Who introduced us? One of the loveliest, dearest people I have known. Reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in my early 30s, I was swept up into the way you see The World, so I devoted myself to reading all of your writings. (You lost me with The Living, I must admit). In youth, I loved your passionate witnessing of spirit writ large in nature, how easily you are astonished by the details and the vastness of creation, and your aloof, succinct judgements of other beings. You are unapologetic, yet aware of the economic privilege of your life, but seem mostly oblivious to the subjugations suffered by many female voices seeking publication. (Aristotle wrote us off as “birth defects” and Ari’s influence is proving tough to shake!)
Now, coming into my seventh decade, I am rereading you with less reverence and more astonished laughter – you crack me up over and over again. I appreciate our synchronous presence on the planet. You were dismissed by your elders as a “girl of the Twentieth Century”, which acknowledges you as a Voice of Our Time. I feel you as a sister and twin flame: much of what reverberates you, reverberates me as well. You are very like an older sister in that I don’t think you would like me as a companion, while I would adore you as one. Lucky me – you are there in your writings, and I only have to suffer your disdain when it clearly applies to me.
You see, I go easy, light, effortless and you go hard, dense and high-minded! So.
I have an interesting relationship to your book For the Time Being. I read it four times, and each time I picked it up I thought I had not finished it. Which, given what you write about in that book, makes me laugh. In the summer of 2021, I paid attention and realized when I finished For the Time Being.
The tree with the lights on it! I see lights on trees all the time, but not as enflamed as the ones the girl with her new eyes saw! And the robin dropping straight down off the roof- just stepping off and dropping. The clothes spread out and drying way up on huge trees! The frog slowly dropping its form like a cloak on the water. On and on- you just WoW me!!
So I carry these amazing and inspirational experiences with me from you and your lived experience. Terwiliger bunts one! I say it all the time, it is so fun and slips off the tongue. Your adventures growing up resonated deeply with me, although my parents were not wealthy or quite as adventurous as yours. But they were very lovely and caring. I, too, dissected frogs and worms in the basement. Occasionally I would try to gather a group to explore and create, but it was hard to really engage with others, so working alone suits me alright (to this day).
Holy the Firm is a prose poem with its vivid yet obscure descriptions of the vast beauty and horrific tragedies that make up The World exemplified in one burnt little girl. You rail at and commisserate with God as you wander a small corner of the world where you find yourself at a particular point in its time. I, too, am a burnt little girl. An accident (caused by me, which has always seemed so mysterious), I was about four: I was playing in the kitchen while Mom was making dinner. I pulled open the door of a freestanding cabinet, leaned over the top and lifted my feet to swing on the door. The cabinet tipped, and the french fryer grease came raining down on me and my brother. I didn’t know much about physics then! My Dad put vaseline on me, and they rushed us to the hospital. Interestingly, putting vaseline on a severe burn was NOT the correct procedure at the time, but is now seen as an appropriate healing move. So glad my Dad followed his instincts and not the medical party line of the day.
The burns all healed well. I had a skin graft to my face when I was seven, but the graft location left a bad scar. Seems I scar easily. Only recently have I thought about what it must have been like for my family. They probably had to be questioned by some authority from a government institution. I am sure they felt incredible chagrin, pain and remorse. We rarely talked about it. I found the french fryer in the basement of the last house my parents lived in. It was a bit jarring and curious that it had traveled with us all these years. I do not remember it being used again.So your Holy the Firm brings me face to face with a forgotten part of myself, which is some of your point here.
When I reread An American Childhood last year, it triggered that strange and oh so familiar spark of limerence. Your vividly bold descriptions of how it feels to be a child opened up a place of longing and recognition. Longing and recognition seem to be the roots of limerence. Limerence fueled my lived experience, made life exciting and miserable, and comodified love for me. You understand the giddy rush when meeting a limerent object. You edify the experience so well! My current situation is one of limited limerence and loads of awareness. I have traded highs and lows/ups and downs for expanding/contracting into a vast and singular Presence. You, too, indicate “enough said” on your website contact information page with a picture of yourself with two bandaids over your mouth!!
Thank you for doing the incredibly difficult work of illuminating The World with a delighted reverence and acerbic whimsy. You are a most wondrous traveling companion!