Chila Woychik

Letter to Annie Dillard

You were born the day Hitler died. April 30, 1945. And reading you makes me brave.

I think of how you said the written word is weak, how you said to think twice before writing another book “on which to gag the world.” I wonder at the two young boys who visited you, ate popcorn, and asked about your story (had they actually read it?). No, did you write it by hand or type it? About chopping wood while aiming for the block. About the wonder of days.

You brought me up these past years, fed me with feasting. You cradled me like a rock, Simonesquely, with words of light. Those who call you impenetrable, metaphorically obtuse, stroll blind and needy. There was a guy once who, because I rejected his writing, made fun of you. I slew him, metaphorically speaking; my words to him were neither impenetrable nor obtuse.

See your efforts multiplied and grown? You mothered me as a mentor mothers a neophyte, carried me from a desert of desire to a leaping shiny place.

I read faster and less these days for fear of life ending, or something ending, before the paragraph ends. This is what comes with age. The blue veins in my wrist bulge a little more when holding a book or a pen, and the skin begins to crease along the lines of movement. I have a few books I draw off quickly, but while skimming, when what I really want to do is gorge. I draw them off quickly, savor, cap them up, wait, draw them off again. I consume them like rationed chocolate, like manna in a field of soured quail; I find no time for half-way books. My blue veins get bluer.

It comes without saying that the brain hardens and vital spaces shrink, tic toc. So I save myself for the handspring moments, and lines that breathe on and on. Every reader experiences tiny epiphanies and gentle unravelings when the light slants right, when our eyes see beyond the shadows to the apparition called truth.

We arrive without warning, the Great Urge to unleash our burdens of manna, light, and truth. We begin and continue and continue and continue. One day someone ascribes “writer” to our list of abilities, and one day we believe it.

You were born the day Hitler died. He ruled a regime which burned books and limited freedoms, but reading you sets me free, makes me brave.