Discovering Barry Lopez

I've spent a couple of days reading various writings of and about Barry Lopez, in consequence of an email exchange with Helen Marshall, a friend and long-ago student of mine at Acadia who now lives in Bodø, above the Arctic Circle in Norway. She said

What brought you to mind yesterday and prompted my writing was a book by Barry Lopez that I just dragged home from the library. (It's a bit heavy.) Something tells me that it must have been in one of your classes where this name first came to my attention but beyond that I couldn't get a real good fix on it. In any event, the book at hand is Horizon a sort of travel retrospective autobiography. From checking out Lopez on wiki, I realise now that I missed out on Arctic Dreams. Seeing as it is Canada and all, I'm thinking I should go back and read that one too. (Not to say for certain that I will ever plow through Horizon, but back to Lopez himself...) If it wasn't in one of your courses, where would the name first have come to my attention? I can't imagine. Can you? Limits to Growth comes to mind here as well, along with The Population Bomb...

I'm starting to think perhaps Co-Evolution Quarterly. It's just this weird feeling I have, like the name Lopez is connected with a time and place in my past, and I feel like I'd like to figure it out, just for fun. One of your Anthropology classes was certainly a good guess! I'm sure this will lead us both down interesting paths without any need for a definitive outcome.

I've certainly known of Barry Lopez for years, but I had never read any of his books. I had him filed among "nature writers" and realize that I've mostly read authors in that category when their focus was upon landscapes in which I had some particular interest. I did have one Lopez book on the Kindle, bought and browsed in 2015: Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, a marvelous abecedary of a lexicon of landscape terms which Lopez edited with his spouse, and I found The Rediscovery of North America (Clark Lectures) on the shelves, awaiting my attention. I Kindled three more:

About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory
What is true is that man has a power, literally beyond his comprehension, to destroy. The lethality of some of what he manufactures, the incompetence with which he stores it or seeks to dispose of it, the cavalier way in which he employs in his daily living substances that threaten his health, the leniency of the courts in these matters (as though products as well as people enjoyed the protection of the Fifth Amendment), and the treatment of open land, rivers, and the atmosphere as if, in some medieval way, they could still be regarded as disposal sinks of infinite capacity, would make you wonder, standing face to in the wind at Cape Mendocino, if we weren't bent on an errand of madness.

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World: Essays (Introduction by Rebecca Solnit)

Geography, some scholars believe, has subtly but directly influenced the development of our cultures, our languages, our diets, our social organization, and to some degree even our politics. Whenever I travel in remote or in still largely tribal places, I'm often conscious of watching for something modern humans might have misplaced on their way from Altamira to Rome and Tenochtitlán—specifically, the understanding that geography was central to any idea of their destiny. Once, I can easily imagine, we each had a fundamental sense of well-being that grew directly out of our intimacy, our back-and-forth, with the profundity embedded in the places we occupied.


The overriding goal in a gathering storm, many are convinced, is to commit to being firmly anchored in a known geography, within a familiar cultural space. Such an approach, they believe, will provide each person with a protective network of friendships and a deeper sense of personal identity, and it will strengthen in each individual the sense that they are living lives of significant purpose. In times of upheaval and social chaos, knowing exactly where one is standing seems imperative. Change is coming fast, though, on multiple fronts. Most of us begin the day now uncertain of exactly where we are. Once, we banked on knowing how to respond to all the important questions. Once, we assumed we'd be able to pass on to the next generation the skill of staying poised in worrying times. To survive what's headed our way—global climate disruption, a new pandemic, additional authoritarian governments—and to endure, we will have to stretch our imaginations. We will need to trust each other, because today, it's as if every safe place has melted into the sameness of water. We are searching for the boats we forgot to build.

Arctic Dreams which is totally awesome. How did I miss it before?

and followed google trails to