Unreal Nature

September 15, 2017

We Are Here on the Planet Only Once

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

… it is a bowl of sweet air, a basin of greenness and of grace …

This is from the essay ‘In the Jungle’ found in Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters by Annie Dillard (1982):

… Each breath of night smelled sweet, more moistened and sweet than any kitchen, or garden, or cradle. Each star in Orion seemed to tremble and stir with my breath. All at once, in the thatch house across the clearing behind us, one of the village’s Jesuit priests began playing an alto recorder, playing a wordless song, lyric, in a minor key, that twined over the village clearing, that caught in the big trees’ canopies, muted our talk on the bankside, and wandered over the river, dissolving downstream.

This will do, I thought. This will do, for a weekend, or a season, or a home.

… The point of going somewhere like the Napo River in Ecuador is not to see the most spectacular anything. It is simply to see what is there. We are here on the planet only once, and might as well get a feel for the place. We might as well get a feel for the fringes and hollows in which life is lived, for the Amazon basin, which covers half a continent, and for the life that — there, like anywhere else — is always and necessarily lived in detail: on the tributaries, in the riverside villages, sucking this particular white-fleshed guava in this particular pattern of shade.

… Unseen in the jungle, but present, are tapirs, jaguars, many species of snake and lizard, ocelots, armadillos, marmosets, howler monkeys, toucans and macaws and a hundred other birds, deer, bats, peccaries, capybaras, agoutis, and sloths. Also present in this jungle, but variously distant, are Texaco derricks and pipelines, and some of the wildest Indians in the world, blowgun-using Indians, who killed missionaries in 1956 and ate them.

… The Napo River: it is not out of the way. It is in the way, catching sunlight the way a cup catches poured water; it is a bowl of sweet air, a basin of greenness and of grace, and, it would seem, of peace.

My most recent previous post from Dillard’s book is here.

-Julie

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