This is a book I will return to again and again. Dillard asks big questions in these 200 pages and I was not always sure I was absorbing the full implications of her questions or the scenarios she set beside them. Terra cotta warriors crawl out of the ground in China. Teilhard philosophizes, theologizes, and sciences across China–and falls in love, but remains celibate. Babies are born and seem to pop through in factory style. Nature creates anomalies that seize more of Dillard’s attention than the healthy infants being bathed assembly-line style in the hospital. Lots of people die and the volume seems to diminish the loss of any one person.
Dillard sounds like she is grieving. Exhausted. Bitter. Narrowly hopeful (or did I just read that into the white spaces?). Is he like Teilhard, whom she quotes as saying of Christianity, “We have had too much talk of sheep. I want to see the lions come out”?
Another quote, perhaps, supports my assessment of hope. “In the United States, only 6,381 of us die a day. on average, and 10, 582 new people emerge from their mothers. Her mother remembers Suri Feldman’s birth and everything else about her, I expect.”
I hold onto this last line to see Dillard’s thread of hope. Despite the numbers, the relentless statistics, each of us matters to someone.
The pace and meandering anger of empty spaces of this text were familiar to me as the geography of where grief takes a heart. While not a space I want to spend long hours in, it is a space from which I have had to flee and know that, when I feel safe again, it is a space to which I need to visit to prepare for when I am forced to live there again for a longer time. That Dillard captures it so accurately is amazing. And frightening. And amazing.