We could not see it; but the sky behind the band of clouds was yellow, and, far down the valley, some hillside orchards had lighted up. We no sooner saw it than it was upon us, like thunder. Seeing this black body was like seeing a mushroom cloud.
It was the West.
Something else, something more ordinary, came back to me along about the third cup of coffee. I lay awake remembering an article I had read downstairs in the lobby, in an engineering magazine. The hole where the sun belongs is very small. East of us rose another hill like ours. 3 (March, 1984), 90. The sun was going, and the world was wrong. No use running to tell anyone.
It obliterated meaning itself. It looked as though we had all crawled out of spaceships and were preparing to assault the valley below.
All of us rugged individualists were wearing knit caps and blue nylon parkas.
We had crossed the mountains that day, and now we were in a strange place—a hotel in central Washington, in a town near Yakima.
Its devastation lay around about us. I have since read that this wave of shadow moves 1,800 miles an hour. Stuck up into that unworldly sky was the cone of Mount Adams, and the alpenglow was upon it.
Includes titles, publication, and publisher information. In the course of that I learned the web is full of misinformation. The hillside was a 19th-century tinted photograph from which the tints had faded. It was good to be back among people so clever; it was good to have all the world’s words at the mind’s disposal, so the mind could begin its task. We cast rough shadows on the blowing grass; freezing, we waved our arms. And yet their cells divide; they live.
I had forgotten the clown’s smiling head and the hotel lobby as if they had never existed. We rushed down the hill.
If you were to glance out one day and see a row of mushroom clouds rising on the horizon, you would know at once that what you were seeing, remarkable as it was, was intrinsically not worth remarking. If Dillard
10, Nos. 61 (Autumn, 1988), p. 84. Re- printed in A. Grove Day, The Lure of Tahiti, Honolulu: Mutual Publishing Company, 1987. Distance blurred and blued the sight, so that the whole valley looked like a thickness or sediment at the bottom of the sky. Now the alarm was set for 6.
For what is significance? "Notebook," Antaeus: Journals, Notebooks and Diaries No. Gary put the car in gear and off we went, as off we have gone to a hundred other adventures. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. I return to the same buried alluvial beds and pick through the strata again. Apparently people share a sense of these hazards, for when the total eclipse ended, an odd thing happened. The Crab Nebula, in the constellation Taurus, looks, through binoculars, like a smoke ring. "Studies," in Architectural Digest, June, 1996. The heart screeched.
Complement The Best American Essays 1988 with this meditation on what makes a great essay by Robert Atwan, editor of the Best American Essays series, from the 2012 edition of the anthology, then revisit E.B.
I can no longer travel, can't meet with strangers, can't sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can't write by request, and can't answer letters. The television was on. This article is adapted from Dillard’s recent book. I missed my own century, the people I knew, and the real light of day. No people, no significance. We pulled off the highway, bundled up, and climbed one of these hills.
The boy spoke well. All those things for which we have no words are lost.
He was a walking alarm clock.
It had nothing to do with anything.
The paper starts by describing weasels, then Dillard talks about her encounter with a weasel and how it occurred, and finally she talks about why people should use weasels as an example of how to live. 74, No.
You have seen photographs of the sun taken during a total eclipse. The clown’s glance was like the glance of Rembrandt in some of the self-portraits: lively, knowing, deep, and loving. We have all seen a sliver of light in the sky; we have all seen the crescent moon by day.
On the broad lobby desk, lighted and bubbling, was a ten-gallon aquarium containing one large fish; the fish tilted up and down in its water.
We had all died in our boots on the hilltops of Yakima, and were alone in eternity.
From all the hills came screams. "Why I Live Where I Live," Esquire Vol. It rolled at you across the land at 1,800 miles an hour, hauling darkness like plague behind it. Reprinted in Books and Religion Vol. It was going. It was enormous and black. The rest, in a line at least five miles long, drove to town. The restaurant was a roadside place with tables and booths. They were drunks. This was the universe about which we have read so much and never before felt: the universe as a clockwork of loose spheres flung at stupefying, unauthorized speeds. It was feeble and worthless. Valueless, I might add—until someone hauls their wealth up to the surface and into the wide-awake city, in a form that people can use. The sun simply shaves away; gradually, you see less sun and more sky. We harvested the grass with stone sickles, I remember. There was nothing to see. This is emphatically not interesting; I renounce it. The teacher in me says, "The way to learn about a writer is to read the text. It did not look like the moon. During the moments of totality, it was so dark that drivers on the highway below turned on their cars’ headlights. "Four Bits," Ploughshares Vol.
"The Leg in the Christmas Stocking: What We Learned from Jokes," The New York Times Book Review, Dec. 7, 1986.
The black lens cover appeared again, back-lighted, and slid away.
It extended south into the horizon, a distant dream of a valley, a Shangri-la.
We got the light wrong. Later the rising sun would clear these clouds before the eclipse began.
Significant as it was, it did not matter a whit. We blinked in the light. Here is a short list of the books I've written and edited.
Its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. Near the sun, the sky was bright and colorless. Against the long opposite wall sang a live canary in its cage. The eyes dried, the arteries drained, the lungs hushed. He could write a sentence, and I could not. It roared up the valley. I saw on his skull the darkness of night mixed with the colors of day. It had been like the death of someone, irrational, that sliding down the mountain pass and into the region of dread.
21, No. At the dim far end of the room, their backs toward us, sat six bald old men in their shirtsleeves, around a loud television. I bit.
A slope’s worth of snow blocked the road; traffic backed up. I myself had at that time no access to such a word. THIS IS THE LIFE.
"Making Contact," Yale Review (Summer, 1988), p. 615. It was now almost 9 in the morning. But I pray you will never see anything more awful in the sky. Like Roethke, “I take my waking slow.” Gradually I seemed more or less alive, and already forgetful.
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There I remembered a few things more. The winches may jam, the scaffolding buckle, the air conditioning collapse. More people were parking near the highway and climbing the hills. And blackbirds do fly back to their roosts.
Mount Adams was an enormous, snow-covered volcanic cone rising flat, like so much scenery.
A thin ring of light marked its place. Daniel Halpern, Ecco Press, New York, 1989. Only an extraordinary act of will could recall to us our former, living selves and our contexts in matter and time.
Please don't use Wikipedia. If you think very fast, you may have time to think, “Soon it will hit my brain.” You can feel the deadness race up your arm; you can feel the appalling, inhuman speed of your own blood. Annie Dillard Photo by Phyllis Rose I can no longer travel, can't meet with strangers, can't sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can't write by request, and can't answer letters. He smiled as if he saw me; the stringy crinkles around his eyes moved. To put ourselves in the path of the total eclipse, that day we had driven five hours inland from the Washington coast, where we lived. The alpenglow is that red light of sunset which holds out on snowy mountaintops long after the valleys and tablelands are dimmed. It was dawn when we found a highway out of town and drove into the unfamiliar countryside.
"Carol Munder," in Photography Annual 21st Century (2004 or 2005). Four or five cars pulled off the road. All the distant hills’ grasses were finespun metal which the wind laid down.
(Review essay). "Antarctica," 5-part article for Microsoft's failed on-line Mungo Park, Jan 98. Through the valley wandered a thin, shining river; from the river extended fine, frozen irrigation ditches. The sun we see is less than half the diameter of a dime held at arm’s length. Less than two minutes later, when the sun emerged, the trailing edge of the shadow cone sped away. If I had not read that it was the moon, I could have seen the sight a hundred times and never thought of the moon once. It was like slipping into fever, or falling down that hole in sleep from which you wake yourself whimpering. Up in the sky, like a crater from some distant cataclysm, was a hollow ring. Now the sun was up.
All of those photographs were taken through telescopes. The white ring and the saturated darkness made the Earth and the sky look as they must look in the memories of the careless dead. A piece of sky beside the crescent sun was detaching. With great effort we had remembered some sort of circular light in the sky—but only the outline. It was all over.
That is when there were screams. The real world began there. "Postscript on Process." 5 (July/August, 1987), p. 49. We could not learn. We found our car; we saw the other people streaming down the hillsides; we joined the highway traffic and drove away. However, during a partial eclipse the air does indeed get cold, precisely as if someone were standing between you and the fire. It slammed our hill and knocked us out. Reprinted from Wilson Quarterly to American Illustrated (in Russian), and translated from Russian to Arabic for Tunisian magazine Al Majal.
This passage occurs towards the end of the essay and describes the authors reaction to the arrival of Santa Claus and her feelings about Santa Claus, Miss White, and God during her time following this meeting.
Larry Dark, New York, 1990. You may read that the moon has something to do with eclipses.
It is everlastingly funny that the proud, metaphysically ambitious, clamoring mind will hush if you give it an egg. "Thinking About Language," The Living Wilderness (Autumn, 1974), p.2.