The Dog Stars and The Larch

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 both landscapes.

While 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. 

"If 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.   

This 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.


Anonymous said…
Oh Page... but you are so eloquent! You bring a sense of peace and beauty to my cluttered mind/life and make me want to pause & breathe deep the wonders all around. We all need to find and nurture what resonates deep within in order to continue the work of caring for the blessed earth we have been gifted for this short span of time.
Page Lambert said…
If I am able to bring a little peace and beauty into the world, I will have done a good thing. You said it so beautifully yourself ... nurture what resonates deep within, care for this blessed earth. Yes, we have no greater purpose than this.
Rae Taylor said…
Page, I enjoyed reading about The Dog Stars. There are so many of us in that good company of spirit in spite of the loss.

Congrats on the Bloomsbury Review!
I'm glad the photo I took of you (on the cover of TBR) is still working to your benefit.

Have a wonderful time on the rafting trip with Joy in September. I would have loved to be there but will be on a trip with my love to reconnect with his homeland in Corsica and Bordeaux. - which is also wonderful, of course! We will be among vast new(for me) mountain beauty though. Take good care, Warmly,
Rae Taylor
Page Lambert said…
Rae, wish you could join the river trip too, but exploring Corsica and Bordeaux sounds amazing - enjoy! And thanks again for snapping that good photo of Farside and me when you were at our Literature & Landscape of the Horse retreat in Wyoming. Fun to see it on the cover of Bloomsbury!
Mary Sojourner said…
One of the most wonderful things about Rick Bass is that not only does he write his love for the places he knows he is blessed to occupy - he actively fights for them. He once had a fine piece in Sierra magazine in which he wrote of giving a talk in some charming occupied territory like Jackson Hole. The audience was mesmerized by his reading about griz and nature's power. Then after the Q%A finished, he took out postcards and letters for people to send to help save the Yaak. He watches everyone drift off to the buffet table and the bar, not one person taking the political activist material he hoped to give them. I would add to Occupy. Immerse. Inhabit. one word: Defend.

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