Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Happy Birthday, Annie Dillard

She is one of the women I love, and who has helped me have a clue how to love life, this bright spinning miracle of a universe, and living in it.

From The Writer's Almanac:

Today is the birthday of Annie Dillard (books by this author), born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1945). She began writing poetry in high school, and then studied English in college. After writing a master's thesis on Thoreau's Walden, she moved to a cabin in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. There she wrote poetry and also kept a daily journal of her observations of nature and her thoughts about God and religion. She wrote in old notebooks and on four-by-six-inch index cards, and when she was ready to transform the journal into a book, she had 1,100 entries. "By the time I finished the book, I weighed about 98 pounds," Dillard said. "I never went to bed. I would write all night until the sun was almost coming up."
The result, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, was published in 1974, and Annie Dillard received her first literary award the following year: the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. She was only 29 years old. She has published collections of essays and of poetry, as well as an autobiography. Her most recent work is a novel, The Maytrees (2007). When it comes to writing, she says: "Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark."

More than a mere quote, this is one of the many moments in Pilgrim At Tinker Creek that knocked me breathless with a powerful glance:

“When her doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw “the tree with the lights in it.” It was for this tree I searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years. Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek and thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells un-flamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.”
                                                                                                         ― Annie DillardPilgrim at Tinker Creek

For an excellent review of Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, posted today, go to Blue Planet Green Living.

Start with Pilgrim, and then you may want to go on to other things she's written. But if you "love nature," you owe it to yourself to read this book.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing writer...Dillard is easily my favorite. A very happy birthday to her!