It used to be, when I chose and checked out a book, that I felt an obligation to read the whole thing. Probably a common trait among many boomers, whose parents were children of the great depression and, thus, felt compelled to finish anything given to them, whether a serving of luke-warm peas or a library book.
But, as an adult, I began to exercise discretion and began making quicker judgments about likes and dislikes in my book selections. Now, I’ll quit a book 10 pages in, 100 pages in…occasionally, when I simply grow tired of the subject, 3 or 4 days after the initial infatuation that moved me to check it out.
Perhaps this is why, when I find a book and author that I really enjoy, I latch onto their words that much more ravenously. This is the case, this year, with the writer Annie Dillard. Her book – For The Time Being – was a joy to read. Here are four excerpts, vividly described, which I hope will give you a glimpse of what the book offers. Enjoy!
You know you’re alive. You take huge steps, trying to feel the planet’s roundness arc between your feet.
Kazantzakis says that when he 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 head, singing.
Certain Indians used to carve long grooves along the wooden shafts of the arrows. They called the grooves “lightning marks,” because they resembled the curved fissure lightning slices down the trunks of trees.
The function of lightning marks is this: If the arrow fails to kill the game, blood from a deep wound will channel along the lightning mark, streak down the arrow shaft, and spatter to the ground, laying a trail dripped on broad leaves, on stones, that the barefoot and trembling archer can follow into whatever deep or rare wilderness it leads.
I am the arrow shaft, carved along my length by unexpected lights and gashes from the very sky, and this book is the straying trail of blood.
But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.
It is that simple. What you see is what you get.
Peeping through my keyhole I see within the range of only about 30 percent of the light that comes from the sun; the rest is infrared and some little ultraviolet, perfectly apparent to many animals, but invisible to me.
Donald E. Carr points out that the sense impressions of one-celled animals are not edited for the brain: “This is philosophically interesting in a rather mournful way, since it means that only the simplest animals perceive the universe as it really is.”