In The Anthropology of Turquoise, Ellen Meloy writes “Of all the things I wondered about on this land, I wondered the hardest about the seduction of certain geographies that feel like home–not by story or blood but merely by their forms and colors. How our perceptions are our only internal map of the world, how there are places that claim you and places that warn you away. How you can fall in love with the light.”
Yes. Yes. Yes.
She gets it exactly right, over and over again. When I read Ellen Meloy I feel like she is sitting across from me in my living room, intently listening to my feelings (not my thoughts – my feelings), and then putting them on paper in a way that is exactly right, exactly as I would say it if only I had her genius.
She writes about the colors, the landscape, the animals, the people of the geography that speaks to her (and to me), and she uses the natural world as a lens through which she tries to make sense of … well… life.
And I realize that when I am repeatedly drawn to the wild landscapes of Montana and the southwest, I’m doing the same thing: using the natural world to put some sort of order on my world.
And I read and re-read Ivan Doig, not simply because he gets what it means to love a landscape – especially Montana – but because his characters bring to life the exhilaration, and angst, and wonder that an attachment to the land can bring. The stories of young Ivan in This House of Sky, or Jick McAskill in English Creek, or his father Angus in Dancing at the Rascal Fair clarify for me why this particular land – and its people – speaks to me. Just like Ellen Meloy, Ivan Doig sees what’s inside of me, and puts it on paper so that I (and yes, it feels like he’s writing just for me!) can make sense of my world.
Of course, there are many others whose writing feels like home to me: Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, Jim Harrison, Barbara Kingsolver, Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass…the list goes on and on. But if I had to pick two, I’d pick Meloy and Doig. And if I had to pick one…I couldn’t.
What about you? Whose writing feels like home for you?
Jim Harrison is my favorite writer. He lives at least part of the year in Paradise Valley near Livingston and that’s where I hang out in the summer trying to catch a glimpse of him in one of the bars. So far, no luck. But Montana, as you well know, is its own reward!
He is great, isn’t he? Good luck on spotting him…let me know when you do! (I did see Dennis Quaid at Chico Hot Springs one winter – he came in and played with the band at the bar. Not a writer, I know, but one of my fews brushes with fame. Would rather meet Jim Harrison.)
I forgot to mention that Craig Childs’ The Animal Dialogues is breath-taking. Every few sentences I stop in wonderment at his descriptions of encounters with Nature and creatures of the wild. Browse it in a bookstore sometime and I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.
Doig does well in “Bucking the Sun”. Kesey does it for me. If you enjoy reading about Montana, you might enjoy Claire Davis’ “Winter Range”.
Oh yes…Kesey is great as well. Thanks for the Claire Davis recommendation – I’ll check her out for sure!
Thank you so much for sharing!! I’ve now added some new books to my “To Read” list! Happy 2013 to you and the beautiful Rocky Mountain landscapes of Montana!
That’s great. Happy New Year to you, too!
Jim Harrison, for sure. No one else comes close to capturing the essence of northern Michigan.
He really is great. True North is one of my all-time favorites – “capturing the essence” is exactly right!
As a native of the “west side,” I’d have to add Norman Maclean to the list. Like him, I am haunted by waters.
Oh, of course! I totally agree. And yes, I know you’re haunted by waters, even though you’re a desert rat! (Maybe because you’re a desert rat?)
I had a copy of Ellen Meloy’s Raven’s Exile, which she signed with the note “For Paul & Linda, in whose veins the desert rivers also flow.” I so regret having loaned it out and frgotten to whom . . .
I think I find John Muir speaks to me the most even though I don’t really hike in the places that were precious to him. The way he brings mountains alive and speaks of being alone in the wilderness exactly how I feel deep in my soul. I find myself mesmerized by his imagery. Meloy is new to me. I like the idea of having a biological address and being connected so profoundly to a place that it is part your identity. I look forward to reading more of her work.
Oh yes…I so agree about Muir. Be sure to check out Ellen Meloy…I was thinking that you would like her as I was writing this. She has a humor and wit that’s delightful, as well.
After I read your description I looked up her biography, quotes, and books. She sounds wonderful and just the kind of thing I would enjoy, so I put one of her books on my amazon wishlist. I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂 Thanks.
Being a child of the southwestern Minnesota prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder always has rated as one of my favorite writers, I suppose because she so aptly described and understood the prairie, the place of my heart.
Oh, yes, how could I forget Laura Ingalls Wilder? And then that reminds of Willa Cather! Thanks!
I haven’t read Ellen Meloy, but I love Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky and enjoyed English Creek, so I think we travel in similar circles about love of the west, outdoors, and nature. I headed from MN to Bozeman, MT for college because something about the wide open wild land in MT hit me straight to the core. We lived in my husband’s hometown of Broadview for 10 years, and I loved the place. I love the phrase “writing that feels like home.” I have to concur with MN Prairie Roots…Laura Ingalls Wilder also feels like home to me…I’m reading the series aloud to my little kids.
And I read them to my daughter…more than twenty years ago now. Yikes. I definitely need to pull them out again. Thanks for the nice comment.
Wow, I’m definitely going to look up Ellen Meloy. That quote is fantastic.
You would like her, I think – she blends science and art beautifully. (You might be especially interested by Ravens’ Exile!)
Thanks for the tip!
I haven’t read Ellen Meloy (yet) but I love Ivan Doig. I also love everyone else on your list (of course).
I think you’d really like The Anthropology of Turquoise, or Eating Stone. Let me know what you think!
Thank you so much for this post, which is wonderfully written and speaks to me as well! I am definitely going to look up Ellen Meloy since I have been unable to get out there since the beginning of the month. I am missing it. I have felt that way about Wyoming. The first time I traveled to Wyoming, I felt like I was home. It was a strange, but wonderful feeling!
And thank you. The attraction that certain landscapes have is so amazing, isn’t it? Let me know what you think of Ellen Meloy!
I haven’t read Meloy, but will soon based on that quote – it so exactly captures what we are looking for – a place that claims us. Thanks for this post, it was somehow exactly what I needed to read today.
Oh yes, read her for sure. And I really appreciate the nice comment.