Elements of Craft

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Week 5 - Writing as Meditation

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Many thousands of pages of poetry and prose have been written about and inspired by the natural world, and few contain so many original insights and acute observations as Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Take a look at the following passage in which Dillard considers the movement and beauty of her environment:

“For a week last September migrating red-winged blackbirds were feeding heavily down by the creek at the back of the house. One day I went out to investigate the racket; I walked up to a tree, an Osage orange, and a hundred birds flew away. They simply materialized out of the tree. I saw a tree, then a whisk of color, then a tree again.”

Dillard continues by offering her own whimsical take on the appearances and movements of the natural world.

“I walked closer and another hundred blackbirds took flight. Not a branch, not a twig budged: the birds were apparently weightless as well as invisible. Or, it was as if the leaves of the Osage orange had been freed from a spell in the form of red-winged blackbirds.”

Now it’s your turn! Take a moment in the next few days to walk outside, observing and meditating on your surroundings. What stands out to you on this given day? What appears new to you? Next, in the style of Dillard, apply your own voice and perspective to what you see. In a paragraph or two, what strange utterly fresh — even fantastical! — descriptions can you bestow on something familiar?