Pennies in the Woods In Annie Dillard's essay "Seeing" she delves deeply into the smaller points of life. She talks of how seeing things isn't always enough, and how one needs to look deeper at what is going on around them, especially in nature. Nature plays a big part in Dillard's journey into enlightenment, for her it metaphorically represents real life. Dillard uses a formula of sorts to express what she is really trying to say, however, the true meaning of her lengthy metaphors is often hard to decipher. This formula is very simple, first she presents an image, then she offers the reader a theme to go along with the image, the third part; on the other hand, is the hardest, the reader has to figure out what Dillard is really describing when you figure out the image and the theme. If; however, you read closely enough, you can extract what she is trying to depict.
There were two major concepts that stood out to me: first was the hiding of the pennies, and second was Tinker Creek. These two themes are what Dillard uses mainly in this essay, and they contribute to the formula that Dillard uses to express herself.
Dillard says, "When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find" (81). She uses this practice as a sort of gift to the world. This metaphor is meant to depict the way we should go through life. The penny is a gift that she gives with out any retribution at all, ""¦ I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny" (Dillard 82). She impressing on the reader that if we give something of ourselves then our lives will be enriched and more wholesome. Dillard mentions that it is a sad state for a man to be in when he is too fatigued to bend down and reach for a mere penny, but how it could be a joyous occasion to gaze down and see a shiny penny on the ground, a reward for seeing what was around you (82). If you were the one who had put the penny on the ground that made someone's day, even if you never saw the person who picked it up, it would have been an act of humanity and charity. Dillard strongly suggests in this essay that we should change the way we observe things. She touches on the fact that we need to concentrate more on the finer things in life several times throughout this essay.
"I bang on hollow trees new water, but so far no flying squirrels have appeared. In flat country I watch every sunset in hopes of seeing the green ray. The green ray is a seldom " seen streak of light that rises from the sun like a spurting fountain at the moment of sunset; it throbs into the sky for two seconds and disappears. One more reason to keep my eyes open. (Dillard 83)" The green ray is a symbol, much like the penny, that represents the small things in life that enrich our lives.
Like the pennies and the green ray, the way Dillard describes Tinker Creek as a big natural metaphor for the real world, is quite deep and somewhat vague. She describes Tinker Creek as a whole universe but under water, "Tremendous action roiled the water everywhere I looked, big action, inexplicable. (85)" The creek is a small version of the whole world; she sees small things that happen there and is completely enthralled by them. Sometimes so much so that she gets over whelmed and almost falls to the ground. She models the creek as an almost perfect world, where everything is as it should be, and all of nature is working in harmony.
The sub themes of light and dark and movement are also very prevalent in Dillard's description of Tinker Creek. She uses them as a contrast between good and evil, and what we see compared to what we should see.
"A fog that won't burn away drifts and flows across my field of vision. When you see fog move against a backdrop of deep pines, you don't see the fog itself, but streaks of clearness floating across the air in dark shreds. So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity. I can't distinguish the fog from the overcast sky; I can't be sure if the light is direct of reflected. Everywhere darkness and the presence of the unseen appalls. (85)" The concept of not seeing the fog, but the movement of the spaces that are clear is very philosophical. I think that she means that sometimes we don't actually see what is going on right in front of us, and instead only see a lack of value in things. I interpret her use of light and dark as another way of telling the reader to look deeper into whatever it is that you are observing.
Dillard uses many metaphors in this essay, and she describes a lot of things that may not seem very clear at first, but I suppose that the point of this essay is to look further into what she is portraying to get the point of what she is actually trying to teach us. Yet, she makes some very valid points: We do need to enrich our lives somehow, and make ourselves better by helping others. Sometimes we don't really see what we are looking at, but look at things and take only what we want from them. We need to expand the way we see life, and notice the small things that happen right in front of our eyes.