“Then one day I was walking along Tinker creek and 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 that like being for the first time see, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power” – Annie Dillard

I took this picture while we were walking through Congaree National Park in South Carolina. I remember the forest was getting dark and the sparse floor, pierced by sharp Cypress roots, began to echo with the sounds of distant boars and owls. Professor Klinker read a passage from the guide, comparing the Gothic wooden spires and the glowing Spanish moss to a fluid stone cave a mile below the surface. I remembered going caving my freshman year; the perfect darkness fought off with headlamps, the suffocating silence broken by our childish yells. Something about such an environment filled me with solemnity. The tree above felt like seeing sunlight below ground, an unreal speck poking through a crack far overhead. The illuminated tree dazzled me, and the undiffused sky and back-lit branches became indistinguishable. I felt the light reflecting off damp leaves into my eyes and the spectacle of nature slid into abstraction. I instantly thought of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and understood the seeing Dillard was writing about.

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