Pilgrim at Tinker Creek | Annie Dillard

The cover of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker CreekIn Salvation Means Creation Healed, Snyder lists the various ways in which God’s creation is misunderstood. One of those ways is the romanticization of nature. When we romanticize nature we ignore all the nasty bits—biting mosquitoes, parasites, carnivorous critters—and pretend it’s somehow pristine and pre-fallen.

Dillard makes no such mistake.

The greatest strength of Annie Dillard is her ability to describe in compelling detail the beauty and terror of the natural world in her own back yard.

In one chapter, she’s amazed at how a tree can transform “gravel and bitter salts into these soft-lipped lobes, as if I were to bite down on a granite slab and start to swell, bud, and flower” (112). A few chapter’s later she’s horrified by a nightmare occasioned by watching two huge luna moths mate—”the perfect picture of utter spirituality and utter degradation” (159).

Speaking of spirituality, Dillard’s reflections on creation are profound, ultimately drawing her into praise:

My left foot says “Glory,” and my right food says “Amen”: in and out of Shadow Creek, upstream and down, exultant, in a daze, dancing, to the twin silver trumpets of praise. (271)

Like poetry, Dillard’s prose has to be savored slowly. This is the sort of writing that should be read aloud—every syllable is expertly placed.

Pilgrim is a classic for good reason. Dillard has paired her keen and honest observation skills with her beautiful mastery of language.

You will read this book more than once.

—Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (New York, NY: Harper’s Magazine Press, 1974).

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