatever you can cling to, whatever remains steady as a rock. I’m not saying this from hearsay.


  3. As the skin of the snake is shed to reveal the same snake in a new skin, so are we in the process of discarding skin in many layers. This is not a loss but a gain, although we reluctantly part with the accumulation which we have so laboriously acquired.

    Little Black Boy
    William Blake
    “Saying: come out from the grove my love & care,
    And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.

    Thus did my mother say and kissed me,
    And thus I say to little English boy;
    When I from black and he from white cloud free,
    And round the tent of God like lambs we joy:

    Ill shade him from the heat till he can bear,
    To lean in joy upon our fathers knee.
    And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
    And be like him and he will then love me.”


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