Acknowledgement of Beauty in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek written by Annie Dillard is a very mysterious novel. She goes through life examining many different things one would not typically pay attention to. She wants for us to go through life the way she does, by observing everything, whether it be big or small, and realize what is happening in our surroundings before it is gone. Pilgrim of Tinker Creek is a novel which consists of short passages which relate to one of her seven themes. The dissolution of the present is a big theme throughout her novel. “The wind is terrific out of the west; the sun comes and goes. I can see the shadow on the field before me deepen uniformly and spread like a plague. Everything seems so dull I am amazed I can even distinguish objects. And suddenly the light runs across the land like a comber, and up the trees, and goes again in a wink: I think I’ve gone blind or died. When it comes again, the light, you hold your breath, and if it stays you forget about it until it goes again”. This is a perfect example of the dissolution of the present. Dissolution of the present in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek could be described as the ending or disappearance of present events, such as the sun setting into night. Annie Dillard uses the coming of night as an example of people not paying attention to what is happening around them. The shadow spreading like a plaque over the field is an analogy one would normally not think of, but it is the perfect example. She is paying attention to every small change that is happening as the sun goes down and all of a sudden the sun has set and it is dark outside, which she compares to being dead or blind. She then talks about how people typically only pay attention to a change for the first few moments it is happening and then forget about it once it is constantly there, like the sun and night. Meaning we only acknowledge the beauty of nature when it is fresh in our minds, but really, this beauty should not be taken for granted and we should be engaged in the beauty around us. It is not just in this passage but all throughout the novel that Annie Dillard is trying to emphasize every action in nature has beauty in it, there is just the choice of whether or not we want to look at it from a fresh view point.

The idea that the beauty of nature is being ignored is what Annie Dillard is trying to address throughout the novel. She comes to the realization that we only pay attention to natures changes when one event ends and another starts, this being the ending of the present. Annie Dillard devotes a whole chapter to the present and shows us all the ways the human population takes nature for granted. She starts off with a sentence saying “Catch it if you can,”. This is the most intriguing sentence throughout the whole novel because she is hinting towards what she wants us to do. She is saying capture the present and what is happening while you can, rather than when it is gone. “Over head, great strips and chunks of cloud dash to the northwest in a gold rush. At my back the sun is setting, how can I not have noticed before that the sun is setting? My mind has been a blank slab of black asphalt for hours, but that doesn’t stop the sun’s wild wheel. I set my coffee beside me on the curb; I smell loam on the wind; I pat the puppy; I watch the mountain,”. Here, Annie Dillard again brings up the sunset but she is realizing that she did not notice the sunset right away like she did earlier in the novel. She forgets that the sun is setting and realizes that just because she forgot does not mean the sun will stop its routinely cycle. After this realization she starts to observe her surroundings again carefully and takes time to absorb everything happening around her. Her novel seems to suggest she notices the sun changing more than anything else, maybe because this is one of the most beautiful events nature has to offer yet we take advantage of it. Although she loves the sun, she still enjoys even the small things that nature has to offer and uses them to remember things about her past. “The color patches of vision part, shift, and reform as I move through space in time. The present is the object of vision, and what I see before me at any given second is a full field of color patches scattered just so. The configuration will never be repeated. Living is moving; time is a live creek bearing changing lights. As I move, or as the world moves around me, the fullness of what I see shatters. This second of shattering is an augenblick, “Verweile doch” Last forever!” Who hasn’t prayed that prayer? But the augenblick isn’t going to verweile. You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying; it is a canvas, nevertheless”. Here, Dillard is talking not only about the events around her but also the colors. She is trying to explain that whatever events are happening will occur again but they will never happen in the exact same way, making each time they happen unique. This gives her another reason to the readers as to why we should pay attention to our surroundings and not ignore the beauty around us. When Dillard says the present is a canvas she is suggesting that everyday we are given a new beginning and picture that is going to be different from yesterday’s which will not last forever. The present is always ending is what Dillard is suggesting with this quote. But it will always be there for us to observe, just forever disappearing. “These aren’t still shots; the camera is always moving. And the scene is always just slipping out of sight, as if in spite of myself I were always just descending a hill, rounding a corner, stepping into the street with a companion who urges me on, while I look back over my shoulder at the sight which recedes, vanishes. The present of my consciousness is itself a mystery which is also always just rounding a bend like a floating branch borne by a flood. Where am I? But I’m not. “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more”. Dillard is once again talking about the present constantly changing. Whenever Dillard notices something changing around her the next second she notices, it is gone or changed in some sort of way. The present is always a mystery and she suggests you won’t know what is going to happen next or even notice the change that has happened unless you are paying attention to what goes on around you. The quotes are all leading back to the same idea that we need to be paying attention to our surroundings and not taking the beauty that we have in this world for granted.

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In today’s society nature is very well taken advantage of. We are distracted by technology and many other things which draw our minds away from anything that is happening around us. Like Annie Dillard said, one second it is light outside and the next it is night and it feels as if you are bind because you do not realize what has happened and do not care to acknowledge it because it is a normal occurrence. The presence is always ending and we don’t care that we are missing the beauty of it. Annie Dillard’s reasoning of telling the readers to take advantage of the beauty around them is relevant in present day. It is true that no one is taking advantage of what we have in the outside world.

Annie Dillard wants readers to take away more than just that she thinks they need to pay attention to their surroundings but also not to let anything in their lives be taken for granted. She uses nature as something being taken for granted because it is one of the most common things we don’t pay attention to or realize the changes happening until after they are gone. Like the sun setting we only realize it is gone once it is dark or when the vibrant colors of the sunset are in the sky and then suddenly it is dark and no one cares to realize the beauty of how quickly something can change. She is hoping people will realize from reading her book nature and its beauty is not something that should be taken granted for rather we should take what we have in the outside world to distract us from technology. Annie Dillard is trying to emphasize every action in nature has beauty in it, but people are choosing to ignore the beauty when they need to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes, everyday.

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Acknowledgement of Beauty in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from
“Acknowledgement of Beauty in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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