Rabbi Elizabeth S. Wood

Rabbi Elizabeth S. Wood
Celebrating Havdallah

Monday, October 11, 2010


Have I ever told you about my favorite time of day? It's just as the sun is beginning to set, but the world is still light. There's such a softness to the world at that moment...I live for it.

I decided I was working too hard today (what else is new) and I needed to take a break, so I went for a run in a park near my neighborhood. It was perfect. The weather was cool but not crisp. The sky was blue but turning darker as the sun disappeared. There were people and families, but it wasn't crowded. And I had a great time just listening to my music and turning inward for a few moments of solace while I jogged.

But then I stopped. The sun was slowly sinking down and I could say rays of light coming through the branches of a beautiful tree. It was a magical moment. And it reminded me of a passage from one of my favorite books.

Years ago, at summer camp, I had a counselor whom I adored. She and I connected and bonded. We shared many things, but she introduced me to this book called "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard. I read it that summer and have loved it ever since - maybe because of her, but maybe because it speaks to me as well.

Here is the passage:
Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I am still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never known it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.

What have you done this week, or this month, that has taken your breath away? What has given you pause to reflect?

2 comments:

Rivster said...

Watching my children experience fall foliage for the first time last week in the Lehigh Valley. It was as if Nature herself was garbed in autumnal colours.

Blakelyriffic said...

I love Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, too!!! I had a chance to hear Annie Dillard speak, many years ago. Afterwards, she agreed to autograph books.

I had brought my copy of P@TC with me - a secondhand paperback I'd read over and over again and loved. I wanted it signed, even though it wasn't pretty.

Ms. Dillard made a point of asking us to have our books opened to the title page - not the first page or the inside cover, she stressed, the title page.

To my horror, my scuffed and secondhand book had no title page. It had been torn out. I opened the book to the dedication page, instead, and when I handed it to Annie Dillard, I said hastily, "The title page is missing - I'm sorry!"

She flipped through the first few pages (perhaps thinking I didn't know what the title page was). But then she nodded and said, "Huh, you're right." and signed my book on the dedication page, instead.

I still have it!

I also LOVE her little book of essays about writing, titled The Writing Life. I reread it whenever I hit writers' block.