You do not have to sit outside in the dark.
If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.
But the stars neither require nor demand it.
from Teaching a Stone to Talk ~ Annie Dillard
55 thoughts on “The Star That Dropped Into a Slough”
Probably something defective about me, but I have tried Annie Dillard three times and she leaves me cold.
It’s probably no more than a literary version of ‘different strokes for different folks.’ I’d never paid much attention to the natural world until someone handed me a copy of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek while I was living in Liberia, and its chapter on “Seeing” resonated in a way I’d rarely experienced. She is a bit of a mystic, and sometimes her writing becomes unnecessarily dense — but I just skip those parts, and go back to what I enjoy!
Yeah, I started something by her and abandoned it. I do want to give Pilgrim a go, though.
I’ll be darned. I found what looks to be a complete online text of the book. You might dip into the chapters titled “Fecundity” and “Stalking,” just to see what you think. My favorite chapter is “Seeing.” I just started reading the chapter called “Nightwatch” — it’s pretty good, too.
If nothing else, it’s a reminder to look ‘down’ now and then, as well as ‘out’ or ‘up.’
Today’s lectionary reading is “Seek and you shall find.” Not sure what you’re seeking but what a great find. Thanks always for sharing, Linda. Enjoy the heat!
I found this on a recent trip (at last!) to Walden West. This wasn’t in that particular spot, but I decided to follow a nearby creek, and when I looked over the edge of the boardwalk, there it was. At first I thought the color was only a bit of reflected sky; then I realized I’d found a true ‘day star.’
Okay, and so my education continues…I’ve never read Annie Dillard. Yes, I’ve been living under a rock.
Her book The Writing Life probably would seem a little odd to some, but it’s been a fantastic source of guidance and inspiration for me. I think you’d like it. It’s a slim volume, only a hundred or so pages, but it’s one I take a paragraph at a time. For example:
“A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, ‘Do you think I could be a writer?’ ‘Well,’ the writer said, ‘I don’t know. Do you like sentences?’
“The writer could see the student’s amazement. Sentences? Do I like sentences? I am twenty years old and do I like sentences? If he had liked sentences, of course, he could begin, like a joyful painter I knew. I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, ‘I liked the smell of the paint.'”
I love books on writing written by successful writers. I will bookmark this book on my Amazon wish list. Thanks.
I’m certain you’ll enjoy it. If you do read it, let me know what you think.
Well seen, Linda
I especially liked the way the dried foliage ‘framed’ it. I don’t think it would have been nearly so appealing lying in the grass or on the boardwalk.
Striking! Well done, you, for spotting this enchanting scene.
The little star was quite a surprise; it took me a minute or two to figure out what I was looking at. I really like the way the dried leaves and such encircled it.
What a great capture! I love the idea of finding a star, even if it isn’t a cold hard lump that fell from the sky!
You might (or might not) remember the song I kept humming after finding this little blue star: Perry Como’s 1957 (!) hit, “Catch a Falling Star.” Today, more than sixty years later, it’s still a favorite, with simple but memorable lyrics.
Annie Dillard’s words reminded me once again of a stanza by French poet Francis Jammes that I’ve quoted several times:
On a baptisé les étoiles sans penser
qu’elles n’avaient pas besoin de nom, et les nombres,
qui prouvent que les belles comètes dans l’ombre
passeront, ne les forceront pas à passer.
We’ve baptized the stars without thinking
That they didn’t need a name, and numbers,
Which prove that lovely comets will pass on
Into the shadows, won’t make them pass on.
That’s a wonderfully poetic way of expanding Dillard’s point. It’s also a salutary reminder that much of nature is beyond our control: doing what it will without regard for our preferences.
I don’t know what a slough is — but I do know a star and that one is a sparkler for sure!
In simplest terms, a slough is a channel in a wetland that tends to be stagnant or slow flowing, depending on rainfall. Because of our heat and lack of rain, this channel was pretty dry; in wetter times, I might not have seen that little star because of nice, green plant growth. But it certainly did sparkle and shine — such a fun discovery!
In this case the slough was something the photographer in you couldn’t easily slough off.
I knew someone would play with that. Here’s another bit of fun:
When the sky decided to slough
a star that had grown a bit rough,
it colored it blue,
an unusual hue,
but allowed it to shine unrebuffed.
That’s a good one.
The buff that means a piece of soft material comes from the old French word for buffalo. The buff in rebuff is unrelated.
It’s interesting that I’ve never thought of ‘buff’ referring to the material used to buff something. I’ve always used ‘buff’ as a verb, and ‘buffing’ as an adjective, as in ‘buffing cloth.’ I do remember one of my early childhood confusions; I used ‘buffinglo’ for ‘buffalo,’ just as I used ‘woof’ for ‘wolf’ because I had trouble pronouncing the letter ‘l’ in some words.
You weren’t alone. If you listen to how Brazilians pronounce the name of their country you’ll hear something like Bra-zee-oo. In the spelling of Polish words and names, a slash through the letter l indicates that the pronunciation has changed from an l to a w. And Old French chastel became modern French château.
That star certainly brightened up the slough and your eye caught a glimpse. Neat little bit of curiosity and, of course, one can’t argue with Annie Dillard’s words.
At first, I thought someone might have had some sort of celebration there. Every now and then there will be some leftover glitter or balloons or whatnot, although I’m seeing less and less of that. But in this case, I could find only the single star: pretty as could be, and perfectly positioned in its dried leaf ‘frame.’
Seeing less of balloons and such is good news. People don’t realize the problems all those balloons cause for wildlife. That said, this was a nice little treat.
What a lovely star! And the quote that you paired with it is perfect.
Don’t they work well together? That’s a favorite Dillard quote that I drag out from time to time. It’s suited several circumstances in the past, but this is probably the most perfect match I’ll ever have.
Brilliant! How well it stands out, do you think it’s made of metal? I’m puzzled how it stands out so well despite being a ‘fallen’ star. Btw I’ve shared a link via twitter. Thanks for a lovely post!
I’m pretty sure it’s the sort of metallic table confetti that’s sold for parties and such. See? It just happened to be in a spot where the light could catch it, even though it was two or three feet down from the boardwalk: in fact, I used my telephoto lens to ‘reach’ it. I’d found some lovely aquatic plants there in the past; that’s what I was looking for when I spotted the star.
Surprising! You’ve captured something quite special with that photo.
A gentle and lovely reminder from Ms Dillard that the people who get the best view are the ones that will do what it takes to get it. Did you investigate what that serendipitous star was made of, like some kind of iridescent plastic or metal? Wow! Bet that one stopped you in your tracks. It would have me, and I’d have had a good little laugh about it.
I’m sure it was metal — like metallic glitter — but there was no way to get close enough to it to physically check it out because of the dense plant growth. I didn’t want to tromp through the vegetation and disturb it, or any of the creatures living in its midst, so I stayed on the boardwalk and used my telephoto lens to capture the image.
The contrast between the star and it’s surroundings makes for a beautiful image…and instead of looking up at the night sky you had to be looking down at the ground and in daylight, so another interesting contrast!
We tend to forget that the stars are present even during the day — but this one certainly made its presence known. It’s a different form of those “Stars on the Water” that Rodney Crowell celebrated in his song.
Every once in a great long while I stumble across a bit of human debris or trash in a natural environment that somehow intrigues me just as much as the natural elements. This is a perfect example of that, and how well paired with the Annie Dillard quote. I’ve yet to read anything by Dillard but have seen her quoted and recommended many times.
I thought there was a certain elegance to this scene. The fact that there was only one star eliminated any sense of clutter, and the ‘framing’ of the curled, dry leaves was perfect. I’m not so fond of intentional additions to the landscape — like the stacked stones some people like to leave — but a serendipitous find like this can be extremely pleasing.
Dillard herself has another bit of wisdom that applies here, I think — from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:
“I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.
But — and this is the point — who gets excited by a mere penny? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty brought a lifetime of days. It’s that simple. What you see is what you get.”
This time, my penny was star-shaped.
I just found an online text of what seems to be the complete book, so you can dip in here and there and see what you think.
Some folks amble through life and confirm to themselves how utterly negative our world can be.
Others step through the portal and immediately inhale the fresh air of a new day and marvel at the beauty revealed in each footstep.
Linda, thank you for being among the latter.
Did you find THE Texas Lone Star?
Is this one of the “Stars at night are big and bright”?
With all the stars in the sky, you found one which caught your eye, not up high all aglow, but way down below, among a slew of sloughs, shining through and waiting just for you.
To be honest, the first stars I thought about when I saw this were the ones that fell on Alabama. Long, long ago my family would go to the Masonic Lodge on Friday nights, and after dinner everyone would dance to a live band that played songs like this. That’s where my dad taught me to dance, and instilled a love of big band music. The Dixieland jazz would come later, when I was old enough to have a Hurricane at Pete Fountain’s French Quarter Inn; Dad decided if I was going to be a clarinetist, I needed to experience the best. Talk about starry-eyed!
I liked that poem….It’s true, if we want to see stars, we have to be willing to sit in the dark. And that the choice to do so, or not, is always ours to make. This is one of those poems that I need to think about awhile!
There are plenty of situations where wonderful experiences depend on our willingness to engage with life. I still think from time to time about my time in the islands, and my hesitancy when it came to diving. Eventually, I figured out that if I ever was going to see those fabulous tropical fish, I was going to have to spend time in the water. Like the stars, the fish would be there whether or not I saw them — but I surely was glad that I finally put on the mask and fins and went to meet them!
Exactly!! We’re the ones who have to take the initiative!
Again, I love how you notice and capture these lovely little gems and share them with us. And I love those words from Annie Dillard.
Well, as the old song has it: little things mean a lot! I’m glad you enjoyed this pairing.
Goodness, what a lovely, unusual photo. Loved that poem too.xxx
It certainly was an unexpected sight — and great fun to discover, even if it took me a bit of time to sort out what I was seeing.
A perfect visual to go with that text. Well done, Linda!
If there had been a red star and a white, I could have tucked away the photo for next July 4th, but as it was, I decided to use this blue one differently, and it worked out well.
So far behind! Stars are. That’s a great photo.
The heat’s got us all, I think. I sure have slowed down, with posting and commenting as well as running around. I was glad to have these gems show up right outside my place — nature photography in an air conditioned space isn’t the worst thing in the world!