We should all love a place as deeply as nature writer Rick Bass loves the Yaak Valley - sink to our knees awed by the splendor, find ourselves seduced as Bass tells us he was in his award-winning essay "The Larch: A Love Story" (published in Orion Magazine and winner of a 2013 John Burroughs Award). I have never written as eloquently about the places I love as Bass, but I understand that loving takes root in knowing.
Yesterday I was
on my knees in the mountain meadow my horse calls home, gathering samples of
different grasses. I brought them home
and spread them on the deck and with hummingbirds zinging overhead (scolding
the sapsucker who was stealing their nectar), I carefully opened my Bear Lodge
Mountains plant field guide. Pressed
between the pages were leaves and blossoms and stalks from plants that lived
with my children in those same mountains - wild geranium, cinquefoil,
coneflower, mountain brome, thimbleberry, bur oak. I love those oaks like Bass loves his lurch.
There are no thimbleberries or bur oaks here in the Colorado foothills, but
finding a blanket flower in full bloom tugs the heartstring that links me to
Bass writes of what is not yet lost in order to save it, in The Dog Stars, a
breathtaking end-of-the-world novel, Peter Heller writes of the yearning we
have for what has already been lost.
I ever woke up crying in the middle of a dream, and I’m not saying I did, it’s
because the trout are gone every one. Brookies, rainbows, browns, cutthroats,
cutbows, every one."
TheDog Stars was a New York Times best-seller and rated one of the Best Books of
2012 by NPR, The Atlantic Monthly, Publishers Weekly, Hudson Books, and others.
Why? Powerful and original writing, of
course, and a main character, Hig, whose intense sorrow for all that has been
lost stirs our own deep hungers. But what shakes us to the core is Hig's deeply
rooted need to love again - to find and nurture what still lives - his dog
Jasper, a grove of cottonwoods, a thicket of willows.
is what I ask of myself today: to stand quietly in a place I love, like John
Burroughs' nature essays stand as a quiet testament to the places he loved,
like my father taught me to wade with quiet clear intentions the river channels
we both loved, like my horse grazes the mountain brome with a stillness that
even Herman Hesse's Siddhartha would envy.
Today, this will be enough.