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.