December Reading:

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

Nature and wilderness writer Barry Lopez died on December 25th. His life work is a celebration of the natural world and how we interact with it. Arctic Dreams is one of his finest, but all of his work shines each as their own jewel, filled with light and beauty.

Arctic Dreams focuses on the nature of light and natural light. It is reminiscent of Melville’s musing on the color white, but it is wholly its own:

The evening slipped quietly away from both of us. Eventually, he went to wash his brushes, and I went to my room and lay down to think. If I were a painter, I, too, would be taken with the fullness and subtle quality of light here. You have the color balances from all twenty-four hours from which to choose, the sweeping lines of crisp desert vistas under huge prairie skies, and the rarefied air with which to work. Ice and water push the light up beneath cliffs and into other places where you would expect to find shadows, and back into the sky where it fills the air. At certain hours the land has the resolution of a polished diamond.

Arctic Dreams won the National Book Award in 1986. Link here to Lopez’s short essay ‘On the Purpose of Writing.’

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