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Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist Paperback – April 14, 2009
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More About the Author
This makes sense. I've spent most of my life in Southwestern deserts, where magical realism is just a synonym for reality.
My nonfiction Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World focuses on the charismatic Western Red-bellied Tiger Beetle, as well as other citizen projects like Nature's Notebook, Mastodon Matrix, and Celebrate Urban Birds. Citizen science is an amazing world. You can transform yourself in a thousand ways, studying monarch butterflies or listening to whale songs or classifying galaxies...Diary of a Citizen Scientist won the WILLA Award for creative nonfiction from Women Writing the West and is a finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Award. For more information, and other news, please go to my Facebook author page Sharman Apt Russell. Or my website www.sharmanaptrussell.com.
Right now I am working on a book about paradigm shifts in how we treat and prevent childhood malnutrition. I believe in this kind of range for a writer. It's all connected.
A little bit of bio: Raised in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, in 1981 I settled in southern New Mexico as a "back to the lander" and have stayed there ever since. I am a longtime professor in the Humanities Department at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, as well as an associate faculty at Antioch University in Los Angeles. I received my MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana and my B.S. in Conservation and Natural Resources from the University of California, Berkeley.
My essays and short stories have been widely published and anthologized and my books translated into over ten languages. My collections of essays Songs of the Fluteplayer: Seasons of Life in the Southwest (Addison-Wesley, 1991; reprinted by University of Nebraska Press, 2000) won the 1992 Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award and New Mexico Zia Award and recounts my early years in rural New Mexico. Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist was a New Mexico Book Award finalist and one of Booklists' top ten religious books of 2008. Hunger: An Unnatural History (Basic Books, 2005) was the result of a Rockefeller Fellowship at Bellagio, Italy, and An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect (Perseus Books, 2003) was a pick of independent booksellers in the Summer 2003 Book Sense 76.
As a teacher, my philosophy is simple: my goal is to increase a student's authority as a writer. I am here to encourage and support that authority. I can help students better revise their work. I can teach students how to talk about writing with other writers. I can help them feel more centered in who they are as writers and why they write. I can serve as an editor and mentor. I can model a writer's life. As well as teaching at WNMU and Antioch, for the last fifteen years I have been a visiting writer at universities and colleges across the country.
Top Customer Reviews
Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist is a walking meditation, faithful in its survey of pantheistic thought, yet grounded in its particular place and time. The book begins not with a creed, but with a map of the Nature Conservancy's Gila River Farm in southern New Mexico, where the author lives in a "little yellow house" not far from one of the few healthy rivers remaining in the American Southwest.
Her stories of Spinoza, Whitman, Quakers, and Hindus are interlinked by a refrain that counts blackbirds, flycatchers, grosbeaks, and wrens during bird banding season. Greek philosophers are accompanied by a chorus of sandhill cranes. Roman stoics and modern cell biologists find themselves at home among stories of the author's family, or the river's mosquito fish and loach minnows. "Everything is interwoven," writes the Roman ruler Marcus Aurelius, "and the web is holy."
"I am in love with Marcus Aurelius," admits Russell, two thousand years later, yet she paints her portrait of his brutal time and life with the same faithful linguistic brush, as she paints scenes of Coots pecking their baby nestlings to death. Russell has not written a sentimental book. Those looking for an idealized naturalism will not find easy comfort.
Yet the view from Russell's porch remains reverent. "Standing in the Light" is a Quaker phrase that captures both the immediacy of religious experience and the difficulty of its explication.Read more ›
The book braids an often riveting history of pantheism with memoir and nature writing. Though the latter was enjoyable, I was most intrigued by the stories of history's pantheists and author's own intimate struggle with her spiritual place in this world.
The title might suggest a little fluff. The reality is quite the opposite. Russell is a scholar. A few moments with your nose in the bibliography offers a window into the extent of her journey. And just as the historical facts are well rooted in hard research, Russell's own personal journey rings with authenticity.
The highest praise I can give this book is that unlike many of its ilk, it offers no easy answers (if any answers at all) to our human struggle. It instead illuminates the landscape, offers the wisdom of one life's journey, and leaves us to face the day as we have faced all our others--though perhaps heartened, and with a more informed respect for the slants of light moving us all forward.
Sharman Russell has an amazing ability to weave the past and present together, like Marcus's web interconnected. This book is rich, deep and delightful. I plan to give copies as gifts this year to family and friends who are "seeking" the light in these dark times. Sharman doesn't gives answers, because she knows there are no answers. Spirituality is not a destination. It is a journey, and she bravely shares hers with us.
It was while sitting on her front porch steps in Silver City, New Mexico, she writes in Standing in the Light, that she finally realized what that word--Light--meant. She sets the scene:
In front of me on my porch step was a strip of grass, a sidewalk, a strip of asphalt, more sidewalk, a stone wall, pine trees and, higher above, electrical wires. Cars drove by. A raven gurgled. White clouds floated in the blue sky.
No all-consuming fire. No pillar of cloud. No voice from heaven. Just ordinary life. And then, she continues:
I had my epiphany: "The Light is all this," I said to myself. The Light was the steps, the street, the raven, the sky. The Light was everything, the universe conceived-of-as-a-whole, mysterious and material and right here.
For readers familiar with mystics of any tradition, what Russell is describing is a "unitive experience," a transient certainty that one is part of a great whole. Occurring "out of time and space," the experience nevertheless conveys a sense of holy presence, a sacredness of place right here, right now. But that is only part of the paradox. Life-changing as it is, this mystical awareness is also ineffable; try as she might, the writer can find no words to describe it. And yet, she continues to try.
Part memoir, part spiritual autobiography, part history of philosophy, Standing in the Light might be more aptly subtitled My Life as a Seeker Who Wonders How Pantheism Developed and How It Fits into the Quaker Faith.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What an incredible journey into the life of a Pantheist. And the journey is made easy by virtue of the author's beautiful writing. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Allen Johnson
Sharman Apt Russell has given readers a thorough, almost unrelenting meditation on nature, deity, history, and life. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Apple
"I believe, without a doubt, in an interconnected universe", says Russell. "Any faith I have in a sacred interconnected universe is hard-won". Read morePublished 7 months ago by Jim Watts
I love finding books tucked away in the nook of an old bookstore. And I love taking a chance on a title I'd never even heard of but looks interesting. Read morePublished 15 months ago by HMP Street Dharma
I have read Sharman's other books and loved them. I liked this less, though I love her writing style. It wasn't as revealing of new ideas as I had hoped.Published 19 months ago by Amy Ryberg
A wonderful book, part religious and philosophical history, part biography, part natural history, part spiritual exploration, all woven together in a brilliant tapestry.Published on August 2, 2013 by David Anthony Sam
A very personal story of the search for meaning, but one that is interesting for anyone who's ever been on a similar path.Published on August 14, 2012 by Linda