While a writer of Annie Dillard’s stature doesn’t need reviews the way our local writers’ group does (hint hint), people who ponder life’s mysteries and fleeting nature need to know more about her input on the subject. Now that I’ve read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and listened to it on Audible, I’ll never think the same way about the natural world again. I can’t see a shadow without remembering that outside shadows are blue because they’re lit by the blue sky rather than the yellow sun or walk in my front yard without thinking of the moles beneath the spongy ground.
There’s a lot to read and absorb and reread and ponder and investigate. Dillard says that like the bear, she went over the mountain to see what she could see. Through her eyes, I’ve seen more than I ever imagined was “out there.” Here’s the Amazon review:
“How can you not like a nonfiction book that’s both informational and interesting? Entertaining too. Seriously, if I’d had exposure to texts that made science even remotely as engaging and intriguing as this one, I might have been become an ornithologist or entomologist. Who knew that the average size of all living animals, including humans, is almost that of a horsefly or that the average temperature of Earth is 57 degrees Fahrenheit? Not I, at least not until reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
“Dillard’s musings on life, both ours as humans and that of the planet’s inhabitants (from muskrats to mites), trees, rocks, creeks, clouds, and mountains, give the reader a fascinating perspective on nature and on life itself. I’ll never walk out in the front yard again without thinking of the moles burrowing beneath the soil or the starlings let loose in Central Park in 1890. I’ll never stand beside a creek without remembering its rushing, fleeting nature being a metaphor for life. One thing I will remember is the admonition to “Catch it if you can….These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present.”
“This book was first recommended to me by some writer friends after I mentioned that I was reading (at that time) For the Time Being. “You have to read Pilgrim,” they all practically shouted at me. Now I know why. The prose, the information, the visual pictures of Tinker Mountain and its surroundings, the vocabulary (chitin, oriflamme, bastinado for starters), and the references to spiritual and scientific sources make this book a must-read.”
One of my daughters and I visited Chimney Rock, NC this past weekend, and while there, we repeated something we’d done with the rest of the clan a few Thanksgivings ago. We walked out on to the rocks and boulders in the rushing creek behind the shops and restaurants and took a picture. Unlike the family photo taken years ago, this one was a selfie.
We were smiling, happy to be alive and experiencing the wild, fast, loud creek rushing around and above and beyond us. I thought of Dillard’s reminder that this is a lighted season. “I never merited this grace,” she said. Nor did I. But hallelujah, I’ll take it.