Inspired by Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and the nature-oriented but human-focused nature of her writing, I intend to pursue a similar writing style and process in an effort to create a work that aspires to her level of reflection, while at the same time developing my personal creative nonfiction writing style. At the beginning of my project, I will travel to the San Juan Islands, an archipelago in the greater Puget Sound area of Washington State. I will stay on Orcas Island, the largest of the islands, for a little over two weeks. Through observations of the wildlife and landscape there, I hope to give voice in written form to some of the many themes and revelations embodied by the natural world. The remainder of my project’s research component will probably take place at my home and will involve reading other nature-focused nonfiction and fiction works such as Walden by Henry David Thoreau, The Moon by Whale Light by Diane Ackerman, and Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille.
Annie Dillard’s work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in particular, is perhaps most renowned for the more philosophical themes it contains, rather than for its environmental observations, which are striking and vivid but which serve primarily to supplement and create setting for the discussions of religion, life, and purpose. By never allowing her descriptions of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountain ecosystem to overshadow her deeper meaning, Dillard prevents Pilgrim from lapsing into mere repetitive iterations of nature’s wonder, poetic but trite, vivid but doomed to be forgotten. I have long nursed a fascination with the delicate balance she strikes between description and reflection, personal thought and outward observation, and my goal for this research project is to achieve a similar balance in my own writing. After returning from Washington, then, I plan to continue using the insight and inspiration gathered during my time in the islands to write a series of creative nonfiction essays combining natural observations with reflections on more metaphysical elements such as religion and ideology.
Time-wise, the writing portion of my project is the largest component, as I will be writing during my stay in Washington State as well as once I return home. However, the two weeks spent in Washington are no less crucial, as they will provide most of the raw material for my final product, as well as allow me to begin writing in the actual physical setting I have chosen to discuss.