To me Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the book that I thought Walden was going to be. I knew of Walden before I read it. I knew quotes from it. When I visited Walden Pond many years ago on a family vacation I copied down a quote that was on a tee-shirt the pond’s gift shop was selling and I have loved that quote ever since.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
I didn’t buy the shirt (or rather, twist my dad’s arm into buying it for me) because I thought it was a bit pretentious to wear a quote from a book I hadn’t read yet. I didn’t feel as if I had earned it. I am doubly glad, now, that I didn’t. Now that I know what Walden really is. It is something more than a collection of pretty quotes.
Only four chapters in, the something more of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is still eluding me. So far I have almost killed my pink pen in underlining passages that I found striking or fascinating.
I think that, beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.
She writes that line only ten pages into the book. The struggle with Thoreau was how densely layered he made Walden. In many ways, I am finding Annie Dillard a descendent of Emerson more than Thoreau. Emerson’s style is one amazing sentence after another, but with very little cohesion between the passages. It requires a wide focus lens that I don’t possess on most days to actually get to the meat of what he is saying. I think perhaps, that because I am only reacting in to an incomplete work that I do not know what wide-angle lens to look through. I do not know her scope or her depth, as of yet. Not to say she lacks cohesion. I am rather, too distracted by all of her pretty words to be able to grasp her meaning, as of yet.
I do know that she is an amazing wordsmith. She is painting magical scenes of nature and human thought. The awe that she is putting into her observations remind me of when I sat in the theater watching The Lord of the Rings for the first time, Peter Jackson did such a wonderful job of creating his world and making each tree look as if it held secrets that no mere hobbit or human observer had ever thought of.
She makes me, with her color patches want to reexamine Monet and imagine seeing the world for the first time as something flat that is colored with shadows and color patches.
I’m glad that Walden wasn’t what I had thought it would be and I am glad that Tinker Creek is filling that hole in my expectations.