The Maytrees

Susan Eilenberg writes:

Patience has been the matter of Annie Dillard’s writing for thirty years and more: patience and watchfulness and humility, together with a good deal of meditation (some of it conducted while crouched ‘mute as a photographic plate’, waiting for some small stalked creature to put aside its alarm and show itself on a chilly mudbank or in midgey thickets in Virginia or the Pacific Northwest) on what the watching and the waiting are good for. She has seen coots and weasels and parasitic wasps, a ‘pale froth’ of baby spiders, a muskrat eating a weed with the sound of ‘somebody eating celery sticks’, furry moths, hunting beetles, turtle eggs, copperheads, sharks; also steers walking on water ‘like miracle itself, complete with miracle’s nonchalance’, and

thousands of spirits – spirits trapped, perhaps, by my refusal to call them more fully, or by the paralysis of my own spirit at that time – thousands of spirits, angels in fact, almost discernible to the eye, and whirling. If pressed I would say they were three or four feet from the ground. Only their motion was clear (clockwise, if you insist); that, and their beauty unspeakable.

(LRB 3 January 2008)

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