ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
[personal profile] ecosophia
About a year ago, I was beginning to sketch out the plot for the sixth Weird of Hali novel, which involves a voyage to Greenland on a tall ship. I've never been to Greenland, or anywhere in the Arctic, so I did what writers generally do and went looking for books on the subject by people who know what they're talking about. That and a large used book store was how I ended up with a battered paperback copy of Barry Lopez' Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape.



It turned out to be much more than a bit of convenient research for an epic fantasy with tentacles. It's brilliantly written; here's a bit from the fifth chapter --

"Those days on Ilingnorak Ridge, where I saw tundra grizzly tearing up the earth looking for ground squirrels, and watched wolves hunting, and horned lark sitting so resolutely on her nest, and caribou crossing the river and shaking off the spray like diamonds before the evening sun, I was satisfied only to watch. This was the great drift and pause of life. These were the arrangements that made the land ring with integrity. Somewhere downriver, I remembered, a scientist named Edward Sable had paused on a trek in 1946 to stare at a Folsom spear point, a perfectly fluted object of black chert resting on a sandstone ledge. People, moving over the land."

-- but it's also a meditation on humanity's relationship to nature, one that avoids the usual platitudes and presuppositions and goes very deep. I've sat up late I don't know how many nights with a glass of halfway decent bourbon and my copy of Arctic Dreams, partly reveling in the use of language, partly staring at space and following out Lopez' ideas to an assortment of unexpected places. When this copy goes to pieces, I'll be looking for a hardback for the shelf of nature books I keep ready to hand.
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