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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

The book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard is an excellent memoir-esque narrative that follows Dillard in her in-depth exploration of the natural world around her. Many make comparisons of this work to that of Henry David Thoreau, particularly his 1854 book Walden (another great read, if anyone is asking), as it was the subject of her master's thesis at Hollins College. This may seem daunting to everyday readers, and it is a dense read; however, the language is lyrical and imaginative, and the narrative is laced with observations that can be applied to anyone's perception of the world around us. Dillard inspires deep thinking about what we see everyday, achieving what most writers would hope for their works.

As the title indicates, Dillard imagines herself to be a pilgrim, a person journeying to a sacred place for in seeking spiritual growth, and she sets her pilgrimage just outside Roanoke in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Tinker Creek, her ultimate destination, becomes a spiritually rich, inspirational oasis through Dillard's experiences. The book starts with her first season in Tinker Creek, in the spring of 1973, and moves through four different sections, one for each season. The narrative of the book as a whole consists of the personal journals and favorite streams of consciousness of Dillard, all over the course of a one year period.

She makes countless references and allusions to literary works, poetry, mythology, astrology, religion, short stories, and all sorts of aspects of our world in her analysis of her natural surroundings. Dillard focuses her thoughts into a beautiful blend of her visual, physical experiences of the nature oasis with her analyses on concepts such as solitude, writing, and religion. Though often found in the nature section of a bookstore, Annie Dillard has described her book as a "book of theology". It is non-fiction yet it holds this other- worldly sense of mysticism that she is able to pull directly out of the real world. This is a must read for anyone with interest in the scientific side of nature, in the philosophical outlook of a modern day writer, or anyone appreciative of clean, smart, thought-provoking literature.

Every read through of this book has given me something new to contemplate, and often times another reason to appreciate the sheer intellect of this incredible woman. "It's a good place to live; there's a lot to think about. The creeks - Tinker and Carvin's are an active mystery, fresh every minute. Theirs is the mystery of the continuous creation and all that providence implies: the uncertainty of vision, the horror of the fixed, the dissolution of the present, the intricacy of beauty, the pressure of fecundity, the elusiveness of the free, and the flawed nature of perfection"(5). This single sentence speaks volumes about not only her surroundings, but also about her work as an author. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek defines writer's envy for me.

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