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Extra info for American Writers, Supplement VI
Observations and Experiments," another poem about seeing, comes from a book called Observations and Experiments in Natural History (1960), which sounds technical and dry as dust. " As with her earlier work, literal description effortlessly spills over into resonant metaphor. As its title suggests, Dillard's 1999 work For the Time Being also continues the author's earlier themes of vision, the search for spiritual significance, courage in the face of great suffering, and the place (in many senses) of humans in the universe and in time.
In characteristic Dillard fashion, one of the most prominent descriptive details assumes metaphoric significance. Everywhere she goes in China, Dillard sees trees, a precious national resource, carefully watered and protected in an environment that is hostile at best, "a kind of packed dust. " By contrast, in the United States, trees are so common they are ignored, needing little care. " The tactful image of the trees evokes the differences between the two countries: in the poor country, life flourishes in spite of the hostile environment; in the wealthy one, life flourishes although people are unconscious of its lushness and their own neglect.
Facing painful psychological (as well as physical) dangers, Mary Rowlandson turns to her faith in God to sustain her and to give meaning to her chaotic and confusing experiences. Similarly, Dillard turns to ponder—though with less certain acceptance—divinity's place in such a horrifying universe. " "It's rough out there and chancy," she acknowledges, but then describes the deliberate, wings'-folded drop and last-minute graceful landing of a mockingbird, concluding "that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them.