On the far side of the moat, I spotted a squirrel climbing a tree. Up and up it went, climbing out over the moat and ascending naked branches that got thinner with each miniature step. As it neared the tips of the branches, from my vantage the sun was directly behind it. Refusing to turn away, I squinted, not wanting to miss the adventurous moment that I sensed was impending—branches and critter silhouetted in blinding light. Somewhat to my chagrin, there was no need of a grand leap. The climatic moment was understated, yet I nonetheless gave a small, inward celebration when the squirrel transferred to the uppermost branches of a tree on my side of the moat and began the descent.
The meaning of this series of moments, the affect of which moved subtly from mere noticing, to anticipation, then celebration and finally to silence, isn’t something that reveals itself immediately, nor in words. I could, I suppose, tie it up tidy by affirming Annie Dillard’s observation that “It’s rough out there” and add that even apparent heroes are victims in the wild and isn’t that the way life is. But the potency of the moment when the once-haloed squirrel’s tattered body was revealed, was something best enjoyed through Dillard’s second way of seeing (33). Rather, than busily narrating its significance in an abundance of verbiage, it is known in “letting go”. Truly “seeing” this was a fleeting moment of being “transfixed and emptied,” of briefly “forgetting my own name” (33, 35).
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard.