Annie Dillard’s “Lenses,” from her essay collection Teaching a Stone to Talk, is a good read for Valentine’s Day. As Dillard notes, it’s not an essay about lenses as much as it is about swans, which she sees in Daleville, Virginia on Valentine’s Day. And Dillard clarifies, “It is not even a story; it is a description of swans. This description of swans includes the sky over a pond, a pair of binoculars, and a mortal adult who had long since moved out of the Pittsburgh basement.” As Dillard describes the two whistling swans, “fast as rotifers: two whistling swans, infinitesimal, beating their tiny wet wings, perfectly formed,” consider the dream Socrates had the night before he met Plato. It is said Socrates had a dream in which a cygnet flew from the altar of Eros, landed on his lap, and then, as if all at once, emerged as a full-fledged swan. How, then, should we celebrate this Neoplatonic Valentine’s Day?
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