Monday, January 19, 2009

The tree with the lights in it

I'm just your basic wannabe mystic, I'll admit. But I've slowly been reading my way back though the works of Annie Dillard, whose writing I first encountered while teaching Freshman English. Now, Annie seems like a true mystic to me, and I never get tired of her muscular prose and her visionary approach to the world. My favorite of her books, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, has a fascinating chapter entitled, "Seeing." At the end of this chapter she describes an experience of seeing 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 unflamed 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 when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.

No comments: