Friday, September 19, 2008

Finding Pennies...

I recently got a new camera, which I'm really excited about! I'll be in Volos, Greece from late January until early May studying, and I really wanted to get something to take great pictures and stay in better contact with my family and, of course, my blog friends. Thus, the camera. Plus, it's lots of fun to just walk around and record the beautiful things in life while I have a few minutes in between classes.

I also bought a new book. It's a book I read a portion of for my Philosophy of Religion course last semester and I absolutely fell in love with it. Imagine my surprise when I found this book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, on the 50 cent rack at my local library! They were trying to get rid of this beautifully written book! If you haven't heard of it, I highly recommend it. Before I put up my new pictures, I wanted to share a quote about it that I think about every time I get out my camera and start taking photos. Dillard writes:

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. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I've never been seized by it since. For some reason I always "hid" the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD of MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked out. 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.
It is still the first week in January, and I've got great plans. I've been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But - and this is the point - who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.

Like I said, Dillard writes in poetic prose, revealing such beauty about the world around us with only words. So here's to my new toy, helping me look at the world in a new and more beautiful way. Here's to looking for the pennies dropped by nature's wayside.


Anonymous said...

Four months in Greece - that should be wonderful. (I have a variant on that penny thing - when I find one that is tails-up, I flip it over so that it is a good luck penny and leave it for someone to find.)

rob winger said...

did you take these pics?
and do you need a chaperone for greece?

Mark said...

Citizen - Good karma to you! I wonder how often it is that good things happen to us on other people's conscious account without us ever knowing about it...
Probably more often than we think.

Rob - I DID take these myself! I've just been running around campus with my new camera taking all the pictures I can. These are a few of the recent highlights. You should definitely come to Greece! I'm excited about seeing the ancient sites (Battle of Thermopoly, Athens, Mt. Olympias, etc.). It'd definitely be fun to sight-see with you who knows a lot about Biblical history.