"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

04 June 2005

Just as Well

A journal entry from last fall that I ran across, slightly revised:

My best friend was here for a few days, and we ripped the tenure essay to shreds and put it back together. Today I showed my freshmen the effects of a couple of hours work on one particular page, where the typed words are barely visible for the revisions, edits, corrections, stets and arrows. They were suitably awed.

However, when I began talking to them about the importance of words, of precision, of getting an essay to show, as closely as you possibly can, the vision in your head, so that the vision in the reader's head is as close to yours as you can get it in a fallen world, when I talked about words being our only means of doing this and how we must therefore respect (if not love) them and use them as precisely as possible . . .

I was reminded of Dillard in Holy the Firm, at the end of a description of exhorting her creative writing students to know and understand that it takes everything you have to be a writer: "They thought I was raving again. It was just as well."

Oh -- but if just one could catch the vision . . . !


Fieldfleur said...

You sound like a passionate, wonderful teacher! I remember that passage Annie Dillard wrote. It made me acknowledge my desire to write is more of a flickering thing now instead of a raging fire which takes over all. Life responsibilities have taken
precedence perhaps? But then I think of Kate Chopin waking up to write early in the morning before her, how many? six?, kids got up. Then there's Flannery O writing even in the throes of lupus. Dillard is right -- it almost has to consume you in order for you to create, create, create.
Words are wonderful playthings though even for the amateur.
Take care,

alaiyo said...

Thanks, Teri. I do love teaching. I love writing even more. But teaching, along with all those other "life responsibilities," leaves little time for writing. Hence this little attempt (Inscapes) to motivate at least small thoughts into articulation.

But you are right; one does not have to be consumed with the task or have it as one's primary identity/activity to love it and still do what one can with it.

If I had Chopin's discipline, I wonder if I'd have her energy? Or do I lack the discipline because I lack the energy? Or . . . ah, well . . .

Dillard hasn't been writing much lately, I understand, because she has chosen to give her time and energy to her family. And what, after all, is more important?



amelia ruth said...

Hello! Sorry I haven't written in so long, but I have just begun staff training at camp and have been not only out of time but also out of a fast-running computer! So. I have been rather excitingly (?) busy with preparing the waterfront for campers. I have so much responsibility this summer, which I am really excited about. I know what I'm doing, and so there isn't the stress of having to make uninformed decisions.

Last night, I had to lead a longish devotion for all the staff, which I had been stressing about for awhile (i.e., "God why haven't you given me any great ideas yet?"). I ended up talking about peace, and it was totally a God-thing (I hope you will not notice how badly my use of language has taken a beating since being here!). He gave me scripture and words to say, and it just came out perfectly--despite my ineloquence in public speaking. I used the horrid story of my stitches in my finger and what a nightmare that was--it makes a funny opener.

So anyway, that's my life, and that's why I haven't commented lately. Take care--I'll write when I can.


Cindy said...

Beth--Dillard is pulling back to focus on family? This is very interesting to me, especially given my own wrestling in this area. Where did you hear this, and where might I find it? :)

It feels odd to give up a passion in an area of strength for something that isn't a passion in an area of definite non-strength. Makes no sense at all. But then, when did God ever make sense?!


P.S. Maybe your students were just awed that anyone would have the audacity to do that to YOUR paper. You are, after all, The Expert in their eyes.

Or maybe they were just dumbfounded that anyone would bother with all that trouble over simply writing something. (You're even crazier than they first thought!) ;)

alaiyo said...

Amy -- sounds like you are having a great time. I look forward to reading about it at the rainbow when you get home!

LuCindy -- I heard this about Dillard from a student who gave a report on her for my women's lit class last year. I am not sure of the sources he used, but I assume he found it in reading about her on the web.

Maybe we sometimes have to pull back from the thing we are strong at to focus on the thing that we are weak in because it takes more effort and energy to do the latter. And perhaps we learn more about trust when we do that. Or *should* learn more about trust . . . :(

I suspect your latter suggestion about the students is closer to right! I have only awed one or two over the long years with my own writing; mostly they don't care. And they really can't even imagine why it would be important to spend more than a bare proofreading moment (if that) on anything . . .

Amazon has been most unkind to me. They shipped me books a week before I expected them, and now I have to exercise self-control to get the things done that I had planned to do during this week . . . and one of them is a Dorothy Sayers novel . . . help!

love you,


Cindy said...


That Amazon. You gotta love it.

Enjoy your exercise in self-control.

:::more grinning:::

You know you're loved,

Pamela said...

Dr. I--I'm certain more than just one or two of us have been awed! I certainly have been and hope that next year in my own endeavors I can show my students (what a scary thought!) even a slight bit of that passion!

alaiyo said...

You are wonderful, Pamela! And your students will see it, never fear, because it is a God-given response to His gift to you.

love and blessings; see you soon?