Today is an extraordinary day.
For today I finished reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard.
That fact isn’t particularly extraordinary in itself. Rather, what’s extraordinary is that on this exact day 28 years ago, I finished reading this same book. That’s right: on May 17, 1985 I finished reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. That was the first time I read it. Today concluded my second reading, and I didn’t even plan it this way; had no idea this year that when I read it before I closed the book on this same day three decades prior.
I find that remarkable.
How do I know this though, you may wonder, the book I read on a date some third-of-a-century prior ?
It’s because I keep a list of every book I have ever read.
Since the age of fourteen on the day I finish reading a book, I have jotted down the title, author and date of the book.
I have my parents to thank for this unusual record-keeping. My father started his list on June 10, 1947 at the age of 16 with the entry of Loves Labors Lost by William Shakespeare; my mother started hers a year and a half into their marriage with Eleven Blue Men by Berton Roueche on November 17, 1955. Above that first entry is printed in my father’s careful hand Marion’s Reading List — her little blank book a clear gift from him.
I love to do this: to finish a book and add it to my list. I love looking back to see what other books in previous years I finished that day. Imagine my surprise and thrill to discover this same date and book today jotted down nearly three decades ago.
But why would I return to read again a book I’ve already read?
Because I’m feeling a hunger to return to these Nature writers. I’m feeling a yearning that I haven’t felt in decades; a hunger, really, to take a long journey. To become a pilgrim again, in the ways of Nature. To pry secrets, take my chances, stalk and be changed, as Annie says.
In the cool of the evening…I am prying into secrets again, and taking my chances. I might see anything happen; I might see nothing but light on the water. I walk home exhilarated or becalmed, but always change, alive. “It scatters and gathers,“ Hericlius said, “it comes and goes.” And I want to be in the way of its passage, and cooled by its invisible breath.
I want to take to the trail, the pathway, and journey again..
How perfect then, that the first book I entered in my book of books on May 31, 1978 was a book of a long journey. That book?