- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books (December 2, 1986)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140081135
- ISBN-13: 978-0140081138
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 76 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Solace of Open Spaces Paperback – Deckle Edge, December 2, 1986
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"Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still." Whether she's reflecting on nature's teachings, divulging her experiences as a cowpuncher, or painting vivid word portraits of the people she lives and works with, Gretel Ehrlich's observations are lyrical and funny, wise and authentic. After moving from the city to a vast new state, she writes of adjusting to cowboy life, boundless open spaces, and the almost incomprehensible harshness of a Wyoming winter:
"When it's fifty below, the mercury bottoms out and jiggles there as if laughing at those of us still above ground. Once I caught myself on tiptoes, peering down into the thermometer as if there were an extension inside inscribed with higher and higher declarations of physical misery: ninety below to the power of ten and so on."
After experiencing the isolated life of a sheep herder, she writes, "Keenly observed the world is transformed. The landscape is engorged with detail, every movement on it chillingly sharp. The air between people is charged. Days unfold, bathed in their own music. Nights become hallucinatory; dreams, prescient."
Ehrlich's gift is one of subtle precision. She writes beauty into the plainest of thoughts and meaning into the simplest of ideas: "True solace is finding none, which is to say, it is everywhere." --Kathryn True
Gretel Ehrlich is the kind of writer who teaches you that prose can be poetry. In The Solace of Open Spaces she writes about coming to terms with the death of the man she loves, about her life in Wyoming, and about what it means to live in wide spaces and interact primarily with animals. Each of these essays is a piece unto itself; sentence after sentence can be savored like hard candy until every bit of flavor comes out. There is much to learn about Wyoming here; Gretel Ehrlich has a mind for details and the reader comes away fully educated about sheep herding, rodeos, cabin fever, and the value of water. But it is how Gretel Ehrlich writes as much as what she writes that makes her work exceptional. Her words soar and swoop and remind us that writing can always be more than just telling what happened: "The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding." -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister
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My connection with her writing came from being raised in grasslands framed by mountains. I grew up outside, on horses and with antelopes too. I saw her descriptions as authentic and undiminished by cliché, the crutch of most interlopers, especially journalistic writers.
So this is my point, Gretel Ehrlich somehow has the ability to see, feel and emote what I can’t; the experience of being a tiny creature who is only part of an enormous world where beauty is often subtle. Her descriptions of the life of clouds and the movement of wind, alone, make this book worth reading.
Not many people have the circumspection to see themselves from the inside and outside at the same time. For many people, the wilderness is a simulacrum of what they project on it. For Ehrlich, it seems as though she truly allows herself to simply be a conduit for the experience.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who has gone weeks without a radio or television. You’ll recognize the life she describes. For everyone else, it may be a hint of what ‘solace’ really is.
Thanks for reading.
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