I saw the tree with the lights in it

This is Melanie’s tattoo:

The quote represents the period of transcendence when one is truly in tune with themselves and their surroundings without being consciously aware of it. For example, I am an artist, so I recognize this as occurring when I zone in so completely to the process of the piece.  However, once I realize that this is occurring, the moment is gone.  I no longer see the tree with the lights in it.

Literary Tattoos: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Annie Dillard

When the 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 lights of the 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 my whole life been a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.  I have since only 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.

- Excerpt from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard


  1. cdt says

    I saw the tree with the lights in it today for the first time. I usually read all or parts of Pilgrim @ tinker creek every summer, but this was the first time I actually saw ‘the tree’. it shook me so , i had to google it to see some like minded folk. Great tatoo!


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