Annie Dillard: Silence and Speaking Stones

Annie Dillard has long been one of my very favorite writers, with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and An American Childhood among my most beloved books. Dillard leaves me alive and awake, grateful for each feather that falls beneath my back-yard juniper, for the sunrise glow illuminated through spring-snow icicles on the crab apple branches.  For the Spanish explorers who saw Christ so clearly in nature that they named the mountain range to my east Sangre de Cristo.  Blood of Christ red on on jagged peaks soaked with evening’s crimson.41Js9DwdriL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Silence in nature can attune us to the presence of the Maker of all things. A mountain lake, a slowly-fading sunset, the expanse of stars on a glittering night shake us from self-centeredness.

I know a counselor whose work in crisis response makes him susceptible to compassion fatigue.  He said the best cure he knows for it is to step outside at night and look up.

Dillard allows God to speak in silent spaces. She makes the silence sing. Attentive silence is prayer; it is the blessed confrontation helping us acknowledge with Job how big God is and how small we are.  Dillard writes in Teaching a Stone to Talk:

The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega. It is God’s brooding over the face of the waters; it is the blended note of the ten thousand things, the whine of wings…Quiet your tents. Pray without ceasing.

It is good to quiet our tents.  To ponder stones, sunsets and crab apple snow.  And the One who, riding a humble donkey into Jerusalem, accepted the jubilant crowd who honored him with palm branches, saying with unchallenged authority:

“If they keep quiet, the rocks will cry out.”


This post is part of a speech-silenceseries (see A Lenten Invitation from a Babbling Brook: Focus on Speech and Silence). To receive new installments, Follow Sparrowfare.

Please share the posts that speak to you.  In this contentious time, let’s spread the word about the importance of our words.  And the importance of silent spaces.




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