I learned to recognize, slowing down, the difference in texture of the light reflected from mudbank, water, grass, or frog. Frogs were flying all around. At the end of the island I noticed a small green frog. He was exactly half in and half out of the water, looking like a schematic diagram of an amphibian, and he didn't jump. He didn't jump; I crept closer. At last i knelt on the island's winter-killed grass, lost, dumbstruck, staring at the frog in the creek just four feet away. He was a very small frog, with wide, dull eyes. And just as I looked at him, he slowly crumpled and began to sag.
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I come to this island every month of retrolisthesis the year. I walk around it, stopping and staring, or I straddle the sycamore log over the creek, curling my legs out of the water in winter, trying to read. Today i sit on dry grass at the end of the island by the slower side of the creek. Im drawn to this spot. I come to it as to an oracle; I return to it as a man years later will seek out the battlefield where he lost a leg or an arm. A couple of summers ago i was walking along the edge of the island to see what I could see in the water, and mainly to scare frogs. Frogs have an inelegant way of taking off from invisible positions on the bank just ahead of your feet, in dire panic, emitting a froggy yike! And splashing into the water. Incredibly, this amused me, and, incredibly, it amuses me still. As I walked along the grassy edge of the island, i got better and better at seeing frogs both in and out of the water.
So i suddenly rush at them in an enthusiastic sprint, flailing my arms and hollering, lightning! They flee, still in a knot, stumbling across the flat pasture. I stand with dates the wind on my face. When I slide under a barbed-wire fence, cross a field, and run over a sycamore trunk felled across the water, Im on a little island shaped like a tear in the middle of Tinker Creek. On one side of the creek is a steep forested bank; the water is swift and deep on that side of the island. On the other side is the level field I walked through next to the steers pasture; the water between the field and the island is shallow and sluggish. In summers low water, flags and bulrushes grow along a series of shallow pools cooled by the lazy current. Water striders patrol the surface film, crayfish hump along the silt bottom eating filth, frogs shout and glare, and shiners and small bream hide among roots from the sulky green herons eye.
They are all bred beef: beef heart, beef hide, beef hocks. Theyre a human product like rayon. Theyre like a field of shoes. They have cast-iron shanks and tongues like foam insoles. You cant see through to their listing brains as you can with other animals: they have beef fat behind their eyes, beef stew. I cross the fence six feet above the water, walking my hands down the rusty cable and tightroping my feet along the narrow edge of the planks. When I hit the other bank and terra firma, some steers are bunched in a knot between me and the barded-wire fence i want to cross.
West of the house, tinker Creek makes a sharp loop, so that the creek is both in back of the house, south of me, and also on the other side of the road, north. I like to go north. There the afternoon sun hits the creek just right, deepening the reflected blue and lighting the sides of trees on the banks. Steers from the pasture across the creek come down to drink; i always flush a rabbit of two there; I sit on a fallen trunk in the shade and watch the squirrels in the sun. There are two separated wooden fences suspended from cables that cross the creek just upstream from my tree-trunk bench. They keep the steers from escaping up or down the creek when they come to drink. Squirrels, the neighborhood children, and i use the downstream fence as a swaying bridge across the creek. But the steers are there today. I sit on the downed tree and watch the black steers slip on the creek bottom.
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On a dark day, or a hazy one, everythings washed-out and lackluster but the water. It carries its own lights. I set out for the railroad tracks, for the hill the flocks fly over, for the woods where the white mare lives. But I go to the water. Today is one of those excellent January partly cloudies in which light chooses an unexpected part of the landscape to trick out in gilt, and then shadow sweeps it away.
You know youre alive. You take huge steps, trying to feel the planets roundness arc between your feet. Kazantzakis says that when he world was young he had a canary and a globe. When he freed the canary, it would perch on the globe and sing. All his life, wandering the earth, he felt as though he had a canary on top of his mind, singing.
It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and it keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. Its a good place to life; theres a lot to think about. The creeks tinker and Carvins are an active mystery, fresh every minute. Theirs is the mystery of the continuous creation and all that providence implies: the uncertainty of vision, the horror of the fixed, the dissolution of the present, the intricacy of beauty, the pressure of fecundity, the elusiveness of the free, and the flawed nature. The mountains tinker and Brushy, mcAfees Knob and dead Man are a passive mystery, the oldest of all. Theirs is the one simple mystery of creation from nothing, of matter itself, anything at all, the given.
Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home. The wood duck flew away. I caught only a glimpse of something like a bright torpedo that blasted the leaves where it flew. Back at the house i ate a bowl of oatmeal; much later in the day came the long slant of light that means good walking. If the day is fine, any walk will do; it all looks good. Water in particular looks its best, reflecting blue sky in the flat, and chopping it into graveled shallows and white chute and foam in the riffles.
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Things are tamer now; I sleep with write the window shut. The cat and our rites are gone and my life is word changed, but the memory remains of something powerful playing over. I wake expectant, hoping to see a new thing. If Im lucky i might be jogged awake by a strange bird call. I dress in a hurry, imagining the yard flapping with auks, or flamingos. This morning it was a wood duck, down at the creek. I live by a creek, tinker Creek, in a valley in Virginias Blue ridge. An anchorites hermitage is called an anchor-hold; some anchor-holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle to a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor-hold.
It could have been the rose of union, the blood of murder, or the rose of beauty bare and the blood of some unspeakable sacrifice or birth. The sign on my body could have been an emblem or a stain, the keys to the kingdom or the mark of cain. I never knew as I washed, and the blood streaked, faded, and finally disappeared, whether Id purified myself or ruined the blood sign of the passover. We wake, if we ever wake at all, to mystery, rumors of death, beauty, violence. Seem like were just set down here, a woman said to me recently, and dont nobody know why. These are morning matters, pictures you dream as the final wave heaves you up on the sand to the bright light and drying air. You remember pressure and a curved sleep you rested against, soft, like a scallop in its shell. But the air hardens your skin; you stand; you leave the lighted shore to explore some dim government headland, and soon youre lost in the leafy interior, intent, remembering nothing. I still think of that old tomcat, mornings, when I wake.
the middle of the night and land on my chest. Hed stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood. Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with his front paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his claws, or pummeling a mother for milk. And some mornings Id wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though Id been painted with roses. It was hot, so hot the mirror felt war. I washed before the mirror in a daze, my twisted summer sleep still hung about me like sea kelp. What blood was this, and what roses?
The world around her floods Dillard's work and brings to light much of the grace and truth we often struggle to see. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was Dillard's first significant publication (the memoir's entrance onto the literary scene overshadowed a small volume of poems, tickets for a prayer Wheel, that was equally successful in its time but it is the text i always return to when. Her words paralyze me, wringing my soul until I can barely breathe. I will spend hours with a paragraph or even a sentence or two. I will excerpt the beginning of the first chapter here, but the entire text serves us very well for a representative example. Prompt: Think of a place or a moment, and write, without the inhibitions of grammar, thought process, or convention. Write about legs everything you notice and experience in that one place or moment in time. Do this for two minutes without stopping.
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Annie dillard (April 30, 1945 - ). Dillard was born and raised by well-to-do roman Catholic parents in Pittsburgh, pennsylvania. A writer of novels, guaranteed memoirs, poems, essays, and articles, dillard has won many awards for her works of literature, including a pulitzer Prize for. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, numerous regional and historical awards, several honorary degrees, and two Academy Awards in Literature from American Academy of Arts and Letters. Much of Dillard's work explores the world around her, in terms as varied as nature, spirit, statistics, and stories. She is known for carefully wrought language, keen observations, and original, metaphysical insights (Gale literary database). An avid reader of all types of literature, dillard's work spans many disparate, yet woefully human themes. She pours her soul into her work and is even"d as saying that, after finishing her second novel, The maytrees, she is tired and will not complete any more novels (Gale literary database).