29 Barry Lopez Quotes On Nature, Environment And Writing.

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Barry Lopez, in full Barry Holstun Lopez, (born January 6, 1945, Port Chester, New York, U.S.—died December 25, 2020, Eugene, Oregon), American writer best known for his books on natural history and the environment. In such works as Of Wolves and Men (1978) and Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (1986; National Book Award), Lopez employed natural history as a metaphor for wider moral issues.

Notable Works: “About This Life” “Crossing Open Ground” “Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of a Raven” “Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping with His Daughter: Coyote Builds North America” “Horizon” “Light Action in the Caribbean” “Of Wolves and Men” “Outside” “River Notes: The Dance of Herons” “Winter Count”
After graduating from the University of Notre Dame (B.A., 1966; M.A.T., 1968), Lopez briefly attended the University of Oregon before leaving to become a full-time writer. In 1977 Lopez’s collection of Native American trickster stories, Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping with His Daughter: Coyote Builds North America, was published. He followed this volume with the critically acclaimed Of Wolves and Men, which includes scientific information, folklore, and essays on the wolf’s role in human culture.

Lopez also wrote such fictional narratives as Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of a Raven (1976) and River Notes: The Dance of Herons (1979). Among his short-story volumes were Winter Count (1981), Light Action in the Caribbean (2000), and Outside (2014). Other notable works included the essay collections Crossing Open Ground (1988) and About This Life (1998). In Horizon (2019) Lopez recounted his various travels. In addition, he authored books for young adults on natural history.

Source – Britannica.

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29 Barry Lopez Quotes On Nature, Environment And Writing:

  1. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions.

2. We cannot, of course, save the World because we do not have authority over its parts. We can serve the world though. That is everyone’s calling, to lead a life that helps.

3. The land is like poetry: it is inexplicably coherent, it is transcendent in its meaning, and it has the power to elevate a consideration of human life.

4. To put your hands in a river is to feel the chords that bind the earth together.

5. It is the imagination that gives shape to the universe.

6. Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.

7. The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memories. This is how people care for themselves.

8. The wolf exerts a powerful influence on the human imagination. It takes your stare and turns it back on you.

9. One of the great dreams of man must be to find some place between the extremes of nature and civilization where it is possible to live without regret.

10. Conversations are efforts toward good relations. They are an elementary form of reciprocity. They are the exercise of our love for each other. They are the enemies of our loneliness, our doubt, our anxiety, our tendencies to abdicate. To continue to be in good conversation over our enormous and terrifying problems is to be calling out to each other in the night. If we attend with imagination and devotion to our conversations, we will find what we need; and someone among us will act—it does not matter whom—and we will survive.

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11. Real beauty is so deep you have to move into darkness to understand it.

12. No culture has yet solved the dilemma each has faced with the growth of a conscious mind: how to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in all life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s own culture but within oneself.

13. We simply do not understand our place in the universe and have not the courage to admit it.

14. How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.

15. I lay there knowing something eerie ties us to the world of animals. Sometimes the animals pull you backward into it. You share hunger and fear with them like salt in blood.

16. What does it mean to grow rich?
Is it to have red-blooded adventures and to make a ‘fortune,’ which is what brought the whalers and other entrepreneurs north?
Or is it, rather, to have a good family life and to be imbued with a far-reaching and intimate knowledge of one’s homeland, which is what the Tununirmiut told the whalers at Pond’s Bay wealth was?
Is it to retain a capacity for awe and astonishment in our lives, to continue to hunger after what is genuine and worthy? Is it to live at moral peace with the universe?

17. Because you have seen something doesn’t mean you can explain it. Differing interpretations will always abound, even when good minds come to bear. The kernel of indisputable information is a dot in space; interpretations grow out of the desire to make this point a line, to give it direction. The directions in which it can be sent, the uses to which it can be put by a culturally, professionally, and geographically diverse society are almost without limit. The possibilities make good scientists chary.

18. Eden is a conversation. It is the conversation of the human with the Divine. And it is the reverberations of that conversation that create a sense of place. It is not a thing, Eden, but a pattern of relationships, made visible in conversation. To live in Eden is to live in the midst of good relations, of just relations scrupulously attended to, imaginatively maintained through time. Altogether we call this beauty.

19. For so many centuries, the exchange of gifts has held us together. It has made it possible to bridge the abyss where language struggles.

20. The range of the human mind, the scale and depth of the metaphors the mind is capable of manufacturing as it grapples with the universe, stand in stunning contrast to the belief that there is only one reality, which is man’s, or worse, that only one culture among the many on earth possesses the truth.
To allow mystery, which is to say to yourself, “There could be more, there could be things we don’t understand,” is not to damn knowledge. It is to take a wider view. It is to permit yourself an extraordinary freedom: someone else does not have to be wrong in order that you may be right.

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21. I believe in all human societies there is a desire to love and be loved, to experience the full fierceness of human emotion, and to make a measure of the sacred part of one’s life. Wherever I’ve traveled–Kenya, Chile, Australia, Japan–I’ve found the most dependable way to preserve these possibilities is to be reminded of them in stories. Stories do not give instruction, they do not explain how to love a companion or how to find God. They offer, instead, patterns of sound and association, of event and image. Suspended as listeners and readers in these patterns, we might re-imagine our lives. It is through story that we embrace the great breadth of memory, that we can distinguish what is true, and that we may glimpse, at least occasionally, how to live without despair in the midst of the horror that dogs and unhinges us.

22. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse.

23. If I were to offer any advice to young writers, it would be this: be discriminating and be discerning about the work you set for yourself. That done, be the untutored traveler, the eager reader, the enthusiastic listener. Put what you learn together carefully, and then write thoughtfully, with respect both for the reader and your sources.

24. I know of no restorative of heart, body, and soul more effective against hopelessness than the restoration of the Earth.

25. I think of two landscapes- one outside the self, the other within. The external landscape is the one we see-not only the line and color of the land and its shading at different times of the day, but also its plants and animals in season, its weather, its geology… If you walk up, say, a dry arroyo in the Sonoran Desert you will feel a mounding and rolling of sand and silt beneath your foot that is distinctive. You will anticipate the crumbling of the sedimentary earth in the arroyo bank as your hand reaches out, and in that tangible evidence you will sense the history of water in the region. Perhaps a black-throated sparrow lands in a paloverde bush… the smell of the creosote bush….all elements of the land, and what I mean by “the landscape.”
The second landscape I think of is an interior one, a kind of projection within a person of a part of the exterior landscape. Relationships in the exterior landscape include those that are named and discernible, such as the nitrogen cycle, or a vertical sequence of Ordovician limestone, and others that are uncodified or ineffable, such as winter light falling on a particular kind of granite, or the effect of humidity on the frequency of a blackpoll warbler’s burst of song….the shape and character of these relationships in a person’s thinking, I believe, are deeply influenced by where on this earth one goes, what one touches, the patterns one observes in nature- the intricate history of one’s life in the land, even a life in the city, where wind, the chirp of birds, the line of a falling leaf, are known. These thoughts are arranged, further, according to the thread of one’s moral, intellectual, and spiritual development. The interior landscape responds to the character and subtlety of an exterior landscape; the shape of the individual mind is affected by land as it is by genes.

26. The land gets inside of us; and we must decide one way or another what this means, what we will do about it.

27. Many Western biologists appreciate the mystery inherent in the animals they observe. They comprehend that, objectively, what they are watching is deceptively complex and, subjectively, that the animals themselves have nonhuman ways of life. They know that while experiments can be designed to reveal aspects of the animal, the animal itself will always remain larger than the sum of any set of experiments. They know they can be very precise about what they do, but that that does not guarantee they will be accurate. They know the behavior of an individual animal may differ strikingly from the generally recognized behavior of its species; and that the same species may behave quite differently from place to place, from year to year.

28. The writer works on the inside and the critic works on the outside. I don’t know what it looks like on the outside, sometimes. It’s not that I’m not interested-it’s not where I live. I live inside the story.”

29. Once I was asked be a seatmate on a trans-Pacific flight….what instruction he should give his fifteen-year-old daughters, who wanted to be a writer. [I said], “Tell your daughter three things.” Tell her to read…Tell her to read whatever interests her, and protect her if someone declares what she’s reading to be trash. No one can fathom what happens between a human being and written language. She may be paying attention to things in the words beyond anyone else’s comprehension, things that feed her curiosity, her singular heart and mind. …Second, I said, tell your daughter that she can learn a great deal about writing by reading and by studying books about grammar and the organization of ideas, but that if she wishes to write well she will have to become someone. She will have to discover her beliefs, and then speak to us from within those beliefs. If her prose doesn’t come out of her belief, whatever that proves to be, she will only be passing along information, of which we are in no great need. So help her discover what she means.
Finally, I said, tell your daughter to get out of town, and help her do that. I don’t necessarily mean to travel to Kazakhstan, or wherever, but to learn another language, to live with people other than her own, to separate herself from the familiar. Then, when she returns, she will be better able to understand why she loves the familiar, and will give us a fresh sense of how fortunate we are to share these things.

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