Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - A response journal

Created for TeachersFirst by Brenda Walton, Ed.D.

Early on in the book, Dillard locates herself at the creek...

"I live by a creek, Tinker Creek, in a valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge. An anchorite's hermitage is called an anchor-hold; some anchor holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle to a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and it keeps me steadied in the current, as sea anchor does, facing the stream of light poring down. It's a good place to live; there's a lot to think about." p.4

This, you will find, dear reader, is an understatement! Throughout the book you will be privileged to share in Dillard's thoughts, meanderings, tangents, comments, and poetic responses to the natural world around her.

Chapter One: Heaven and Earth in Jest

Written response #1 -- Personal response to Dillard's writing (250-500+ words)

Begin by defining your own general response to nature. Reflect on how you see yourself in nature. You may find some of the following questions helpful in creating your answer. Are you a beach person or a mountain person? Have you ever been camping? Did you like it? What things/creatures/aspects of nature are you afraid of? What do you think of hunting?

Have you ever planted a garden? Have you ever watched a butterfly emerge from its cocoon?

Written response #2 -- Personal response to related research

Find a website on any aspect of nature. Scroll, meander, wander, saunter through it.
Print out a copy of some of the site's material and be ready to discuss.

On pages 7-8 Dillard relates one of the most astounding descriptions in the book-- the incident of the "frog's fatal encounter with the giant water bug." She writes:

"He was a very small frog with wide, dull eyes. And just as I looked at him, he slowly crumbled and began to sag. The spirit vanished from his eyes as if snuffed....Soon, part of his skin, formless as pricked balloon, lay in floating fold like bright scum on top of the water: it was monstrous and terrifying thing."

In this chapter, Dillard ponders the mysteries of pain, death and fear in nature. The title of the chapter is clarified as Dillard tells us, "In the Koran, Allah asks, "The heaven and earth and all in between, thinkest thou I made them in jest?"

Written response # 3 Personal response to Dillard's writing (250 words)

What do you make of this first chapter? How do you react to Dillard's first focus on nature. You might consider her phrasing as she describes on page 10 her sighting of the sharks'... "...power and beauty, grace tangled in a rapture with violence."