What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions

While Unpacking, a Funny Thing I Came Across


So we moved. I’m just now starting to feel like I’m above water enough to make a post here. Between the actual logistics of putting everything we own (two bibliophile grownups, two kids, two dogs, two cats, and about 50 houseplants) into boxes, carting them (with help) two-and-a-half hours southwest (with snow!), and then taking it all out again in a new community, which must simultaneously be learned and navigated, while the animals adjust without the help of language and the kids adjust to a new school system (with new flu bugs, yay!), I haven’t really had the presence of mind to meditate on poetics or the process of having my work published, though that, too, has been going on. Yesterday I made the final approvals of text and cover. (And while they were themselves in the midst of their move, Amy King and Ana Božičević were kind enough to provide me with blurbs for which I will be eternally grateful.)

But while I was unpacking some of my books, I flipped through my copy of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a favorite from my Ecology & Literature course in college, and found this bit highlighted, and typed it up and saved it as a draft post:

Tonight I walked around the pond scaring frogs; a couple of them jumped off, going, in effect, eek, and most grunted, and the pond was still. But one big frog, bright green like a poster-paint frog, didn’t jump, so I waved my arm and stamped to scare it, and it jumped suddenly, and I jumped, and then everything in the pond jumped, and I laughed and laughed.

Now, I don’t remember what I was going to say about it (my brain having been traumatized by the stress of moving and the excitement of impending publication). Clearly I found it amusing, though I’m not unaware that, especially if one grants to frogs, in one’s consciousness, the ability to experience emotion, Ms. Dillard’s actions can be seen as kind of cruel. But it’s not like experiencing a little fright killed the little amphibians. And she never said she was a saint.

I remember once, years ago (but years after first reading her work) I saw online a discussion in which a young man reported meeting Ms. Dillard and being shocked to discover that she was a chain-smoker. It seems he thought someone seeking deeper relations with the natural world would somehow be more enlightened. I commented that perhaps she experienced some social phobia. I didn’t say that she’s got good reason to, having to deal with judgmental pricks like him, though I thought it. Really, writers (and poets) do something rather daring, putting our words out there. I suppose we deserve the downside of the attention we’re seeking, though the funny thing is that a lot of us are, in person, a bit shy. I’m looking forward to reading my poetry again, now that I’m once again in a place where that sort of thing goes on, but I’m not sure if I’m ready for it. Maybe I should take up smoking.

Author: Wendy Babiak

Poet, permaculturalist, lay Carmelite. Pretty sure the world needs more love and less politics.

2 thoughts on “While Unpacking, a Funny Thing I Came Across

  1. i love the line, “ms. dillard’s actions can be seen as kind of cruel.” that is a wonderful observation. i adore annie dillard and that book is surely one of my favorites of all time; your observation explains precisely why it is so enduring.

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