Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Annie Dillard

“Today I watched and heard a wren, a sparrow and the mockingbird singing. My brain started to trill why why why, what is the meaning meaning meaning?”

 

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Annie Dillard described this as a “meteorological journal of the mind.”

Her personal narrative of life in Tinker Creek, Virginia vacillates between deep, frenzied, spiritual insights and long-winded explanations of insects, animals and weather. An academic analysis of the natural world suddenly dives into a theological, almost poetic, open-ended musing. For Dillard, there is no distinction between science and religion, secular or sacred; everything is created, and therefore, owed worship.

The book is fascinating. It’s rewarding. But it’s also wildly long-winded, and we’re not given much time to breathe before we’re off on another crazed epiphany. Dillard seems aware of her own mania, though – she believes in the urgency of attention, the duty to revere every lived moment.

You’d think an editor might have considered her long-windedness before publication, but honestly, it a nice break to read a novel that moves at its own, exhausting, unapologetic pace. No pandering to American attention spans can be found here. Dillard assumes we’re with her every step of the way, and launches into deep, joyful, spiritually hysterical ravings without even a “buckle up” for her reader.

More power to her.

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“What I aim to do is not so much learn the names of the shreds of creation that flourish in this valley, but to keep myself open to their meanings, which is to try to impress myself at all times with the fullest possible force of their very reality.”

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