Lights in the Trees

I’m going to let Annie Dillard take this one. Hanging up lights around our house made me think of her. The tree with lights in it is rare, most of the time I am the bell waiting to be struck. But I know it is possible, as long as I invite in the light.


[M]any newly sighted people speak well of the world, and teach us how dull is our own vision.  To one patient, a human hand, unrecognized, is “something bright and then holes.”  Shown a bunch of grapes, a boy calls out “It is dark, blue and shiny….It isn’t smooth, it has bumps and hollows.”  A little girl visits a garden.  “She is greatly astonished, and can scarcely be persuaded to answer, stands speechless in front of the tree, which she only names by taking hold of it, and then as “the tree with the lights in it.”

When the doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw “the tree with the lights in it.”  It was for this tree I searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years. 

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)


Dispatch this week to Rev. Monica, because a package I got from a friend was telling me something…



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