I've been re-reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek over the past few days. I first read this book four years ago, in a sophomore English course called "Visions of Nature in Literature". The book (and the course) was an awakening. I admire Annie Dillard so much because she plunges herself into life with such ambition & wonder & courage. She's not afraid to suss out the truth, to push the envelope, to confront both fears & joys head on.
In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she focuses a lot on how difficult it is to be fully conscious of the present moment, yet how fulfilling it is when you catch that moment. "Catch it if you can", she challenges the reader. She also talks about self-consciousness, in the sense of being aware of oneself, not in the more commonly used sense of being shy or uncertain of oneself. She says: "Self-consciousness hinder[s] the experience of the present . . . [It] is the curse of the city and all that sophistication implies. It is the glimpse of oneself in the storefront window."
Last night, I was standing on the platform at Park Street, waiting for the green line (Bostonians knows this is a very long wait at rush hour). A couple of men were playing horn instruments nearby - a tuba and I believe a trumpet. They could have been professionals or street performers. I couldn't tell and I loved that I couldn't. I noticed a couple of sparrows flying around near the roof. I let myself lean into the moment, into the music floating around the busy train station and the little birds flitting back & forth. All of a sudden, I felt the glance of a fellow passenger and there it was - self-consciousness. I saw myself as he had seen me, standing on the platform - brown blazer, jeans, plaid scarf - staring up into the rafters. And I was no longer in the moment. I'm going to go live in a field somewhere.