My copy of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek recently returned to me after a stint at a friends’ house. I enjoyed re-reading marked up passages and browsing it again. It was like reuniting with a friend and seeing afresh how amazing he is, anticipating the hours of conversation and feeling my wealth in having him around.
And now I’ll introduce you: Friend, this is Pilgrim. Buy it. Read it. Mark it up. (Keep a dictionary at hand; it uses words I don’t recognize.)
Here are a couple of my favorite passages (which are even better in context):
There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and wind pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won’t have it. the world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright.
I wonder if we do not waste most of our energy just by spending every waking minute saying hello to ourselves.
There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But– and this is the point– who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.