Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Part V, Teaching a Stone to Talk

We are here to witness. There is nothing else to do
with those mute materials we do not need. Until Larry
teaches his stone to talk, until God changes his mind,
or until the pagan gods slip back to their hilltop groves,
all we can do with the whole inhuman array is watch it.
We can stage our own act on the planet--build our cities
on its plains, dam its rivers, plant its topsoils--but
our meaningful activity scarcely covers the terrain.
We do not use the songbirds, for instance. We do not
eat many of them; we cannot befriend them; we cannot
persuade them to eat more mosquitoes or plant fewer
weed seeds. We can only witness them--whoever they
are. If we were not here, they would be songbirds falling
in the forest. If we were not here, material events like
the passage of seasons would lack even the meager meanings
we are able to muster for them. The show would play
to an empty house, as do all those falling stars which
fall in the daytime. That is why I take walks: to keep
an eye on things.

Annie Dillard


james said...

this could easily have been one of yours; in fact that's what i thought until i got to the end and saw that it was hers. no wonder you admire her so much -- she has your eyes and ears, and a piece of your heart too.

Maggie said...

You have just paid me such a compliment, jim. I do admire her work tremendously.

I started reading her recently (my daughter brought her book Teaching A Stone To Talk to FL, and when I finished what I was reading, she let me borrow the Dillard--I'm so glad she did!) and can't wait to get another one of her books.

I would very much like to think I understand and share some of her keen powers of observation--if I could only have some of her brain cells!