Friday, April 12, 2013


Mary Austin

[The Land of Little Rain] "It aims to be, first of all, a meditation on place, though the place itself is also effaced a little, and is two places actually, which you can find by consulting a map: the arid country east of Bakersfield, California, where the San Francisco Valley ends in the transverse range of the Tehachapi Mountains, and the long narrow valley east of the Sierra Nevada that runs from Bishop in the north through Big Pine and Independence (note the name: the author of this book lived in these towns — Independence had a population of three hundred — at the age of twenty-six, having left her husband, and taught school to earn a living and tried to raise her retarded two-year-old daughter, without child care, while she worked, and tried to write) and Lone Pine, and south to the Coso Range and the Slate and Quail and Granite Mountains, places you cannot see much of now, since they are home to a U.S. naval weapons center and access is restricted. It is no surprise that the book she wrote is, save for the dreamy idyll of its last chapter, a cool-minded mediation on freedom and necessity, adaptation and survival."

~ Robert Hass, from his essay, "Mary Austin and The Land of Little Rain"
What Light Can Do
(Ecco 2012)

"For all the toll the desert takes of a man it gives compensations, deep breaths, deep sleep, and the communion of the stars. It comes upon one with new force in the pauses of the night that the Chaldeans were a desert-bred people.  It is hard to escape the sense of mastery as the stars move in the wide heavens to risings and settings unobscured. They look large and near and palpitant: as if they moved on some stately service not needed to declare. Wheeling to their stations in the sky, they make the poor world-fret of no account. Of no account you who lie out there watching, nor the lean coyote that stands off in the scrub from you and howls and howls."

~ Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain

Owens River Gorge and the White Mountains looking SE from Swall Meadows in the Eastern Sierra foothills


Owens Valley

 Lone Pine Peak w/ the Alabama Hills in the foreground

Mt. Williamson, Owens Valley, California

Owens Valley and Wheeler Crest

Old wagon road down Sherwin Grade near U.S. 395, Mono County