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Annie Dillard

I was gardening a little bit earlier today, and thinking about Annie Dillard. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek she talks about learning new ways to see the world, and nature as a way to do that. I think that nature does this for me in so many ways, and has redirected my sight several times throughout my life. When I was a little girl, I was totally one of those kids who got mad when other kids stepped on ants, wrecked ant mounds, killed bugs in general, etc. It was because I was always taught that nothing deserves to suffer and everything feels. Even now that I understand that ants don't have complex emotions, I can hardly get myself to step on one, even if it's in my kitchen. I just identify with things so much. A lot of it comes out of the fact that I grew up with cats, and at an early age learned how to become friends with them, to identify their moods, to understand their psychology a little bit, and to respect them as creatures with emotions as complex as my own. But I also had to learn that animals have instincts that render them helpless to their own reactions sometimes. When I was 4, a stray cat wandered into our yard (who we eventually brought in as part of our family) but Tommy, one of our former cats, was not feelin so friendly towards eddy. But when I was 4 I didn't understand that when a cat is all puffy, it means you shouldn't touch them. In my immature mind I thought "Tommy's fluffy, I should pet him." I got bit about five times, starting at my wrist and moving up through the rest of my arm. After that my parents told me that Tommy had to get a new home, and I now feel bad that I put him into a situation where he had to be put under euthanasia. I never blamed Tommy for what happened, It simply made me more aware of cats nature. It was like a new level of awareness, a new way to see cats as primal beings whose instincts sometimes take over. It's interesting to think of people that way as well, and I'm convinced that animals could be psychologized the same what that people can, if we can communicate with them.

But anyways, when I was a kid I had a limited perspective of the world, and most of what I thought revolved around nature, and how mean people were to nature. Nature was such an abstract idea, though. Nature was everything that one could be mean to and it was everything good. I saw the world as a war-zone in which evil people (who I thought should be completely exterminated, which is a little extreme for a gradeschooler to think, especially since I even I was a bane to natures existance), were out to destroy everything good about the world. I remember when one of my teachers tried to teach us about child labor and how bad it was, and I got mad because I thought we should be more focused on environmental issues. I was an odd little girl.

But as I got older, nature and education allowed me to see the world in new ways once again. Throughout my college career, I've had a focus on environmental issues, and several of my classes have helped me to view the world as one big ecosystem, a system that we depend on and evolved with. Lately the idea of evolution has been blowing my mind. Island biogeography is probably one of the most interesting things I've studied in school ever. These things have given me a new respect for human kind, but also a new and different kind of disgust. When I see the world as completely interconnected, all functions dependent on one another and all life evolved to fits its specific niche in its particular ecosystem- whose health is completely reliant on the health of all other ecosystems, well when I see the world this way, I see how fucked up our priorities are. But one of the interesting things in realizing how screwed up our priorities are is thinking about human culture and how we got here. Human history in terms of the environment is one of the most challenging and rewarding subjects to study. This study opens up the world to even more new ways of seeing.

I have a feeling that I'm rambling and not making very much sense because I'm really tired and have no idea where I want to take this. All I know is that, when I go outside and work with nature, things open up to me and I feel something profound. Curiosity sparks my senses, I want to memorize every detail of my yard and understand everything in it. And I also think of Annie Dillard, and how seeing the world is not just how to understand your place in it, but also what you see, literally. Look at the world around you and you will see patterns, colors, shapes, beauty. Watching how ferns slowly curl out over several days, spiraling up towards the sun, I can't help but see dragons, and then dinosaurs, and think about how there were ferns when the dinosaurs were alive. There are all sort of things to see and all sort of ideas that can sprout from looking outside. Everybody should have a garden and everyone should watch its colors and shapes paint a ever changing scene of life.