Recently I have been reading a modern classic, an old style library paperback, titled “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard. First published in 1974 this book describes the thoughts of the author as she lives in the small rural forest at Tinker Creek.
Two things struck me as I read: Firstly, Annie lived slowly enough and simply enough to see around her. That is a habit I will revisit. As Annie wandered the creek she watched and noticed. One story that particularly struck me was of her coming across a venomous black snake on a warm rock ledge in the sun, Annie checked for her snakebite kit and then sat to watch quietly. A mosquito hummed and lighted on the head of the snake. Silence. Then it set its proboscis and fed. The delicacy and beauty of nature, magic to see such a thing. Secondly and less happily, the chapter introduced as Fecundity reminded me of the tooth and claw of nature. Everything eating and hunting everything else. The enormously large birth-rates of some species, for a few to survive. The cold waste of the loss. And the stark competition. Humans are different, we raise a few young seeking for them to grow; and we cooperate as well as compete. That is our path to success. I think we must remember that.
In her after word, written 35 years later, Annie described her book as a work of a young person. When published she was 27, and bold and youthfully passionate for that. My view of the work is different. The prose is beautiful, the stories clear, well-crafted and to the point. Not a book of youthful energy; a book of careful observation! It is a book for those of us who value beauty and sustainability simply because the author lives mindfully observing her environment and the beauty in it. Those of us living in the city can practice this to. Slow down and observe. I recommend the Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to you.