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
I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the sun all the days of their lives.
Compton Gage
All at once, something wonderful happened, although at first, it seemed perfectly ordinary. A female goldfinch suddenly hove into view. She lighted weightlessly on the head of a bankside purple thistle and began emptying the seedcase, sowing the air with down. The lighted frame of my window filled. The down rose and spread in all directions, wafting over the dam’s waterfall and wavering between the tulip trunks and into the meadow. It vaulted towards the orchard in a puff; it hovered over the ripening pawpaw fruit and staggered up the steep faced terrace. It jerked, floated, rolled, veered, swayed. The thistle down faltered down toward the cottage and gusted clear to the woods; it rose and entered the shaggy arms of pecans. At last it strayed like snow, blind and sweet, into the pool of the creek upstream and into the race of the creek over rocks down. It shuddered onto the tips of growing grasses, where it poised, light, still wracked by errant quivers. I was holding my breath. Is this where we live, I thought, in this place in this moment, with the air so light and wild? The same fixity that collapses stars and drives the mantis to devour her mate eased these creatures together before my eyes: the thick adept bill of the goldfinch and the feathery coded down. How could anything be amiss? If I myself were lighter and frayed, I could ride these small winds, too, taking my chances, for the pleasure of being so purely played. The thistle is part of Adam’s curse. Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee. A terrible curse: But does the goldfinch eat thorny sorrow with the thistle or do I? If this furling air is fallen, then the fall was happy indeed. If this creekside garden is sorrow, then I seek martyrdom. I was weightless; my bones were taut skins blown with buoyant gas; it seemed that if I inhaled too deeply, my shoulders and head would waft off. Alleluia.
Annie Dillard