Friday, January 19, 2018

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

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Perhaps it is because I have been snowbound for a week. Or, perhaps it is because of my marathon uncluttering project, but the title The Solace of Open Spaces appealed to me right away.

The book contains a series of personal essays written by Gretel Ehrlich during her sojourn in Wyoming - a state that certainly has its share of open spaces. 

She originally went to Wyoming in 1976 to film a documentary on the life of its sheepherders. While there, her lover and partner in the project died. She tried to outrun her grief for two years - first living in Santa Fe and then just moving restlessly about. She finally went back to Wyoming to live on a ranch at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains and that was when these essays - they began as journal entries - were written.

In lyrical prose she covers Wyoming's harsh topography and weather. She rides her horse every day to the tiny post office. She helps with birthing and shearing and all sorts of sheep related tasks. She regales the reader with stories of the cowboys, sheepherders, ranchers, hermits, and hoarders she meets. There are also elk, antelope, eagles, and bobcats. Definitely an eclectic mix of inhabitants and ones you will most likely not meet in your urban neighborhood.

There are twelve essays in the book. The one titled From a Sheepherder's Notebook is dreamy and poetic, covering her three days on horseback herding sheep from one feeding ground to another. She's a tougher woman than I am!

Here are two images from that essay that struck me:

About her sheep charges that cluster together and defiantly refuse to move in the heat: ...their heads knitted together into a wool umbrella.


As her friend drives away: Dust rises like an evening gown behind his truck.

Ms. Ehrlich has another book of personal essays The Islands, The Universe, Home. You can be sure it is on my list to be read.

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Je suis triste. I read this morning about the death of author Peter Mayle. He is probably most famous for A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence about his experiences relocating from London to the south of France. I have quite a few of his books on my shelves. I especially enjoyed his later crime caper novels as I do so love a humorous tale. I relished his writing style, his sense of humor, and the smattering of French phrases throughout his books. I have a feeling I will be rereading Mr. Mayle very soon. Au revoir, mon ami.


  1. Sorry to hear about Peter Mayle's death. His Provence books were a delight, and though I haven't read his novels yet, I do plan to.

    The Solace of Open Spaces has long been on my TBR list! I'll have to bump it up to the top, as it sounds just my type of book.

    Hope you're staying warm and cozy during this unusually cold (for us, anyway) winter.

    1. I would have loved to have met Peter Mayle but alas he never came to Louisville (that I know of). Did you watch the BBC miniseries starring John Thaw (Inspector Morse)in 'A Year in Provence'? It was delightful!

      I am not sure I had heard of 'Solace' but is showed up on Early Bird Books and I thought it was just the thing to be reading right now so I bought it. I'm glad I did. A nice break from all my mindless mysteries...

      Warming up this week but it has been snowy, icy, and frigid for way too long. I don't mind the cold, but when the white stuff is on the ground I stick close to home.

    2. I loved the A Year in Provence mini series. I have it on DVD and I've been thinking about watching it again since it's been a while.

    3. I checked my library but it doesn't have the DVDs. Oh well. I'm rereading the book now. It holds up after 30 years! Fresh and funny.

  2. Oh, goodness, how have I not heard of The Solace of Open Spaces and Gretel Ehrlich? Her writing sounds delightful and is now on my list of books to look for and read. Thank you for this review and introduction.
    I, too, was saddened at the passing of Peter Mayle and all look to read his novels.

    1. I just stumbled on this author, Penny, and I am glad I could spread the word. I have just last evening started to reread 'A Year in Provence'. As delightful as I remember! Thanks for commenting and I hope you are staying warm and cozy...