Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands

Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands

Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands

Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands

Synopsis

Though he'd lived in Iowa all his life, the allure of the prairie had somehow eluded John Price--until, after a catastrophic flood, a brief glimpse of native wildlife suddenly brought his surroundings home to him. Not Just Any Land is a memoir of Price's rediscovery of his place in the American landscape and of his search for a new relationship to the life of the prairie--that once immense and beautiful wilderness of grass now so depleted and damaged as to test even the deepest faith.

Price's journey toward a conscious commitment to place takes him to some of America's largest remaining grasslands and brings him face to face with a troubling, but also hopeful, personal and environmental legacy. It also leads him through the region's literature and into conversations with contemporary nature writers--Linda Hasselstrom, Dan O'Brien, William Least Heat-Moon, and Mary Swander--who have devoted themselves to living in, writing about, and restoring the grasslands. Among these authors Price observes how a commitment to the land can spring from diverse sources, for instance, the generational weight of a family ranch, the rites of wildlife preservation, the "deep maps" of ancestral memory, and the imperatives of a body inflicted with environmental illness. The resulting narrative is an innovative blend of memoir, nature writing, and literary criticism that bears witness to the essential bonds between spirit, art, and earth.

Excerpt

During my first hour on the Dakota grasslands it was dark and cold and the walls of my tent were puffing, the top lifting. Waves of drizzle spattered against the nylon. I was sitting inside, legs crossed, hands clutching both drapes of the tent flap, peering out of the mosquito netting. Out there, I reminded myself, is Buffalo Gap National Grassland, nearly six hundred thousand acres of mixed-grass prairie. But I could see nothing through the dark and the mist, not one blade of grass, not one star. in an effort to “feel” the open space, to absorb its character, its magnitude, I closed my eyes. I wanted something special to mark this as an arrival, something spiritual, mystical—God. Instead, I felt cold gusts working the collar of my sweatshirt, the itch of fly bites, the painful throb in my right palm where I had stuck myself on a prickly pear. I opened my eyes and stared, once again, into the dark. What did I expect to find? a new connection to my home landscape, I thought, a grasslands bioregion I’d lived in all my life but never seen, never known. I sought some new notion of myself as . . .

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