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Seeing - Annie Dillard

Seeing - Annie Dillard

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Published by Brandon Snyder

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Published by: Brandon Snyder on Feb 18, 2010
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08/18/2013

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from
Pilgrim
at
TinkerCreek
eeln
AnnieDillard
r
henIwassixorsevenyearsold,growingupinPittsburgh,Iusedtotakeapreciouspennyofmyownandhideitforsomeoneelsetofind.Itwasacuriouscompulsion;sadly,'.I'veneverbeenseizedbyitsince.ForsomereasonIalways:d"thepennyalongthesamestretchofsidewalkupthestreet.I ouldcradleitattherootsofasycamore,say,orinaholeleftbyalpped-offpieceofsidewalk.ThenIwouldtakeapieceofchalkand,.gateitherendoftheblock,drawhugearrowsleadinguptothe nnyfrombothdirections.AfterIlearnedtowriteIlabeledthe ows:
SURPRISEAHEAD
or
MONEYTHISWAY.
Iwasgreatlyexcited,during thisarrowdrawing,atthethoughtofthefirstluckypasserbywho Uldreceiveinthisway,regardlessofmerit,afreegiftfromtheuni- ·se.ButIneverlurkedabout,Iwouldgostraighthomeandnot ethematteranotherthoughtuntil,somemonthslater,Iwouldbe
lpped
bytheimpulsetohideanotherpenny.ItisstillthefirstweekinJanuary,andI'vegotgreatplans.I've "inthinkingaboutseeing.Therearelotsofthingstosee,Wrappedgiftsandfreesurprises.Theworldisfairlystuddedandwnwithpenniescastbroadsidefromageneroushand.But-and .~isthepoint-whogetsexcitedbyamerepenny?Ifyoufollowoneow.Jfyoucrouchmotionlessonabanktowatchatremulousrip-.thrillonthewaterandarerewardedbythesightofamuskratkit ,dlingfromitsden,willyoucountthatsightachipofcopperonly, goyourruefulway?Itisdirepovertyindeedwhenamanisso..ourtshedandfatiguedthathewon'tstooptopickupapenny. tifyoucultivateahealthypovertyandsimplicity,sothatfinding ennywillliterallymakeyourday,then,sincetheworldisinfact .tedinpennies,youhavewithyourpovertyboughtalifetimeof .s.Itisthatsimple.Whatyouseeiswhatyouget. .usedtobeabletoseeflyinginsectsintheair.I'dlookaheadand .'nottherowofhemlocksacrosstheroad,buttheairinfrontofit. .eyeswouldfocusalongthatcolumnofair,pickingoutflyinginsects. Ilostinterest,Iguess,forIdroppedthehabit.NowIcanseebirds.
;,
,~-L
l!alt~&t9JJlftfb~f!f
WhatdidDillarddowhenshewasachild?
Connections:
from
Pilgrim
atTinkerCreek,Seeing.301
 
Probablysomepeoplecanlookatthegrassattheirfeetanddiscover allthecrawlingcreatures.Iwouldliketoknowgrassesandsedges- andcare.Thenmyleastjourneyintotheworldwouldbeafieldtrip, aseriesofhappyrecognitions.Thoreau,inanexpansivemood,exult-ed,"Whatarichbookmightbemadeaboutbuds,including,perhaps, sprouts!"Itwouldbenicetothinkso.Icherishmentalimagesof threeperfectlyhappypeople.Onecollectsstones.Another-van.. Englishman,say-ewatchesclouds.Thethirdlivesonacoastand collectsdropsofseawater,whichheexaminesmicroscopicallyand mounts.ButIdon'tseewhatthespecialistsees,andsoIcutmyselfoff,notonlyfromthetotalpicture,butfrom thevariousformsofhappiness.Unfortunately,natureisverymuchanow-you-see-it, now-you-don'taffair.Afishflashes,thendissolvesinthe water,beforemyeyeslikesomuchsalt.Deerapparent- lyascendbodilyintoheaven;thebrightestoriolefadesintoleaves:Thesedisappearancesstunmeintostillness andconcentration;theysayofnaturethatitconceals withagrandnonchalance,andtheysayofvisionthatit isadeliberategift,therevelationofadancerwhoformy eyesonlyflingsawayhersevenveils.Fornaturedoes revealaswellasconceal:nowyoudon'tseeit,nowyou do.ForaweeklastSeptember,migratingred-wingedblack- birdswerefeedingheavilydownbythecreekatthebackofthe house.OnedayIwentouttoinvestigatetheracket;Iwalkedupto atree,anOsageorange,andahundredbirdsflewaway.Theysimply materializedoutofthetree.Isawatree,thenawhiskofcolor,thena treeagain.Iwalkedcloser,andanotherhundredblackbirdstook flight.Notabranch,notatwigbudged:thebirdswereapparently weightlessaswellasinvisible.OritwasasiftheleavesoftheOsage orangehadbeenfreedfromaspellintheformofred-wingedblack- birds:theyflewfromthetree,caughtmyeyeinthesky,andvan- ished.WhenIlookedagainatthetree,theleaveshadreassembledas ifnothinghadhappened.FinallyIwalkeddirectlytothetrunkofthe tree,andafinalhundred,therealdiehards,appeared,spread,and vanished.Howcouldsomanyhideinthetreewithoutmyseeing them?TheOsageorange,unruffled,lookedjustasithadlookedfrom thehouse,whenthreehundredred-wingedblackbirdscriedfromitscrown.
I
lookeddownstreamwheretheyflew,andtheyweregone. Searching,Icouldn'tspotone.Iwandereddownstreamtoforcethem toplaytheirhand,butthey'dcrossedthecreekandscattered.One showtoacustomer.Theseappearancescatchatmythroat;theyare thefreegifts,thebrightcoppersattherootsoftrees. It'sallamatterofkeepingmyeyesopen.Natureislikeoneof thoselinedrawingsofatreethatarepuzzlesforchildren:Canyou findhiddenintheleavesaduck,ahouse,aboy,abucket,azebra, andaboot?Specialistscanfindthemostincrediblywell-hidden things.AbookIreadwhenIwasyoungrecommendedaneasywayto
ThematicConnection
CompareDillard'smessageof"seeing"withBryant's"visibleforms"inthefirsttwolinesof"Thanatopsis."302A
GrowingNation
(1800-1870)
I
 
findcaterpillarstorear:yousimplyfindsomefreshcaterpillardrop- pings,lookup,andthere'syourcaterpillar.Mostrecentlyanauthor advisedmetosetmymindateaseaboutthosepilesofcutsternson thegroundingrassyfields.Fieldmicemakethem;theycutthegrass downbydegreestoreachtheseedsatthehead.Itseemsthatwhen thegrassistightlypacked,asinafieldofripegrain,thebladewon't toppleatasinglecutthroughthestem;insteadthecutstemstmply dropsvertically,heldin.thecrushofgrain.Themouseseversthebot- tomagainandagain,thestemkeepsdroppinganinchatatime,and finallytheheadislowenoughforthemousetoreachtheseeds.Meanwhile,themouseispositivelylitteringthefieldwithitslittle pilesofcutstems,intowhich,presumably,theauthorofthebookis constantlystumbling. IfIcan'tseetheseminutiae,
I
Istilltrytokeepmyeyesopen.I'm alwaysonthelookoutforantliontrapsinsandysoil,monarchpupae nearmilkweed,skipperlarvaeinlocustleaves.Thesethingsare utterlycornmon,andI'venotseenone.Ibangonhollowtreesnear water,butsofarnoflyingsquirrelshaveappeared.InflatcountryI watcheverysunsetinhopesofseeingthegreenray.Thegreenrayis aseldom-seenstreakoflightthatrisesfromthesunlikeaspurting fountainatthemomentofsunset;itthrobsintotheskyfortwo secondsanddisappears.Onemorereasontokeepmyeyesopen. AphotographyprofessorattheUniversityofFloridajusthap-penedtoseeabirddieinmidflight;itjerked,died,dropped, andsmashedontheground.IsquintatthewindbecauseI readStewartEdwardWhite:"Ihavealwaysmaintainedthatif youlookedcloselyenoughyoucould
see
thewind-thedim,hardly- made-out,finedebrisfleeinghighintheair."Whitewasanexcellent observer,anddevotedanentirechapterof
TheMountains
tothesub-jectofseeingdeer:"Assoonasyoucanforgetthenaturallyobvious andconstructanartificialobvious,thenyoutoowillseedeer." Buttheartificialobviousishardtosee.Myeyesaccountforless thanonepercentoftheweightofmyhead;I'mbonyanddense;I
see
whatIexpect.Ioncespentafullthreeminuteslookingatabull- frogthatwassounexpectedlylargeIcouldn'tseeiteventhougha dozenenthusiasticcamperswereshoutingdirections. FinallyIasked,'WhatcoloramIlookingfor?"andafellowsaid, "Green."WhenatlastIpickedoutthefrog,Isawwhatpaintersareup against:thethingwasn'tgreenatall,butthecolorofwethickorybark. Thelovercan
see,
andtheknowledgeable.Ivisitedanauntand uncleataquarter-horseranchinCody,Wyoming.Icouldn'tdomuch ofanythinguseful,butIcould,Ithought,draw.Soasweallsataround thekitchentableaftersupper,Iproducedasheetofpaperanddrewa horse."That'sonelamehorse,"myauntvolunteered.Therestofthe familyjoinedin:"Onlyplacetosaddlethatoneishisneck";"Lookslike Webettershootthepoorthing,onaccountofthoseterriblegrowths."
1.minutiae(minOD"
she
I)
n.
smallorrelativelyunimportantdetails.
ThematicConnection
CompareDillard's messageaboutobserving naturewithJohnWesleyPowell'ssuccessindoingso.
.-L.
W~~g91!19;;~Q~",-~~
Accordingtotheauthor,howdoesoneseenature?
Connections:
from
PilgrimatTinkerCreek,Seeing.303

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