Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

"I speak for the trees!" the Lorax has been known to proclaim and I've always identified with this, oddly enough. I grew up with the trees, I lived in a little house nestled amongst trees and blueberry bushes. Wild morning glories sunned their faces in the dawn's early light, maple leaves were an outdoor carpet in the fall, and I climbed trees like a squirrel. Wood chopping, berry collecting, flower picking, fish catching were the makings of my childhood. There's something about the woods or forest, something about nature, that speaks to me on a spiritual level. I feel most calm, most at peace, when I am able to escape to nature. 

I came across Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in an article that has long been lost. The subject was something about wanderlust, or hiking, or perhaps nature itself and this book was a suggestion. The description captured everything I wanted to read: a dramatic year in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains! A meditation on nature and its seasons! Yes, I wanted to read about all of that, I could identify with that. Nature has always provided a source of meditation and I marvel at all the seasons--it's one of the biggest reasons I refuse to move to San Francisco, because I love to have four seasons (even if I dislike winter a little more than the other three seasons). And I have so many memories of my angst-ridden teen years when I would be fed up with whatever angst-ridden teens are fed up with and I'd escape to the woods, climb onto of a fallen down tree, and sit with a notebook or novel in hand. I'd listen to the wind, the groan of the trees, and see deer pick their way through the brush.

This, surely, was the book for me.

I took my time with Pilgrim. I began it and found it wasn't something I could read here and there. I had to sit down and read a chunk at a time, fully devoting my attention to it without the distraction of music or television. It became a book read just before bed or early in the morning, with my only company being lazy cats and songbirds outside my window. 

Annie Dillard uses the most perfect language to bring a brilliant mental canvas to life of Tinker Creek. She describes floods, winter storms, the warmth of the sunshine and brilliance of starlight. She's reflective and smart, often going into very detailed passages about different information on bugs in particular. I am not a fan of bugs, not at all, so all the details on bugs did get a bit grating after awhile, but I still appreciate the wonderful language that Dillard used. She's one hell of a writer, really. And while Pilgrim wasn't written as a solid start-to-finish book, rather it's a collaboration of journal entries that were brought together for this book, there's still certainly a rhythm to the writing. It's amazing that something pieced together could still maintain a flow while other books that are meant as one solid story can't even keep a consistent flow.

I often found myself pausing while reading to think of my own nature-filled adventures and the things I myself have seen. At times, I paused to reflect on what I read and think of the imagery that the words brought to my mind. All in all, it's just beautiful.

A friend of mine with similar adoration for nature will surely love the book (she really likes bugs) and while I skimmed the bug sections, I still enjoyed the book as a whole. It was all so lovely, so beautifully written, and it brought to mind all of the emotions and reactions I've had while in the woods. While on one hand, it made me want to run straight for the hills and live amongst the trees, it also reminded me of the forest and brought a little bit of the woods right into my living room.

I really despise writing or highlighting in my books and yet I wanted to do that over and over again with this book. There are so many beautiful phrases and sentences through out it, it's extremely quotable, so I may in the future buy another copy or download it onto my Kindle so that I may highlight to my heart's content. Also? I really like the cover I had (as seen in the cover photo up above). I love how simple it was. This is, so much, like a field book. I even brought it with me while I hiked Minnewaska State Park. I am certain that I will return to this book in the future and joyfully so.

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