Annie Dillard is my Spirit Animal

Many of my OBU science friends will remember Dr. Jett reading us passages from “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” but I don’t know if it spoke to everyone in the same way it did to me. Annie Dillard, the author of that book, raised Christian among the Appalachian mountains writes books unlike nothing I usually read. This summer, on my list of things to do, was read quite a few of her books. I went to Barnes and Noble specifically for it and everything. It took me a while to find it because her books are neither fiction or non fiction. They tell no story, its mostly just a stream of consciousness.

She has a love for nature, science, and deep thinking. She wanders and wonders and exists in her world to make an impact on the world without changing it- its inherent beauty, anyway- if that makes sense. She wants to be fully present in each moment but still has a vision. She’s engaged and observant and in love with the world around her. Though my experiences are different, I connect with her narrative for more than just an appreciation for taking walks through the woods. Her feelings about the birds taking flight and listening to a rushing stream speak to my soggy heart about the fascination and profundity I feel when laying in bed with my nieces, studying human development, and learning and experiencing life in general.

Her books don’t necessarily have a medical correlation, but they have inspired me a great deal in regards to my consciousness, being present, and enjoying every moment. I also like her spirit of exploration and discovery and hope to apply it to my learning during my medical education and into my future practice as well.

Its hard to pick favorites so I will keep posting quotes as I leaf through my books. And now you’ll know why I do it.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“I alternate between thinking of the planet as home- dear and familiar stone hearth and garden- and as a hard land of exile in which we are all sojourners.”

“The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself like a once-blind man unbound. The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through. The icy narrowing fjords splitting the cliffs of mystery. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock- more than a maple- a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”

“I am sorry I ran from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid.”

“You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time, and build your wings on the way down.”

“Thomas Merton wrote, ‘There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.’ There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying ‘I never merited this grace,’ quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. But I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.”

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