Jun 1, 2008

the future of ice

aspen has a remarkable circulating library for a town of 6,000 permanent residents. i took out madeleine l'engle's a circle of quiet, the first in a trilogy of autobiographical books in which she reflects on her writing life. i also picked up gretel ehrlich's the future of ice, which is a prolonged meditation on physical and psychological landscapes of cold. though it gets irritatingly handwavy at times, the writing is good and the subject matter at least reminds me constantly of barry lopez's arctic dreams and bruce chatwin's the songlines. her descriptions of how landscape and weather are intertwined are particularly beautiful:

The Selk'nam had four skies. Each was thought to be invisible and infinite, constituting a whole cordillera. Where they lived was a place of mountains, and they conceived of sky, ocean, and weather as being mountains as well. The north sky was black, associated with rain, the sea, and the whale. The west was red, made of wind and sun. The east was only a boiling ocean, and the south was pure white because that's where the snow came from, and the moon and the owl. These most southerly cultures in the world had winter weather threaded all through them. When asked about who her parents were, one Selk'nam woman said:"I am snow, my mother was wind, my father, rain."

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