As I read the tiny black letters spelling out “Correspondence – Annie Dillard” on TARO, an electronic database that exhaustively lists the contents of all the writers’ boxes, my leisurely skimming turned into surprise and a hast request for a box from Gretel Ehrlich’s collection. Admittedly, before my first year at Tech, I didn’t know what the Sowell Collection held not had I heard of any of the names in it, which is to also say that I didn’t have much context of environmental writing. But I had known Annie Dillard from passages that passed under my eyes in AP English, passages from A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and I admire her.
My gauge on how the writing of these writers may come to impact me personally has been brought more into focus by the letters between Annie Dillard and Gretel Ehrlich. The first letter I read through expressed Dillard’s enthusiasm for Ehrlich’s then new book, Questions of Heaven, and in that letter, Dillard remarks on her own project about her intertwining thought on “Israel and ancient China.” My brain flipped over in surprise, because I’ve had similar conversations with a close friend of mine. I finished Ehrlich’s The Future of Ice over the winter break, and my curiosity hums over the Buddhist undertones in the writing of Ehrlich, a practicing Buddhist. The hum once became so loud in my head that when I visited family in Denver, Colorado, I stopped by the Shambhala Meditation Center early in the morning on New Year’s Day for tea. And for the past year or so, I’ve delved curiously into Israeli history and Jewish culture. Behold, in front of me, the handwritten thoughts of Annie Dillard writing about the parallels of Israel’s history in response to Gretel Ehrlich’s Questions of Heaven.
Way cool. To me, at least.