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Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard

Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard

Author:Annie Dillard
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins


VI

The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega. It is God’s brooding over the face of the waters; it is the blended note of the ten thousand things, the whine of wings. You take a step in the right direction to pray to this silence, and even to address the prayer to “World.” Distinctions blur. Quit your tents. Pray without ceasing.

On a Hill Far Away

IN VIRGINIA, late one January afternoon while I had a leg of lamb in the oven, I took a short walk. The idea was to exercise my limbs and rest my mind, but these things rarely work out as I plan.

It was sunset by the time I crossed Tinker Creek by hopping from stone to stone and inching up a fallen tree trunk to the bank. On the far side of the creek I followed a barbed-wire fence through steers’ pasture and up to a high grassy hill. I’d never been there before. From the hill the distant creek looked still and loaded with sky.

On the hilltop, just across the barbed-wire fence, were three outbuildings: a fenced horse barn, around which a dun mare and a new foal were nervously clattering; a cyclone-fenced dog pen with a barking shepherd and a barking bird dog; and a frame toolshed under whose weedy eaves a little boy was pretending to write with a stone.

The little boy didn’t see me. He looked to be about eight, thin, wearing a brown corduroy jacket with darker brown pile on the collar and a matching beaked corduroy cap with big earflaps. He alternated between pretending to write big letters on the toolshed wall and fooling with the dogs from outside their pen. The dogs were going crazy at their fence because of me, and I wondered why the boy didn’t turn around; he must be too little to know much about dogs. When he did see me, by accident, his eyebrows shot up. I smiled and hollered and he came over to the barbed wire.

We watched the horses. “How old’s the foal?” I asked him. The golden foal looked like a test model in a patent office—jerky, its eyes not set quite right, a marvel. It ran to keep from falling.

“That one is just one. You’d have to say he was one….”

Boy, I thought. I sure don’t know anything about horses.

“…he was just born six days ago.”

The foal wanted to approach. Every time it looked at us, the mare ran interference and edged the foal away.

The boy and I talked over the barbed wire. The dogs’ names were Barney and Duke. “Luke?” I said. The boy was shocked. “Duke,” he said. He was formal and articulate; he spoke in whole sentences, choosing his words. “I haven’t yet settled on a name for the foal, although Father says he is mine.” When he spoke this way, he gazed up at me through meeting eyebrows. His dark lips made a projecting circle. He looked like a nineteenth-century cartoon of an Earnest Child.



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