Literature: Dillard’s Tinker Creek

“I come down to the water to cool my eyes. But everywhere I look I see fire; that which isn’t flint is tinder, and the whole world sparks and flames.”

–Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974)

I see fireIn her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard explores the creek near her home in Virginia with an infectious curiosity. Dillard’s writing ranges from detailed notes on the lives of muskrats to reflections on more grand-scale things such as “seeing” and light and God. “I propose to keep here what Thoreau called ‘a meteorological journal of the mind,’” she says, “telling some tales and describing some of the sights of this rather tamed valley, and exploring, in fear and trembling, some of the unmapped dim reaches and unholy fastnesses to which those tales and sights dizzingly lead.” She adds: “I am no scientist. I explore the neighborhood.”

Reading Dillard’s book feels like taking a stroll through a maze of wonder. At every turn, Dillard guides us around an edge that opens up to something unexpected. She couples humor and surprise with seriousness about her subject matter, and what emerges is a beautifully balanced story. The book rolls smoothly through a diverse set of topics all centered around Tinker Creek, and we end up with not just a place but a sense of how that place elevates the mind, spirit, and soul.

A few gems from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:

“Catch it if you can. The present is an invisible electron; its lightning path traced faintly on a blackened screen is flat, and fleeting, and gone.”

“I cannot cause light. The most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.”

“Slow it down more, come closer still. A dot appears, a flesh-flake. It swells like a balloon; it moves, circles, slows, and vanishes. This is your life.”

“If the landscape reveals one certainty, it is that the extravagant gesture is the very stuff of creation.”

“You don’t run down the present, pursue it with baited hooks and nets. You wait for it, empty-handed, and you are filled.”

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2 responses to “Literature: Dillard’s Tinker Creek

  1. love the dillard quotes, it’s on my email signature now! Miss you girl!

  2. Pingback: Landscape: The Creek « DOWN and OUT

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