Nov 2, 2008

come down to the water

Over a year ago a friend introduced me, through brief and thought provoking quotes posted on MySpace pages and as signature lines at the ends of emails, to the beautiful words of Annie Dillard. I will confess that I have yet to read an entire book or essay of hers. Regardless of that fact I still manage to catch snippets of her insightful observations of the world around us. This morning I picked up Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a Father's Day gift I gave my dad this year. The corner of page 10 was bent, and I turned to see what Annie had to say. Half way through page 11 I stumbled upon something that resonated with me and with the drive I made to and from White Salmon yesterday.

"At the time of Lewis and Clark, setting the prairies on fire was a well-know signal that meant, 'Come down to the water.' It was an extravagant gesture, but we can't do less. If the landscape reveals one certainty, it is that the extravagant gesture is the very stuff of creation. After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor. The whole show has been on fire from the word go. I come down to the water to cool my eyes, but everywhere I go I see fire; that which isn't flint is tinder, and the whole world sparks and flames."

Doesn't that just...leave you speechless?

Doesn't that just make you want to run outside and take everything in!?

Remember when you were little and you would examine everything? There's that picture of you from when you were three and you're squatting above the driveway with a rock inches from your nose. Or maybe your shoulder deep in grass with a leaf pinched between your chubby two year old fingers. Or you've got one of those cheap plastic magnifying glasses and you're examining a flower.

What happened? When did the extravagant intricacies of life become common place? When did I begin focusing on the center line and staying in my lane? Why did I stop pulling over to the side of the road so I could really stop and take in the beauty around me?

I have realized, after being back in the Pacific NW, how beautiful the leaves are as their changing colors marks the changing of the seasons. The leaves of the trees are these incredibly rich shades of gold, auburn, maroon, and orange. Some are all four and still manage to have a hint of green at the stem. How did I forget that leaves did this? It took removing myself from them for three years to reintroduce the response of profound amazement at their fantastical beauty.

And it's not just the leaves.


We just have to look, to notice the extravagances of creation, to notice that "the whole world is sparks and flames."

1 comment:

Heather said...

And, that's why I want to move to Portland. All that writers ever describe about Los Angeles is the Santa Ana wind. And, no matter how poetic Joan Didion's words are about the Santa Anas, I hate them, and resent them for the layer of dust that they put over my world. Although watching a swarm of ants attack a dead praying mantis was an interesting "3 year old" moment for me this morning :)