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Annie Dillard likes nature, but maybe not steer or water bugs

Dillard has a carefree writing style. It never really goes anywhere that you would expect. When reading it I felt absorbed as she described things in ways I’ve noticed, but never put real thought to. Her observational skills are astounding. She can focus on the smallest thing in the greatest detail and relate it to you in a very poetic way, but it’s like she has plucked the imagery out of your own head.

I was not able to discern if she feels humanity is just an estranged part of nature, or if we have some kind of right to rule over it. Is nature just our playground that we have "so startlingly been set down on", or is our equal companion in our journey through time. She speaks of the steers' many uses without a hind of remorse. She feels no connection to them or to the water bug and she can't enjoy the nature of night. When it comes to frogs or falling birds or illuminated sycamore however, she sees the “beauty and grace? that we should try to be there for. Do things have value if we don’t label them as useful or pleasurable? Were the crueler things in nature created “in jest? or do we need to look at every facet of nature to see a manifestation of the grand scheme? Dillard’s stance on these questions is not apparent to me when reading this excerpt.

Here's the Wikipedia page about giant water bugs.


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