I first read Annie Dillard's book in the mid to late 80's as I stumbled my way into Paganism. I think of Dillard an a word artist because she paints with words across a broad canvas of science, introspection and reflection of the world around her. I dream of taking a year, or a lifetime, to live beside water and watch the passage of seasons on its surface. She's done it.
Growing up in Southern Indiana, the daughter of a schizophrenic mother driven by her psychosis, the woods were a refuge, a sanctuary. Hot humid summers lured me into the depths of shadow to walk the dried water fall, to follow the path to the creek, to wade in its shallow waters. Our home was filled with sharp edges, narrow spaces between trouble and anger. The only predictability was the unpredictability. My mother's retreat to her bedroom let me wander those acres of woods unsupervised. Our cats birthed their kittens in the fallen logs beneath towering oaks and maple. To find the source of those tiny "meeps" was a game.
Always there was the edge of the sacred and the profane. Tiny bundles of life become tiny lessons in death when the tomcats found the little boy kittens. I hated the neighbor's orange tomcat who culled our population. I hated my mother even more when we moved to Arkansas and abandoned all twenty cats and kittens. I've always wondered if any still survive in the woods or barns of those neighboring acres.