Arctic Dreams // Barry Lopez
To inquire into the intricacies of a distant landscape, then, is to provoke thoughts about one’s own interior landscape, and the familiar landscapes of memory. The land urges us to come around to an understanding of ourselves. – Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams
While this doesn’t relate, on the surface, to Australia’s landscape, it really does in many ways that become acutely apparent if you’ve ever spent any time in the quiet parts of this continent’s outback.
Which is to say, in some ways the outback resembles that great floating world of the north in its utter silence, and the ability of the animals here to adapt to a harsh land bounded by extremes, of temperature, light, weather and distance.
Lopez’ writing blends, ethereally, his poetic language with a disarmingly accurate insight into the land around him, the animals, the men and the air, the very light of the Arctic.
It is, simultaneously, a primer for how man fits in with the Arctic, and a universal tome.
Zen Buddhists use to teach that if you ever truly understood one thing, you would understand the whole universe. Lopez seems to have figured that out, too.
I come back to this book all the time. Lopez’s prose flows effortlessly as he explores, via the landscape, via the animals that are part of the landscape, what it means to be human, and how approaching the land with a fresh set of eyes, letting the animal in, might remove some of the pain of being human.