Commonplace: Anne Dillard, “Total Eclipse”

“From all the hills came screams. A piece of sky beside the crescent sun was detaching. It was a loosened circle of evening sky, suddenly lighted from the back. It was an abrupt black body out of nowhere; it was a flat disk; it was almost over the sun. That is when there were screams. At once this disk of sky slid over the sun like a lid. The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover. The hatch in the brain slammed. Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky. In the night sky was a tiny ring of light. The hole where the sun belongs is very small. A thin ring of light marked its place. There was no sound. The eyes dried, the arteries drained, the lungs hushed. There was no world. We were the world’s dead people rotating and orbiting around and around, embedded in the planet’s crust, while the Earth rolled down. Our minds were light-years distant, forgetful of almost everything. Only an extraordinary act of will could recall to us our former, living selves and our contexts in matter and time. We had, it seems, loved the planet and loved our lives, but could no longer remember the way of them. We got the light wrong. In the sky was something that should not be there. In the black sky was a ring of light. It was a thin ring, an old, thin silver wedding band, an old, worn ring. It was an old wedding band in the sky, or a morsel of bone. There were stars. It was all over.”

Annie Dillard, “Total Eclipse,” The Atlantic. Full essay here. Hat tip Natalie.


Commonplace: Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison, “Day 39” from Meditations from the Mat

“Long after all our other practices have fallen by the wayside, and no matter how much pain we are in or how self-destructive we have been, prayer is available to us. And prayer will find us the energy we need to come back from the brink. The message of the Buddha, of Christ, and of yoga is the possibility of resurrection, redemption, rebirth. Prayer is the locomotive that drives the resurrection train. […] Prayer is the means by which we formally surrender. Going to the mat is a form of surrender; abstaining from violence and being truthful are forms of surrender. Prayer is surrender.”

~ Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison, “Day 39” from Meditation from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga.

Head Gardner of Lambeth Palace

Fascinating excerpt from a new book about being the current head gardener of Lambeth Palace, where the Archbishop of Canterbury stays when he is in London. Key paragraph:

If you read anything about the Palace it mentions Cardinal Pole’s enormous fig tree, which was originally brought to the site in 1556 by the last Roman Catholic Archbishop. It’s an extraordinary plant to inherit. We get great crops, the figs are thin-skinned and taste like pure honey. I prune the plant every five years so you can see the great hall behind it, which is an amazing building. The first year we pruned the fig it was right out onto the tarmac and about thirty feet high…. We could see the vigour of the plant, so I pruned it back even harder. I probably left about 50 percent of growth and then they all gasped! But that was me getting my confidence, thinking, ‘OK, it’s not going to die’. And we saw it respond amazingly. I’ve learned to propagate the fig as well, which is a fairly tricky operation. We’ve sent them all around the world; the Pope was given one at the Vatican. He was presented with one of my cuttings.

Imagine eating figs from a tree planted in the 16th century.