Heart Happy (cathy_edgett) wrote,
Heart Happy
cathy_edgett

The Maytrees - by Annie Dillard




There is another section of Annie Dillard's book, The Maytrees, that I find soothing so I thought I would put it here.  She is speaking of a woman who lives in Provincetown, very independently and quietly.


    "Lou hoped scandalously to live her own life. A subnormal ceiling, since civilization means cities and cities mean social norms. She wanted only to hear herself think. She admired Diogenes who shaved half his head so he would stay home to think. How else might she hear any original note, any stray subject-and-verb in the head, however faint, should one come?

    She pushed the tiller hard over, came about, and set a slashing course upwind.  The one-room ever-sparer dune shack was her chief dwelling from which only hurricane or frost exiled her.  Over decades, she had reclaimed what she had forfeited of her own mind, if any.  She took pains to keep outside the world's acceleration.  An Athens marketplace amazed Diogenes with "How many things there are in the world of which Diogenes hath no need!" Lou had long since cut out fashion and all radio but the Red Sox. In the past few years she had let go her ties to people she did not like, to ironing, to dining out in town, and to buying things not necessary and that themselves needed care.  She ignored whatever did not interest her.  With those blows she opened her days like a pinata.  A hundred freedoms fell on her.  She hitched free years to her lifespan like a kite tail.  Everyone envied her the time she had, not noticing that they had equal time. 

    The bay and ocean and daytime sky did not change. Lou lived in color fields. By habit, she ignored the Cape's man-made changes.  In town it was tough to break the habit of checking skies every hour or so. These new people kept imaginary beasties away using streetlights and spotlights. Not one of them asked about burglary rates.  They thought they knew.  They unknowingly brought their big-city obsession with crime and appearance and status as rats bring etc.

    When winter forced her back to town she braced to enter the same low-ceilinged cave most Americans lived in unknowingly.  Always in May the Milky Way returned to belly overhead, as if equinoctial storms made of the galaxy a spinnaker that is opened to north winds. Any fuss reached her anyway, even though she ducked just as, swimming, she took a breaking wave by diving under it.

    Three days a week she helped the Manor Nursing Home, where people proved their keenness by reciting received analyses of current events.  All the Manor residents watched television day and night, informed to the eyeballs like everyone else and rushed for time, toward what end no one asked.  Their cupidity and self-love were no worse than anyone else's, but their many experiences' having taught them so little irked Lou. One hated tourists, another southerners; another despised immigrants.  Even dying, they still held themselves in highest regard. Lou would have to watch herself.  For this way of thinking began to look like human nature - as if each person of two or three billion would spend his last vital drop to sustain his self-importance."



Of course, now we have a few more billion of those with self-importance, and perhaps we begin to learn to be a bit more like Lou, if we so choose.


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