Finding a Home in the West
"Like many other Americans, judging from the amount of predawn traffic, I am on the move, scurrying through the dark like a coyote, nose down in pursuit of something-my work, an ephemeral desire that has no name, a life, an end of restlessness, a true place in the world."
A true place in the world: how many people have looked for it and how many have finally found it in the American West? Here, with writer Gary Holthaus, readers will reflect upon their own sense of place as they travel the lands and enter the lives of people in small towns and on ranches all over the West from Utah to Oregon to Alaska. Farmers and merchants, writers and teachers, truckers and trappers: their stories ring with hope and fear as their wide-open spaces increasingly come under siege.
Here are reflections on a long journey, together with notes of a personal odyssey and a plea for preserving the West's natural beauty-its meadows and mountains, its bears and Golden Eagles, its antelope and wolverines. This is important, says Holthaus, because if the region is home for him and for others, too, then it is crucial for newcomers and old-timers alike not to "further foul a nest that is becoming increasingly crowded." As he finds his way and adjusts his eyes to modern realities of greed and indifference, he also comes to grips with loss and learns to balance "the harm one inevitably does" with acts of compassion and positive change.
Deep in the national consciousness, the mythical West of film and fiction continues to shape our vision of ourselves as Americans. This book is a view not from the media, not from think tanks or legislators or policy makers, but from Westerners themselves, who tell us about the circumstances of their lives. Their West is indisputably the real West, and only as we come to understand better its realities will we come to know ourselves both as individuals and as a nation.
"You've likely met Gary Holthaus before, perhaps not literally, but you have met him. He's the wisened man sitting at the end of the counter in a roadside diner, swilling coffee and speaking to any and all who will speak back. He's the unassuming sage filling his tank in a gas station town, chatting it up, telling stories, moving on with more tales to share. . . . Wide Skies: Finding a Home in the West isn't so much about finding a home as it is about relishing that home, exploring the reasons why the West beckons so many with its godly nature, its collective and mythical personality, its lost struggles, and its brutish desire to survive the battles time brings forth." Bloomsbury Review"Wide Skies is an autobiographical reflection on the West, but it raises a deeper question: Why the West? What is it that makes the West a universal element of our national consciousness? . . . a personal meditation that should be read for its insights into our common awareness of the American West." Oregon Historical Quarterly"The idea of the West is the idea of the free individual in harmony with the land within a community. So complicated, so simple. Holthaus does his readers a grand favor by reminding them of something they already knew. Few writers manage to accomplish that." Salt Lake City Tribune"The strength of Wide Skies is not that Holthaus adds much that is new to our understanding of the West as either a place in the imagination or as a region where real people live, but that he attempts through his writing to affirm both the spiritual West and the material one." New Mexico Historical Review"Wide Skies truly is a thinking project with the reader challenged to put down the book every few pages to contemplate the meaning and implication of Holthaus's words." Journal of Cultural Geography"Holthaus releases a cascade of vivid memories that brings to light his own view of the mythic [West]. . . . A moving chronicle of many ordinary but not inconsequential lives." Booklist"With a knack for memorable coinages, Holthaus tinges his lyrical descriptions of places and people with a philosophic bent." America West Airline Magazine"A thoughtful, wide-ranging meditation on the West, in myth and reality." Portland Oregonian"[A] finely crafted collection. . . . His essays are part philosopy, part travelogue and a pleasure to follow." Fairbanks Daily News-Miner