A Letter to Annie (Dillard)



Just as I was starting to feel sorry for myself, you stepped in.

I searched the bookshelf. I looked into Dostoevsky’s face, glanced at Desmond Tutu, but sent him away.

As my heart and eyes continued their search, they came to you, sitting by Tinker Creek.

I’m a pilgrim, you’re a pilgrim, and it just seemed right.

I didn’t need anything frilly today. I needed truth, and that in the midst of quite a fog.

When one spends the holidays away from family, it can be hard.

When one spends the holidays away with little money to spare, it can be a little harder.

So I spent a few minutes crying and then got up and moved on.

And here, open to your fifteenth chapter, I am stirred.

Van Morrison sings in my ear, Alison Kraus serenades again and I hear you loud and clear, that bell chiming at midday:

Beauty is real. I would never deny it; the appalling thing is that I forget it.


There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.


This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.

Oh, Annie!

How we get lost in the little things, especially the hard ones.

And we dry our teary eyes because we know, really, that it’s not that hard, and the moments of joy outweigh the specks of sorrow.

So, I cannot forget the beauty– the glory of my favorite season; the shiny-ness of Christmas lights and the cozy-everything of a cold fall day; the blessings of community and the wildness of child-play.

And I cannot deny myself the deepest truths that speak themselves to me every single day:

that we’re provided for, in all ways, from the deep to the deep, from the then to the now and into the eternal;

that life beams inside and through us;

that family is this, and we have every day to be here with each other in every midst.

No, Annie, I can’t take this afternoon with me.

This coffee is almost gone, the boys will be waking up soon, and this song is nearly over. The crooning dims to whispery softness, and onto nothing but quiet.

But I take these words with me, these promises that linger in my veins, that fill my head and heart with a fresh kindness and a tender kick in the pants–

promises of life-raising, of Lazarus dreams and everything holy to grab hold of.



Thanks for that.



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