The color-patches of vision part, shift and reform as I move through space in time. The present is the object of vision and what I see before me at any given second is a full field of color patches scattered just so. The configuration will never be repeated. Living is moving; time is a live creek bearing changing lights. As I move, or as the world moves around me, the fullness of what I see shatters. Last forever! Who hasn’t prayed that prayer? You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying; it is a canvas, nevertheless. But there is more to the present than a series of snapshots. We are not merely sensitized film; we have feelings, a memory for information and an eidetic memory for the imagery of our pasts. Our layered consciousness is a tiered track for an unmatched assortment of concentrically wound reels. Each one plays out for all of life its dazzle and blur of translucent shadow-pictures; each one hums at every moment its own secret melody in its own unique key. We tune in and out. But moments are not lost. Time out of mind is time nevertheless, cumulative, informing the present. From even the deepest slumber you wake with a jolt- older, closer to death and wiser, grateful for breath. But time is the one thing we have been given and we have been given to time. Time gives us a whirl. We keep waking from a dream we can’t recall, looking around in surprise and lapsing back, for years on end. All I want to do is stay awake, keep my head up, prop my eyes open, with toothpicks, with trees.
Annie Dillard
Today is the winter solstice. The planet tilts just so to its star, lists and holds circling in a fixed tension between veering and longing and spins helpless, exalted, in and out of that fleet blazing touch. Last night Orion vaulted and spread all over the sky, pagan and lunatic, his shoulder and knee on fire, his sword three suns at the ready-for what? I won’t see this year again, not again so innocent; and longing wrapped round my throat like a scarf. For the Heavenly Father desires that we should see, says Ruysbroeck and that is why He is ever saying to our inmost spirit one deep unfathomable word and nothing else. But what is the word? Is this mystery or coyness? A cast-iron bell hung from the arch of my rib cage; when I stirred, it rang, or it tolled, a long syllable pulsing ripples up my lungs and down the gritty sap inside my bones and I couldn’t make it out; I felt the voiced vowel like a sigh or a note but I couldn’t catch the consonant that shaped it into sense.
Annie Dillard
Mary was proud of her husband, not merely because he was a musician, but because he was a blacksmith. For, with the true taste of a right woman, she honored the manhood that could do hard work. The day will come and may I do something to help it hither, when the youth of our country will recognize that, taken in itself, it is a more manly and therefore in the old true sense a more _gentle_ thing, to follow a good handicraft, if it make the hands black as a coal, than to spend the day in keeping books and making up accounts, though therein the hands should remain white--or red, as the case may be. Not but that, from a higher point of view still, all work, set by God and done divinely, is of equal honor; but, where there is a choice, I would gladly see boy of mine choose rather to be a blacksmith, or a watchmaker, or a bookbinder, than a clerk. Production, making, is a higher thing in the scale of reality, than any mere transmission, such as buying and selling. It is, besides, easier to do honest work than to buy and sell honestly. The more honor, of course, to those who are honest under the greater difficulty! But the man who knows how needful the prayer, Lead us not into temptation, knows that he must not be tempted into temptation even by the glory of duty under difficulty. In humility we must choose the easiest, as we must hold our faces unflinchingly to the hardest, even to the seeming impossible, when it is given us to do.
George MacDonald
You are God. You want to make a forest, something to hold the soil, lock up energy and give off oxygen. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to rough in a slab of chemicals, a green acre of goo? You are a man, a retired railroad worker who makes replicas as a hobby. You decide to make a replica of one tree, the longleaf pine your great-grandfather planted- just a replica- it doesn’t have to work. How are you going to do it? How long do you think you might live, how good is your glue? For one thing, you are going to have to dig a hole and stick your replica trunk halfway to China if you want the thing to stand up. Because you will have to work fairly big; if your replica is too small, you’ll be unable to handle the slender, three-sided needles, affix them in clusters of three in fascicles and attach those laden fascicles to flexible twigs. The twigs themselves must be covered by many silvery-white, fringed, long-spreading scales. Are your pine cones’ scales thin, flat, rounded at the apex? When you loose the lashed copper wire trussing the limbs to the trunk, the whole tree collapses like an umbrella. You are a sculptor. You climb a great ladder; you pour grease all over a growing longleaf pine. Next, you build a hollow cylinder around the entire pine…and pour wet plaster over and inside the pine. Now open the walls, split the plaster, saw down the tree, remove it, discard and your intricate sculpture is ready: this is the shape of part of the air. You are a chloroplast moving in water heaved one hundred feet above ground. Hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen in a ring around magnesium…you are evolution; you have only begun to make trees. You are god- are you tired? Finished?
Annie Dillard
And under the cicadas, deeper down that the longest taproot, between and beneath the rounded black rocks and slanting slabs of sandstone in the earth, ground water is creeping. Ground water seeps and slides, across and down, across and down, leaking from here to there, minutely at a rate of a mile a year. What a tug of waters goes on! There are flings and pulls in every direction at every moment. The world is a wild wrestle under the grass; earth shall be moved. What else is going on right this minute while ground water creeps under my feet? The galaxy is careening in a slow, muffled widening. If a million solar systems are born every hour, then surely hundreds burst into being as I shift my weight to the other elbow. The sun’s surface is now exploding; other stars implode and vanish, heavy and black, out of sight. Meteorites are arcing to earth invisibly all day long. On the planet, the winds are blowing: the polar easterlies, the westerlies, the northeast and southeast trades. Somewhere, someone under full sail is becalmed, in the horse latitudes, in the doldrums; in the northland, a trapper is maddened, crazed, by the eerie scent of the chinook, the sweater, a wind that can melt two feet of snow in a day. The pampero blows and the tramontane and the Boro, sirocco, levanter, mistral. Lick a finger; feel the now. Spring is seeping north, towards me and away from me, at sixteen miles a day. Along estuary banks of tidal rivers all over the world, snails in black clusters like currants are gliding up and down the stems of reed and sedge, migrating every moment with the dip and swing of tides. Behind me, Tinker Mountain is eroding one thousandth of an inch a year. The sharks I saw are roving up and down the coast. If the sharks cease roving, if they still their twist and rest for a moment, they die. They need new water pushed into their gills; they need dance. Somewhere east of me, on another continent, it is sunset and starlings in breathtaking bands are winding high in the sky to their evening roost. The mantis egg cases are tied to the mock-orange hedge; within each case, within each egg, cells elongate, narrow and split; cells bubble and curve inward, align, harden or hollow or stretch. And where are you now?
Annie Dillard