Tag Archives: Annie Dillard

Favourite Quotes: ‘ the tree with lights’…. from Annie Dillard

This  post is dedicated to Denise at http://forphilip.com/. I was so struck by the extract below – from a recent post of hers – that I was inspired to write a reply. If you visit Denise’s blog, you will discover what moves her to write so beautifully, so profoundly. 

“….Four years I’d been living on that particular block, walking past one particular tree, and that morning I witnessed its transformation. The sun lit that tree and it shimmered red and gold; it was glass on fire, and if it could have  made a sound, it would’ve been celestial. This was shock and awe, I thought, as I stood staring up at it…..If I could live in that light, I thought, if I could just not move and stay right here, I will be all right and it will all have been worth it…..”

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My reply….

Dear Denise, this extract from your recent post, reproduced above, struck me as being powerfully similar to a wonderful description of the ‘tree with lights’ which Annie Dillard talked about in her Pulitzer Prize winning book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”. I googled it, and have found the  ‘tree with lights’ passage  for you. I hope you find this passage as moving and inspiring as I did:

“…..Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw 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 lights of the 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 my whole life been a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.  I have since only 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…..”

–Annie Dillard, ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ (1974).

I can still clearly recall the profound, uplifting impact many years ago of reading Annie Dillard’s account of what is, essentially, a mystical experience. She was only 27. ‘….I’m still spending the power….’ I know what she means. I was fortunate enough to have a mystical experience once, at the age of 24 – out of the blue, on a clear, starry night with Venus rising over the Perthshire hills in the Scottish Highlands. It has sustained me through many difficult experiences, and in Annie Dillard’s unforgettable words,‘…. I’m still spending the power….’

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500 words copyright Denise/Anne Whitaker /2014
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