Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

by Annie Dillard

Paperback(Reissue)

$14.41 $15.99 Save 10% Current price is $14.41, Original price is $15.99. You Save 10%. View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Monday, November 26

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061233326
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/10/2013
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 75,442
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)
Lexile: 1100L (what's this?)

About the Author

Annie Dillard has written twelve books,including in nonfiction For the Time Being, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Holy the Firm, and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Heaven and Earth in Jest

I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest. I'd half-awaken. He'd stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood. Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with his front paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his claws, or pummeling a mother for milk. And some mornings I'd wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though I'd been painted with roses.

It was hot, so hot the mirror felt warm. I washed before the mirror in a daze, my twisted summer sleep still hung about me like sea kelp. What blood was this, and what roses? It could have been the rose of union, the blood of murder, or the rose of beauty bare and the blood of some unspeakable sacrifice or birth. The sign on my body could have been an emblem or a stain, the keys to the kingdom or the mark of Cain. I never knew. I never knew as I washed, and the blood streaked, faded, and finally disappeared, whether I'd purified myself or ruined the blood sign of the passover. We wake, if we ever wake at all, to mystery, rumors of death, beauty, violence. . . . "Seem like we're just set down here," a woman said to me recently, "and don't nobody know why."

These are morning matters, pictures you dream as the final wave heaves you up on the sand to the bright fight and drying air. You remember pressure, and a curved sleep you rested against, soft, like a scallop in its shell. But the air hardens your skin; you stand; you leave the lighted shore to explore some dim headland, and soonyou're lost in the leafy interior, intent, remembering nothing.

I still think of that old tomcat, mornings, when I wake. Things are tamer now; I sleep with the window shut. The cat and our rites are gone and my life is changed, but the memory remains of something powerful playing over me. I wake expectant, hoping to see a new thing. If I'm lucky I might be jogged awake by a strange bird call. I dress in a hurry, imagining the yard flapping with auks, or flamingos. This morning it was a wood duck, down at the creek. It flew away.

I live by a creek, Tinker Creek, in a valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge. An anchorite's hermitage is called an anchor-hold; some anchor-holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle to a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor-hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and it keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. 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. The mountains-Tinker and Brushy, McAfee's Knob and Dead Man-are a passive mystery, the oldest of all. Theirs is the one simple mystery of creation from nothing, of matter itself, anything at all, the given. Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home.

The wood duck flew away. I caught only a glimpse of something like a bright torpedo that blasted the leaves where it flew. Back at the house I ate a bowl of oatmeal; much later in the day came the long slant of light that means good walking.

If the day is fine, any walk will do; it all looks good. Water in particular looks its best, reflecting blue sky in the flat, and chopping it into graveled shallows and white chute and foam in the riffles. On a dark day, or a hazy one, everything's washed-out and lackluster but the water. It carries its own lights. I set out for the railroad tracks, for the hill the flocks fly over, for the woods where the white mare lives. But I go to the water.

Today is one of those excellent January partly cloudies in which fight chooses an unexpected part of the landscape to trick out in gilt, and then shadow sweeps it away. You know you're alive. You take huge steps, trying to feel the planet's roundness arc between your feet. Kazantzakis says that when he was young he had a canary and a globe. When he freed the canary, it would perch on the globe and sing. All his life, wandering the earth, he felt as though he had a canary on top of his mind, singing.

West of the house, Tinker Creek makes a sharp loop, so that the creek is both in back of the house, south of me, and also on the other side of the road, north of me. I like to go north. There the afternoon sun hits the creek just right, deepening the reflected blue and lighting the sides of trees on the banks. Steers from the pasture across the creek come down to drink; I always flush a rabbit or two there; I sit on a fallen trunk in the shade and watch the squirrels in the sun. There are two separated wooden fences suspended from cables that cross the creek just upstream from my tree-trunk bench. They keep the steers from escaping up or down the creek when they come to drink. Squirrels, the neighborhood children, and I use the downstream fence as a swaying bridge across the creek. But the steers are there today...

Table of Contents

What People are Saying About This

Melvin Maddocks

"Here is no gentle romantic twirling a buttercup...Miss Dillard is stalking the reader as surely as any predator stalks its game...Here is not only a habitat of cruelty and 'the waste of pain,' but the savage and magnificent world of the Old Testament, presided over by a passionate Jehovah with no Messiah in sight...A remarkable psalm of terror and celebration."

Eudora Welty

"The book is a form of meditation, written with headlong urgency, about seeing. A reader's heart must go out to a young writer with a sense of wonder so fearless and unbridled...There is an ambition about her book that I like...It is the ambition to feel."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Though most other high schoolers who reviewed this book disliked it, I read it as a sophomore and absolutely loved it. After nearly every single page, paragraph, or mind-boggling idea, I would literally jump up, elated, and try to explain what was so amazing to whoever happened to be in the room. Dillard manages to pack hundreds of original, thought-provoking images and ideas into the novel with vivid, striking language. The book isn't a particularly quick read, but Dillard retains the reader's interest with unexpected bits of science and stunning sentences sprinkled (and sometimes heavily poured) throughout. If you have, as Dillard does, "a brain-pouch, catching and absorbing small bits that fall deeply into [your] open eye," this book is for you. If the passage "...the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor" makes you want to explode with appreciation for words, this book is for you. If you're struggling to find beauty or natural (but not necessarily religious) spirituality within our seemingly brutal world, read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
theKale More than 1 year ago
Annie Dillard's writing at its best. Contrary to what the high school students who give this work one star seem to think, a book doesn't always have to chronicle a definite story with formulaic heroes fighting formulaic villains (I am tempted to say that these students have no soul, but I'll hold off). That said, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek does indeed have a plot. It is the plot of the whole world, and God's plan in it. Dillard's writing is poignant, profound, and sensual. She ties herself to the world she lives in, showing how the land we are raised in is a part of who we are. Pilgrim is, in its core, a soul-baring - it is Dillard letting us see the world through her eyes. And a beautiful sight it is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The negative reviews on this page are not suprising (although they are very amusing.) You would be hardpressed to find another book with the polarity of responses recorded here, with the same strength of reactions. This speaks to the nature of this wonderful book. This narrative requires an appreciation of a strong literary voice, a patience not found in most readers, and an open mind. A love of the natural world helps as well, though if you can appreciate the tone of the book, there is a good chance that Ms Dillard will instill a love of nature, or at least portray the world in which we live in a new light. Every time I pick this book up I am amazed, every time I am enthralled and mesmerized. The writer of these pages possesses a mind of unparalleled originality and brilliance. How these words were assembled into one volume is at once mysterious and wonderful. The bottom line is that this is one of the best books ever put to print. Unfortunately, that which makes it great also makes it relatively unaccessable. This is not a page turner. It requires patience. Read ten pages at a time so as not to become oversaturated. So, either you will get it or not. Either you will cherish it forever, or wish to set it to fire. I hope beyond hope, however, you will not be one of the latter.
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
Listening to the audio version of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is like having a lovely conversation with Annie Dillard. She meanders through whatever subject crosses her mnds, exclaiming over muskrats, frogs, and praying mantis. She wonders about the meaning of the things she encounters on her walks along Tinker Creek and then she forgets about meaning and just admires the beauty of it all. Her prose is gorgeous, more poetry then mere nonfiction writing. She's young, and it shows in her exuberant sometimes overly gushing enthusiasm. Her musings can be random and seem disconnected, but are more often charming and conversational. I enjoyed this chance to get to know Annie Dillard and the landscape she loved. I listened to this book on audio read by Tavia Gilbert. She does a fantastic job of capturing the energy, enthusiasm, and wonder of Annie's observations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a very fascinating and heavy read. I expected it to be pleasant and written with beautiful detailed writing. I was half right. It indeed had incredibly stunning writing with detail that almost bowled me over, but it was not pleasant nor calm throughout. She explained many things with gruesome detail which could be frightening at times, but very intriguing. One of my favorite sections confused me a bit a short section about how she allowed the spiders in her house to run freely about. I was confused as to why exactly it was my favorite because spiders are, and have never been, a spot of interest to me. ¿I figure that any predator that hopes to make a living on whatever small creature might blunder into a four-inch square of space in the corner or the bathroom where the tub meets the floor, needs every bit of my support.¿ This part of the section really struck me as great, thoughtful writing. I think it takes a great writer to make someone interested in a subject they have had no interest in. Some parts of the book struck me as a bit eerie. One example is the section from her past where she is describing the Polyphemus moth her 4th or 5th grade class had acquired. ¿He heaved himself down the asphalt driveway by infinite degrees, unwavering. His hideous crumpled wings lay glued and rucked on his back, perfectly still now, like a collapsed tent.¿ These two sentences completely enraptured me. The visualization was so clear and alarming that I was a bit subdued after reading this passage. I think I will read this book again when I am older. I feel that I will appreciate it more, and I will understand things better. For now, I think I will definitely recommend this book! You have to completely lose yourself in it to fully acknowledge the fine writing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the first page, where she describes the tomcat who left roses on her body to the end where she tells the horrifying story of the Eskimo, Annie Dillard kept me glued to the pages. I never knew that philosophy and theology were so interconnected, nor that nature could inspire such thinking. Dillard takes us away from the cliched to a world we never even dreamed existed. It has changed my life
Guest More than 1 year ago
This text is one of my favorites--worth reading time and again. While many of the books I read have an impact on my beliefs and lifestyle, Annie Dillard's books have made an especially lasting mark on me, influencing not only my writing style and definition of beauty but also my sense of environmental ethics. Her writing is fabulous--each line is poetic and meaningful. The focus of Tinker Creek drifts from nature and the commonplace to profound spiritual concepts. The wealth of information she draws from even the most basic elements of life reflects her attitudes about the beauty of the simple. For those that have always loved nature, to internalize Dillard's work is to gain an appreciation for unique stones and tiny flowers on the south sides of hills, not just grandiose landscapes and majestic wildlife. All nature is awe-inspiring, regardless of scale.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you've ever enjoyed being outside, this book will take you out there and bring you such joy! Annie Dillard is always a joy to read. Her language bejewels her observations in such a way that one is refreshed, relaxed, at peace. She is a fund of nature experiences and facts and ever interesting. A paragraph is sometimes enough. Perfect falling asleep thoughts.
Holly_Furia More than 1 year ago
Book Review: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek This book, told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who lives next to Tinker Creek, is written in a series of monologues and reflections. Over the course of a year, the narrator observes the changing of the seasons as well as the vegetation and various animals near her home. This book is divided into four sections, one for each season. The first chapter, "Heaven and Earth in Jest", is an introduction to the book. The narrator describes the location as well as her connection to it. “I live by a creek, Tinker Creek, in a valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge. An anchorite's hermitage is called an anchor-hold; some anchor-holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle or a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor-hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. It's a good place to live; there's a lot to think about.” Touching upon themes of faith, nature, and awareness the book records the narrator’s thoughts on solitude, writing, and religion. I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the wilderness and the animals. I ended up learning some things about both, that I did not know before. Because the narrator is unknown, it gave the book a mysterious essence. At times, the book was somewhat boring because there wasn’t a lot going on. She mainly sat back and watched. Someone should read this book because it is very interesting and you learn things at the same time. After reading this book, I’ve learned that if you take a second to really look, you might notice something that you never knew was there. I recommend reading other books by Annie Dillard like “Tickets for a Prayer Wheel”, “Living by Fiction”, and “Teaching a Stone To Talk”.
lavenderlady2 More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book about 30 years ago and am re reading it. I purchased two copies for a friend and my sister. Hope they love it as much as I do. Annie is not only a nature lover but everything she write is so poetic and spiritual in nature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This a really beautiful book with strong and beautiful descriptions and metaphors. She doesn't hide any hideousness she finds or let anything magnificant in truth get by. It is as though she is writing straight from what she is feeling at that very moment,no plot is needed. These aren't a pile of memoirs, they are all woven together with central themes about seeing and realizations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would like to know this person. She is equally at home with minute observation as well as grand metaphysics. I reread this book every year or so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After being perfectly enthralled by the chapter entitled, 'Seeing,' which I read in a compilation of essays for a memoir writing class I took, and after hearing many people rave about it, I finally decided that I needed to read the whole book. I couldn't have been more captivated; the author's honesty and fascination instantly grab the reader's attention, and with incredibly fine attention to detail she describes the wonderful world around her...and makes you put down the book viewing your own world with just a little more awe. I actually had to pace myself while reading this book, just to prolong the magic. Recommended to all devoted memoir- and journal-writers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I attempted to read this book in 1974, I believe. It was my summer of expanding my mind. I was a college student then and went on to receive advanced degrees in English and history. I was rather amazed to learn that this has become required reading for some students so I recently tried it again, believing that older and wiser would make a difference. I was wrong. I tried to make it to the bitter end and failed again. It may be for a special type of soul but I don't believe it's for the majority of us. I will say she's big on allegory, metaphor, classic quotes, et cetera. Sadly, though, many have been overused and beaten to death. Perhaps anyone contemplating a purchase should first read an excerpt or two. It's just not what I would call exceptional or classic.
missmel58 on LibraryThing 5 days ago
I came to The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek having just completed Ann Lamott¿s Traveling Mercies. Both texts embody spiritual journeys. Both texts approach the world in general, from my perspective. It was not the appropriate order in which to read these books. I have read other Dillard texts ¿ and have heard her speak ¿ I¿ve always been a fan. I found myself distracted, restless and impatient in the beginning pages of the book. Nothing moved. Oh sure, Tinker Creek moved, but the action of a creek is somewhat sedate.In general, I pace my reading gauging the time it will take to read any given text based on the number of pages therein, and knowing the speed at which I read. I estimated The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to be a three to four day read. But creeks and muskrats move slower than that, not to mention crickets and spiders. Dillard¿s purpose seemed to be to slow down the reader ¿ to engage on a more subtle level. Her pilgrimage slowed me down, forced me to take deep breaths and walk in the meadow west of my house.But I found myself wondering, about a third of the way in, on the day my phone bill was due, how is she paying for this luxurious life? How can she wander the shores of Tinker Creek for hours on end, undisturbed by the outside world and its cares? How is she eating? This was a gap in the text that I simply could not get beyond. I loved her language and her ability to show me her surrounding and emotional and intellectual reaction to those surroundings, but the text as a whole remained very surreal and abstract for me. Unlike Lamott¿s text which at times was entirely too real.In both texts there was a search for God. Both texts had strong feminine voices and perspectives. And yet, they are polar opposites. For Lamott God is to be found in the busyness of life while for Dillard God lives in the quiet places. Dillard¿s biblical references always caught me off-guard. Hers seems to be a more native, pagan approach to life and yet her very Christian presentation does not feel or seem out of place in the pages of her book. The juxtaposition of the texts has given me a perspective in my own writing ¿ do I fall into one camp or the other? In my heart, I think I must learn to fall between the two.
Mazidi on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Overwritten, but beautifully so. And justifyably so: The dramatic extravagance of her prose reflects the inexhaustible spectacle of nature itself. She was 27 in 1972 when she wrote these reflections on nature, science, theology, and whatever tidbits of information were caputured, pinned to a table, and analyzed by the quixotic butterfly net of her mind. This is not a romantic ode to the beauty of nature. Yes, she sees the beauty but she sees the horror also: the transience of life, the meaninglessness of death, the frank speculation about what kind of a God set this all in motion.The framework of the book is a series of chapters corresponding to the seasons of one year as she explores the woods near her home in Virginia. Interspersed with her own observations are tidbits of science, followed by metaphysical interpretations. She sees, she wonders, she writes. Her responses to nature are visceral:"A cast-iron bell hung from the arch of my rib cage; when I stirred it rang, or it tolled, a long syllable pulsing ripples up my lungs and down the gritty sap inside my bones, and I couldn't make it out; I felt the voiced vowel like a sigh or a note but I couldn't catch the consonant that shaped it into sense."This would be a great book to take on a camping trip or retreat. It is a book that I will revisit throughout my life like an old friend.
ccayne on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Indescribable - very trippy meditation on being still, seeing, art, time. Beautifully written and leaves you with much to think about.
hmskip on LibraryThing 5 days ago
I'm not sure how anyone wrote such a book unless it was by hanging a tape recorder around the neck. A torrent of thoughts and useless information - some interesting.
poetontheone on LibraryThing 5 days ago
The first thing that grabbed my attention as I began reading this book is the loveliness of its prose. The sentences are long and vivid and full of color. After forty or so pages, the line between colorful and purple begins to blur. Throughout the books, there are lines, or even a whole page, that shines. The sentiment and the language converge and deliver some powerful declaration, or pose excellent some cosmic query. However, the book slogs after awhile. I think you must go into Tinker Creek expecting highly self-referential field notes on wildlife, complimented by quotations and views Dillard uncovers in whatever she is reading at the time of such observations, and peppered with Biblical allusions. Dillard isn't necessarily preachy here, the allusions fit nicely enough within the wonder of her setting, but they sometimes feel a bit forced rather natural, as though she had to meet some quota on biblical references. At her best, Dillard shows us the majesty of nature through her eyes, all at once violent and beautiful. Despite this, I was frequently bored with her descriptions. It all began to seem too familiar. A uniquely presented work, but I suppose I'd be more apt to return to Barry Lopez if I wanted to run about the wild and winged things of the Earth.
JimmyChanga on LibraryThing 5 days ago
I usually don't finish books that I dislike, that's why I have so few 2 star reviews here on this site. However, this one seemed harmless enough, and there were aspects of the book I liked (at least when I started). For example, there are a lot of stories and anecdotes about nature that were really interesting: "On cool autumn nights, eels hurrying to the sea sometimes crawl for a mile or more across dewy meadows to reach streams that will carry them to salt water." These are adult eels, silver eels, and this descent that slid down my mind is the fall from a long spring ascent the eels made years ago. [...] In the late summer of the year they reached maturity, they stopped eating and their dark color vanished. They turned silver; now they are heading to the sea [...where] they will mate, release their eggs, and die. [...] Imagine a chilly night and a meadow; balls of dew droop from the curved blades of grass. [...] Here come the eels. The largest are five feet long. All are silver. They stream into the meandow, sift between grasses and clover, veer from your path. There are too many to count. All you see is a silver slither, like twisted ropes of water falling roughly, a one-way milling and mingling over the meadow and slide to the creek."This is interesting. It's this kind of stuff that kept me reading. There's still a little bit of over-writing in there that I despise, but whatever. Now listen to this next part:"If I saw that sight, would I live? If I stumbled across it, would I ever set foot from my door again? Or would I be seized to join that compelling rush, would I cease eating, and pale, and abandon all to start walking?"Blegh! The melodrama! The romanticization! The overly dramatic prose... and why does she always think everything has to do with HER? Almost every time she mentions some natural phenomena, she inevitably ends the thought with some kind of personal revelation or reaction. It seems excessive and selfish and human-centric. It seems exactly what I don't want to read in a book about nature. She just inserts herself everywhere, as if her thoughts are more important than what is actually going on.As for the language, which people seem to praise, I found it bloated, overwritten and unnecessarily concerned with description. Not just description, but description bordering on embellishment. I felt her human hands in everything, making the beauty that she often describes into heavy prose full of awkward strain and effort.
Sandydog1 on LibraryThing 5 days ago
It won the Pulitzer. It is revered by nature writers. It is lyrical. It is boring.
WaxPoetic on LibraryThing 5 days ago
It is more than an exercise in note-taking and observation to record evidence of such present moments as happen when eyes are open and time is abundant. Annie Dillard tells the story of built moments, crafted from the accidents of pond life and sunshine and floods. She would be a hoarder of facts but for her willingness to share them in aid of curiosity and storytelling. And it is her storytelling that weaves as novelists do and allows her readers almost to forget that what she tells you is not simply fact, it is truth.I have relished this book as one would a box of fine chocolates or bottle of delicious tequila and was equally distressed for it to end. It is not for everyone, but for those who can fall into the world as seen through the eyes of Ms. Dillard, it is a delight and a wonder.
KendraRenee on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Way too much fluff, and too little substance. I would read several pages at a time before I realized I hadn't learned anything worthwhile, if not anything at all. Would not recommend.
lunasilentio on LibraryThing 5 days ago
I am so utterly envious of Dillard. She writes with such poise and it seems effortless, as though the words are just falling out of the air into her pen. Some of the descriptions are just fantastic. The best part of my public school education was this book. Can you imagine she wrote this so young? I have to say I don't like her later books as much as this one. HIGHLY recommended.
booklove2 on LibraryThing 5 days ago
I needed to read a book like this right now. Dillard appreciates things within nature like a small child or a born-blind person with new sight.. noticing things down to the tiniest detail. (Literally -- she occasionally busts out a microscope and takes a gander at pond scum.) I only wish I was like that. I learned a ton of stunning nature based facts. And like I said, I really needed to read something nature based and appreciative of the little things. (I'm at the point of wishing I was sitting solitary in the middle of the woods and what better way to do things you can't really do than to read about it? Nature is always there for me to appreciate.) Dillard has studied theology so I was very surprised (and pleased) that she wasn't writing more about religion. This reminded me of the essays of Barbara Kingsolver and her book Prodigal Summer is almost a fictional story of someone like Annie Dillard.