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Tuesday September 26, 2017
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Barry Lopez

 

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prize-winning 1986 book Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, but the question even animated his best-selling children's book Crow and Weasel (illustrated by Ann Arbor's Tom Pohrt). The question gains urgency when Lopez convinces us that perhaps we have been so cavalier in the exploitation of our landscape because our language hasn't allowed us to make the necessary imaginative connection. Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape is Lopez's latest effort to broaden his and our understanding. Here he has asked some forty-five writers (among them Robert Hass, Barbara Kingsolver, Jon Krakauer, and Terry Tempest Williams) to define the local and regional terms for landscape phenomena that they know or were asked to discover. These are the words that Lopez says come "out of the natural convergence of human culture with a particular place." Some of these are terms that are indeed used formally (William Kittredge contributed kame: "a hummocky deposit at the front of an ice sheet"), while others are rich with the smell and feel of local usage (Franklin Burroughs's gunk hole: "In coastal New England [it] is a small, out-of-the-way harbor or a nearly unnavigable shallow cove or channel"). The words come from all the various languages of Europe, but also from Asia (boondocks, Pattiann Rogers points out, comes from the Tagalog for "mountain"), and certainly from the various Native American languages (Robert Morgan notes, "Bayou is a word that sounds French but is in fact of Choctaw origin"). Some of them name features that we have imposed on the landscape, but most name the things we found here, features of the land that rose into our imaginations. That is why Lopez asked writers to create his entries:

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