Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dillard / Macdonald

One of the books in my "pile" is For The Time Being by Annie Dillard, a writer I've come to think of as a soul mate to Helen Macdonald, but without any better justification than this imprecise observation: Most of us connect words and ideas with the standard tools. We use stout, brown cords, mostly. But sometimes cheap twine, causing later regrets. We use Bungee when we feel up to stretching a bit.

Dillard and Macdonald connect ideas through worm holes. Or they lace them together with unbreakable, invisible nano-fibers.

Here's a passage of Dillard's I just read that caught me. Dillard is pondering ancient Kabbalists:

Their legends have a gilded, antique air. Rabbi Isaac Luria, said his disciple, could understand the language of the birds. Birds' voices contain deep mysteries of the Torah.

Once, while Rabbi Isaac Luria was studying Torah in the fields of Safad, he saw a bunch of souls in a tree. He noticed, he told his disciple, that "all the trees were full of souls beyond number The same was true of the field." God had cast them out for failing to repent. They had heard that he, Isaac Luria, had the power "to repair exiled souls." And so "several souls clad themselves in his prayer to accompany it" to God's very throne. Souls can aid one another; with combined effort and with their rabbi, they can batter a way through to God.


Teddy said...

From 'The Island Within' by Richard K. Nelson:

"It is the ancient wisdom of birds that battles are best fought with song."

Chas S. Clifton said...

Dillard is a fine writer, but, as she says, her Presbyterian upbringing left her more concerned with questions of sin, death, and "Why does God let this happen?"

I don't get that from Helen Macdonald so much.

Steve Bodio said...

Presbyterian upbringing but a Catholic convert.

Helen's was C of E-- like, uhh, yours (;-)) That may be a difference..

They both sing.

Matt Mullenix said...

Chas, I see Dillard's best in her writing on nature (Tinker Creek, and others), and in that realm she and Helen hit similar high notes. Both women wrote wonderfully on the experience of a solar eclipse, which is where the synchronicity first struck me.

Steve, I didn't know either of them sing. I wonder if Dillard draws?

Everyone, yes. I am making too much of this.

Steve Bodio said...

Sorry-- I meant their WORDS sing!

Matt Mullenix said...

Steve: TRUE!