Savoring Winter Before It’s Gone

     I am starting to feel that spring is around the corner.  But it is still winter for a few more weeks, so I will savor what’s left of it.  For my own enjoyment, and I hope for yours, I would like to share with you a few reflections on the passing season from a writer I love, Annie Dillard.  These excerpts are from her essay, aptly titled Winter, included in her 1974 book The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  I thank my friend Seth Binsted for reminding me of how much I love this book that I first read more than 30 years ago.

     Annie Dillard is both a naturalist and a gifted writer.  Her descriptions–and the wonders she describes–evoke many a ‘wow’ from me. 

     “It snowed.  It snowed all yesterday and never emptied the sky, although the clouds looked so low and heavy they might drop all at once with a thud.  The light is diffuse and hueless, like the light on paper inside a pewter bowl.  The snow looks light and the sky dark, but in fact the sky is lighter than the snow.  Obviously the thing illuminated cannot be lighter than its illuminator.  The classical demonstration of this point involves simply laying a mirror flat on the snow so that it reflects in its surface the sky, and comparing by sight this value to that of the snow.  This is all very well, even conclusive, but the illusion persists.  The dark is overhead and the light at my feet;  I’m walking upside-down in the sky.”

     “Sant-Exupery says that when flocks of wild geese migrate high over a barnyard, the cocks and even the dim, fatted chickens fling themselves a foot or so into the air and flap for the south.”

     “Yesterday I watched a curious nightfall.  The cloud ceiling took on a warm tone, deepened, and departed as if drawn on a leash.  I could no longer see the fat snow flying against the sky;  I could see it only as it fell before dark objects.  Any object at a distance–like the dead, ivy-covered walnut I see from the bay window–looked like a black-and-white frontispiece seen through the sheet of white tissue.  It was like dying, this watching the world recede into deeper and deeper blues while the snow piled;  silence swelled and extended, distance dissolved, and soon only concentration at the largest shadows let me make out the movement of falling snow, and that too failed.  The snow on the yard was blue as ink, faintly luminous;  the sky violet.  The bay window betrayed me, and started giving me back the room’s lamps.  It was like dying, that growing dimmer and deeper and then going out.”

One Response to “Savoring Winter Before It’s Gone”

  1. Jean Larson Says:

    I loved reading Annie Dillard’s books many years ago. She taught me to examine every aspect of the shoreline around the lake I was visiting at the time.
    It may be time to revisit Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Thank you for bringing her back.

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