Seeing is a great gift; seeing beauty in nature is experiencing a sense of beauty in person. Sometimes, it is necessary to stop right on the street and notice how slowly and charmingly leaves fall from the trees and how beautiful the snow is. All the work and dreams about something unattainable prevents people from seeing the beauty that surrounds them. Beauty of nature is everywhere, even in the simplest things, like the raindrops or snowflakes, in the sunlight that illuminates the trees, or in a flower that grows through the pavement. A person can look at water for hours and sometimes get the feeling that a mystery is concealed in each circle of water. Such moments remind people that beauty is not only in dreams, but somewhere nearby too; and seeing helps reach it (Dillard 111).
Annie Dillard’s essay does not have a plot or characters. She explores phenomenon of sight: what, how, and why people see. She uses her personal observations, depiction of nature, as well as references to other books and investigations of other naturalists. An interest in the small particular details is the distinctive feature of the author’s writing style. Her figurative language is also very rich, as she uses different symbols, comparisons, and metaphors. She starts with a story from her childhood, in which she describes how she liked to hide money for others to notice (Dillard 111). Actually, seeing is a gift that people need to use; people are capable of seeing more if they care and have a desire to do so.
According to the author, what people see is what they get. There are so many things to see: surprises, packed gifts, different natural phenomena. People do not know what is inside or what meaning objects that they see have, but their imagination gives them clues (Dillard 111). People see what they expect, believe in what they want to believe, and refuse to believe in something they do not like. Humans see what they are used to seeing and notice only what is expected. The author writes that people often see the “natural obvious”, but have difficulty with seeing the “artificial obvious”, meaning that it is not hard to see what is expected, but it is more difficult to see what is unanticipated. When looking at a sunset, Annie Dillard sees the “natural obvious,” but observing the invisible clouds is the “artificial obvious.” Stewart Edward White once wrote that if one looks closely enough, it is possible to see the wind (Dillard 112). However, the artificial obvious is hard to see. People try to see what is painted in their minds by imagination. This can be supported by the author’s example of a bullfrog. She expected to see a green frog, because her imagination created an image of a green and small creature. However, she did not see it for three minutes, because the reality did not coincide with the author’s vision of a frog. A frog appeared to be very big and of a wet bark color (Dillard 114).
People are so used to relying on their senses, that there is absolutely no doubting the results they get. However, the reality as people know it is only the result of their ideas about it. There is a simple example: when a person really wants to see something, he or she does, even if this is not the objective reality. The reality may be different from how people perceive it. Generally, it is impossible to see the reality objectively, without any expectations. Each person sees the world differently. For example, children see what they see without adding any knowledge or fear derived from previous experience because they simply do not have this experience. However, they cannot understand the true meaning of what they see (Dillard 112). A man with a rich experience sees things more clearly and understands what is happening more quickly, but his vision can be distorted, as it has passed through the filters of various influences. Therefore, it is possible to say that everyone sees what they want.
The author claims that there are “two ways of seeing.” The first way involves analyzing and exploring the perceived objects or phenomena. The second one rejects analyzing. This is true seeing. Who can truly see, knows “the secret of seeing”, which is perception of reality in an ideal, harmonious way (Dillard 112).
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Annie Dillard advises to keep eyes open as nature is a miracle and a great adventure. Every time people leave their houses, they should begin to observe the world and discover new and amazing things about nature. The author describes various images of nature and evokes in readers a maelstrom of emotions connected with natural beauty. Through her own observation of nature, she describes flora and fauna and how the seasons change. It becomes obvious that she loves to walk in the forests around Tinker Creek in Pennsylvania. Sometimes, the author acts as an instructor, who teaches other people, less competent in seeing nature, how to observe the natural beauty. The author is very experienced in such matters: “Nature is like one of those line drawings of a tree that are puzzles for children”(Dillard 112).
The beauty of nature, as the author sees it, consists of detailed observations of its objects. Annie Dillard draws attention to these objects which people usually ignore. For example, she says that she once saw flying insects in the air and, what is more, how air caught them. She perceives the world as a great divine creation, full of intrigue and small and large natural objects: from the birds in the sky to the grass covering the earth. She writes how many different impressive details human eyes do not see, such as the cut stems on the fields made by field mice, flying insects, or wind (Dillard 112). She admits that it is still hard for her to see some details or things in nature: “If I can’t see these minutiae, I still try to keep my eyes open“ (Dillard 112). Here the question arises, how she knows about these things, if she has never seen them. In any case, she feels and understands the beauty of these small objects.
The author also contrasts seeing to the state of blindness, which she first experienced in the darkness at Tinker Creek. If a person does not see objects, they start to imagine them to rely more on other senses. She writes that in darkness, she felt how Earth revolved. According to Annie Dillard, “seeing is very much a matter of verbalization” (Dillard 118). If nothing passes before their eyes, people do not see or understand it. Referring to a book called Space and Sight by Marius von Senden, Annie Dillard describes how different people’s senses are before and after a surgical operation on cataract that people suffered from since birth. This book pays attention to people’s feelings and words after cataract surgery, immediately after seeing for the first time (Dillard 116). It is incredible how people react to the world; it can only be compared to the experience that people fo through at birth. Generally, people see the light, lots of light, with strange, shapeless, fuzzy objects. One girl after surgery, could not understand why there were dark marks painted on pictures everywhere. It was explained to that girl that there were no dark marks, but the form and shadow; however, it was completely new to her. As the author writes, people, who were blind since birth and then gained sight, see the world as “a dazzle of color-patches” (Dillard 116).
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At the end, Dillard admits that when she is completely immersed in the process of observation, the world looks completely new to her, as a picture that she has never seen before. Such moments happen by accident, like the divine or supernatural revelations to humans. Seeing is considered a religious experience in the book, as a feeling of presence of something higher, more perfect and complete than a human being (Dillard 119). A man is a part of nature and can live only in unity with nature.
In conclusion, people do not normally pay attention to small objects in nature, taking them for granted. In the essay “Seeing,” Annie Dillard’s aim is to help people slow down their everyday routine and notice the beauty of nature. The author’s detailed descriptions of nature give the readers their own ideas and encourage tham to open their eyes wide and look at the world differently. Nature is a kind of relaxation for the human body, so observing it is like finding another world. Thus, seeing means getting into the depth of nature and its charm. Exploring the world through the sight is a great pleasure given to people as a precious present.