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."
The Dog 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.
About Page Lambert
Winner of the USA 2013 Colorado Authors’ League “Best Blog of the Year Award,” Lambert’s story “The Widow of Loreto” was just published in Huffington Post as part of their 50 FICTION 2013 series. Her River Writing Journeys with Sheri Griffith Expeditions were hailed by Oprah's O magazine in 2006 as “One of six great all-girl getaways of the year.” Details on her September, 2013 “Crazy Brave River Writing Journey” with special guest Joy Harjo.