Take a moment and read this passage by Annie Dillard.
“When her doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw”the tree with the lights in it.” It was for this tree I searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years. Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.”
I read this passage a few days ago, and I let out a soft sigh in disbelief and wonder. How could someone do this with words? I knew Dillard was revered as a writer, and with this passage I saw firsthand why.
If a genie offered me a mastery at a craft and to do it professionally, drumming would be on the shortlist. I feel a groove in my gut, before my head understands what’s going on. When a drummer plays in the pocket, I feel like the world is aligned—the earth rotating at the proper beats per minute.
Drummers like Eric Moore or Larnell Lewis are the ones I’d ask the genie to use as reference, technical, melodic, masters of the instrument. They lay down the beat, and when it comes time, they dazzle with cacophonous solos. Their arms blur into eight different limbs, each holding a drumstick. It’s the only way to explain how they play with such speed and clarity.
The paragraph above is Dillard’s drum solo after holding the beat the whole chapter. The chapter is about seeing, and this life changing moment is the climax at the end of the chapter. A drummer with words, at the top of her game showing us what she can do.
I’m floored. I feel her writing in my soul before my head understands what’s going on. A genie will never come by and tap me on the shoulder, but I feel hints of being able to do this with words.