Cover image for Deep creek [large print] : finding hope in the high country / Pam Houston.
Title:
Deep creek [large print] : finding hope in the high country / Pam Houston.
Author:
ISBN:
9781432862756
Edition:
Large print edition.
Publication Information:
Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2019.

©2019
Physical Description:
499 pages (large print) ; 23 cm.
Abstract:
"How do we become who we are in the world? We ask the world to teach us. On her 120-acre homestead high in the Colorado Rockies, beloved writer Pam Houston learns what it means to care for a piece of land and the creatures on it. Elk calves and bluebirds mark the changing seasons, winter temperatures drop to 35 below, and lightning sparks a 110,000 acre wildfire, threatening her century old barn and all its inhabitants. Through her travels from the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska, she explores what ties her to the earth, the ranch most of all. Alongside her devoted Irish wolfhounds and a spirited troupe of horses, donkeys, and Icelandic sheep, the ranch becomes Houston's sanctuary, a place where she discovers how the natural world has mothered and healed her after a childhood of horrific parental abuse and neglect. In essays as lucid and invigorating as mountain air, Deep Creek delivers Houston's most profound meditations yet on how "to live simultaneously inside the wonder and the grief, to love the damaged world and do what I can to help it thrive."-- Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

On her 120-acre homestead in the Colorado Rockies, beloved writer Pam Houston learns what it means to care for a piece of land and the creatures on it. Elk calves and bluebirds mark the changing seasons, winter temperatures drop to 35 below, and a lightning-sparked wildfire threatens her century-old barn and its inhabitants. In essays as lucid and invigorating as mountain air, Deep Creek delivers Houston's most profound meditations on what ties her to the earth, the ranch most of all -- a sanctuary where she discovers how the natural world has mothered and healed her after a childhood of horrific parental abuse and neglect.


Author Notes

Pam Houston is the author of Cowboys Are My Business and Waltzing the Cat. She teaches at the University of California, Davis, and lives in Colorado.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Houston (A Little More About Me), a professor of English at UC Davis, brings compassion, a deep sense of observation, and a profound sense of place to essays centered around the 120-acre ranch in the Colorado Rockies that serves as home base in her busy life of travel and academic commitments. Houston's descriptions of ranch routine, which "heals me with its dailiness, its necessary rituals not one iota different than prayer," leads her organically toward graceful, "unironic odes to nature." Intimate but not sensationalized stories of Houston's upbringing in an unstable suburban household with an abusive father and a neglectful, alcoholic mother set off her gratitude for an adult life lived in the midst of a sometimes perilous but beautiful landscape. "Ranch Almanac" entries that alternate with the essays offer delightful appreciations of the ranch's other residents, including wolfhounds, lambs, chickens, and miniature donkeys; its human visitors, including her all-important "wood guy"; and the natural wonders visible there, notably including the Milky Way. Houston's vision finds a solid place among the chronicles of quiet appreciation of the American wilderness, without the misanthropy that often accompanies the genre; her passion for the land and its inhabitants is irresistibly contagious. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

At their worst, there's little to distinguish poorly conceived memoirs from the kind of thing better suited for a mental health professional. At their best, memoirs burn through the "me" of the genre, and into the universal of the human experience. Those masterly memoirs are rare: Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" comes to mind. "Anything that works against you can also work for you once you understand the Principle of Reverse," Angelou tells us in that debut autobiography, thereby generously bestowing her readers with the precious key to her own liberation. In other words, a beach read offers escapism; an excellent read offers the means to escape. Enter, then, into my reading nights this dark winter season three memoirs written by women who have in common their gender but little else. Gallingly, none of the works rise very far above this special-interest corner; they're neither sufficiently escapist for beach reads, nor sufficiently wise to offer the means to escape. "If you don't like something, change it," Angelou famously advised. "If you can't change it, change your attitude." Of the three memoirs under review here, the most successful - by which I mean the one that does the most to reach beyond itself - is Reema Zaman's "I Am Yours." Zaman, raised in Bangkok by a Thai mother and a father from the ruling classes of Bangladesh, is both privileged enough to receive an education and female enough to have that education compromised by the usual means. When a teacher stalks Zaman, everyone, including her father, dismisses her objections. "Power only responds to power. I have none. The predator is protected. I am a stain, initially irksome, ultimately forgotten," she writes. Still, Zaman doesn't turn cynical or bitter, just increasingly anorexic. Zaman can write beautifully about the frustration and pain of being a woman in a man's world, an immigrant in a world suspicious of outsiders. In the States she finds not only the promise of liberation, but also its opposite. A colleague rapes her; a man she has trusted. She decides to keep the assault to herself. "I cannot jeopardize my chances at staying in America," she explains. "I'm profoundly American. I'm independence, grit and freedom of speech, personified. Staying here is crucial for the life I want, to be a voice for those without one. The irony is acutely painful." Still, a glorified journal is confined by the limits of its own scope. Zaman's writing seems to have inspired her - she tells us so - but it's too navel-gazing to inspire the reader. "I have lived a startling, beautiful life. I have survived and continued not because of confidence but because I have a confidante. Call thyself any name thou wish. Imaginary friend, art, muse, reader, guardian angel, higher self, inner voice, God_You, myself, this, we are a truth." Zaman's memoir is merely good, but it's streaks ahead of Sophia Shaimiyev's "Mother Winter." Shaimiyev has a lot to say: She is a Russian immigrant to America, the daughter of a lost alcoholic mother and a dark, abusive father. But what she says she says with so much I-am-womanhear-me-roar abandon, it was all I could do not to avert my gaze out of delicacy for her, if not for myself. "That night, in bed with my boyfriend," she writes at one point, "I felt a certain kind of desperate passion - like a cheetah attacking a water buffalo - amplified by him being monotone and withholding." Cheetahs and water buffaloes don't exist in nature together, for a start. Still, not 30 pages later we're told: "A rhino hunted for its ivory runs in fear of captivity. She knows not whether the gun pointed at her from the chopper is to kill her or is a stun gun to knock her out and take her to safety." Rhinos have horns, not ivory. These are pointless, sloppy sentences, and they highlight the central problem of this book. Shaimiyev has plenty of genuine self-concern, but beyond herself she seems capable of thinking only in stereotypes ; she can't see beyond her own suffering let alone get her readers there. "What if the name of the town and country you were born in changed after you left? What if you lived in three different countries within a year right before you hit puberty?" This reader's response to that rhetorical question is: It's the memoirist's job to figure out those basic questions, and then write us your considered answers. Which brings me to Pam Houston's regrettable "Deep Creek." It's ostensibly the story of the lifesaving properties of her high-elevation ranch in Colorado, although there's not much to cultivate up there in the long winters except, apparently, self-delusion and acres of self-satisfied contradictions. Houston begins her narrative by telling us, in her introduction, that she's "happiest with one plane ticket in my hand and another in my underwear drawer. Motion improves any day for me - the farther the faster the better." She ends the book by recounting her boat trip through the Fury and Hecla Strait. "I was face to face with my familiar koan: how to be with the incandescent beauty of the iceberg without grieving the loss of polar bear habitat." She's learned nothing, in other words, between the first pages and the last. In the meantime, however, we learn that social media too makes Houston grieve: "Facebook has already made me cry four times this morning," she writes roughly a third of a way through a tedious missive. "First it was Ursula Le Guin reminding me we don't write for profit, we write for freedom; next it was a video of the Unist'ot'en indigenous camp resistance trying to stop the Keystone pipeline; and then it was the state of Nevada electing a man to their house of representatives who said 'simple-minded darkies' show 'lack of gratitude' to whites." The social and environmental injustices that reduce Houston to tears are no accident; they're a fairly widespread global arrangement in which many of us are wittingly or unwittingly complicit. Houston has always wanted to be "a child of the wilderness," she tells us, but she's now an elder; it's time to do the hard work of connecting the dots between cause and effect. She might, for example, have scrutinized the roots of racism and indigenous American resistance in and around her beloved patch of barbedwired-off paradise. She might have told us what she herself was doing to combat this climate change she so laments. That would have been the beginning of a decent, possibly instructive memoir, or at least something beyond these sleepy musings. ALEXANDRA FULLER is the author, most recently, of "Leaving Before the Rains Come."


Library Journal Review

Novelist and essayist Houston (Contents May Have Shifted) turns to personal territory in this memoir of more than 20 years of ranch living in Colorado. Practical details, including chores, weather, and isolation are interspersed with chapters on seasonal change and natural beauty. Houston builds an ecosystem of dogs, horses, sheep, chickens, and miniature donkeys among native elk and coyotes, and peoples her wilderness with friends, visiting writers, helpful neighbors, and ranch sitters. Her breathless day-by-day account of a series of wildfires in 2013 that burned thousands of acres, including the mountains and valleys surrounding her land, demonstrate her fervent respect for nature. She also offers tender recollections of difficult topics such as child abuse and grief. Her travels as a teacher and writer to support herself and the ranch help to bring a global range to her observations and experiences. Houston discusses a deeply personal environmentalism that impacts her neighbors, her home, and her worldview. VERDICT Highly recommended as a memoir that combines nature, writing, and personal reflection.-Catherine Lantz, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib. © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.