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Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen…

Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (original 2001; edition 2001)

by Kathleen Norris

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1,287136,086 (4.03)31
Title:Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
Authors:Kathleen Norris
Info:Mariner Books (2001), Edition: 1, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Non-Fiction, Spirituality, TBR

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Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris (2001)



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It is always interesting to see how a book stands up to a re-reading. This book fared fairly well in that I think it is one of Norris's best written books. There is little narrative sequence in Norris's reflections, save the general story of moving from New York to South Dakota and through a process, South Dakota becomes home. Instead, what we have here is a series of poetic reflections on Dakota, on place, on the Benedictine monastery (Norris is an Oblate).

I found it interesting that many of Norris's main themes are expanded in her later writings. "The Cloistered Walk" focus on her experience with the Benedictines. "Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and 'Women's Work'" develops the theme of daily routine. Acedia & Me of course focuses on Acedia, but it draws together every theme that is in this book and represents a more mature reflection that is found here. It is also more honest and complete, in that Norris there shares more vulnerably about her marriage and the difficulties she had in Dakota. But there her prose there plods and wanders. Dakota was first and artfully written. Norris gets deeper but this is perhaps one of her best artistically speaking.

What Norris attempts and succeeds at here is to enter into a place, see it appreciate it and tell the truth about it. She speaks lovingly about the state and the people she came to love, but she doesn't romanticize it either. I read with interest her reflections and never once felt like moving to Dakota. ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Social commentary ( )
  JackSweeney | Jan 10, 2017 |
I had been saving this book for several years because I had heard it was fantastic. I read about half the book and was very bored. Put it down. Came back a month or so later to finish. Some chapters were OK. "Is it You Again" and "Monks at Play" were an interesting exploration of monasteries.
I felt her constant comparisons of the communities of the Dakotas with monastic communities was a bit strained at times and it was irritating to have her continually mix the two. She had too many ideas she wanted to develop here:coming to terms with her families past, exploring her changing spirituality and interest in monasteries, expounding on small town society. ( )
  juniperSun | Jul 7, 2016 |
I read about 2/3 of the book. I liked it in the beginning. After a while I began to feel I was reading the same thing over and over. I think my problem was that it wasn't what I expected it to be. It seems to be less a story and more a series of essays or the musings of the author on spirituality found in the difficulties of life in Western Dakotas and in a monastery. I lost interest about 50 pages into it, but kept reading to around page 250. I tried to finish because this book was one I was involved in selecting for our book club. I gave up trying.

( )
  ajlewis2 | Feb 24, 2016 |
i read another book by kathleen norris which was too religious for me but this was wonderful. ( )
  mahallett | Aug 25, 2015 |
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"I think that if we examine our lives, we will find that most good has come to us from the few loyalties, and a few discoveries made many generations before we were born, which must always be made anew.There too may sometimes appear to come by chance, but in the infinite web of things and events chance must be something different from what we think it to be. To comprehend that is not given to us, and to think of it is to recognize a mystery, and to acknowledge the necessity of faith. As I look back on the part of the mystery which is my own life, my own fable, what I am most aware of is that we receive more than we can ever give; we receive it from the past, on which we draw with every breath . . ."
--Edwin Muir, An Autobiography
"Tell me the landscape in which you live, and I will tell you who you are."
--José Ortega y Gassett
In memory of Kathleen Dakota and Mary Beatrice
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The High Plains, the beginning of the desert West, often act as a crucible for those who inhabit them.
When these people ask, "Who will replace us?"the answer is, "who knows, maybe no one," and it's not easy to live with that truth...The challenge is to go on living graciously and thankfully, cultivating love. (p.174)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618127240, Paperback)

After 20 years of living in the "Great American Outback," as Newsweek magazine once designated the Dakotas, poet Kathleen Norris (The Cloister Walk) came to understand the fascinating ways that people become metaphors for the land they inhabit. When trying to understand the polarizing contradictions that exist in the Dakotas between "hospitality and insularity, change and inertia, stability and instability.... between hope and despair, between open hearts and closed minds," Norris draws a map. "We are at the point of transition between east and west in the United States," she explains, "geographically and psychically isolated from either coast, and unlike either the Midwest or the desert west."

Like Terry Tempest Williams (Refuge), Norris understands how the boundary between inner and outer scenery begins to blur when one is fully present in the landscape of their lives. As a result, she offers the geography lesson we all longed for in school. This is a poetic, noble, and often funny (see her discussion on the foreign concept of tofu) tribute to Dakota, including its Native Americans, Benedictine monks, ministers and churchgoers, wind-weathered farmers, and all its plain folks who live such complicated and simple lives. --Gail Hudson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:27 -0400)

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Norris reveals the contradictions of small town life on the Great Plains, where gracious hospitality blends with provincial wariness, local history is valued by writers, and truth and myth collide.

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