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Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (1986)

by Barry Lopez

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,508288,312 (4.15)103
For better readers, an account of the history, ecology, and mystique of the arctic region.
Recently added byDonaldhGibson, ltbxf4, cfickett, BASK, FacelVega, joel.caris, c12marin, buzzbeez, PNWPrint, private library

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» See also 103 mentions

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"Eskimos do not maintain this intimacy with nature without paying a certain price. When I have thought about the ways in which they differ from people in my own culture, I have realized that they are more afraid than we are. On a day-to-day basis, they have more fear. Not of being dumped into cold water from an ‘umiak,’ not a debilitating fear. They are afraid because they accept fully what is violent and tragic in nature. It is a fear tied to their knowledge that sudden, cataclysmic events are as much a part of life, of really living, as are the moments when one pauses to look at something beautiful. A Central Eskimo shaman named Aua, queried by Knud Rasmussen about Eskimo beliefs answered, 'We do not believe. We fear.'"

"Many people claim that the aurora makes a sound, a muffled swish or 'a whistling and crackling noise, like the waving of a large flag on a fresh fale of wind,' as the explorer Samuel Hearne wrote. And some Eskimos say 'the lights' will respond to a gentle whistling and come nearer. They easily evoke feelings of awe and tenderness; the most remarkable effect they seem to have, however, is to draw a viewer emotionally up and out of himself, because they throw the sky into a third dimension, on such a vast scale, in such a beautiful way, that they make the emotion of self-pity impossible." ( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
The Arctic has captivated people for centuries, it has held the promise of wealth, is a place of unspoilt beauty whilst being one of the toughest places to survive in. It has drawn explorers and writers, adventurers and artists who use the landscape for inspiration. But it is an incredibly harsh environment; it takes no prisoners.

The celestial light on an arctic cusp

This hostile landscape is a place that Lopez has returned to time and time again to discover the people and animals that navigate and migrate across this land of ice. The ecosystem there is finely balanced and part of his story tells us how these closely interlocked systems are so susceptible to external influences, in particular with regards to climate. As well as writing about his journeys, we learn about the discoveries that were made by sailors and explorers over the past four hundred years, many of whom lost their lives as sailed into the freezing oceans. He describes his scientific observations, packing in details about the millions of birds and animals in the region.

Jet-black guillemots streaking over the white ice

I loved the landscape parts of the book, his eye for details on the landscape and the people are really good, and the writing comes across so well you could be there watching the aurora borealis with him. His writing is clear and concise, without being too showy. Whilst I understand it is important to set the context of how we came to know this place, there was a little too much history for a travel and nature book really, and I would have preferred much more on the landscape. It was worth reading, but I have read better though. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Barry Lopez has a keen eye and his outpouring of love and respect for the Arctic was a moving and lovely account of his, and indeed our, relationship to landscapes. The first chapters look at different animals in the Arctic, such as the polar bear, narwhale and muskox, but Lopez also skillfully weaves in philosophical investigation and personal experience. The final two chapters about Arctic exploration did not do such a fantastic job with weaving, I felt a bit like a pinball trying to keep the shifting of dates and names straight, it could have been a bit more linear for ease of understanding because these expeditions did sound intriguing and harrowing. ( )
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
An intimate look at the unique polar landscape by a passionate and respectful observer, wanderer, and historian. Just the read to get you through a snowy January in the mountains. ( )
  dele2451 | Jan 26, 2020 |
Not my cup of tea ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jul 14, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barry Lopezprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rambelli, RobertaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The landscape conveys an impression of absolute permanence. It is not hostile. It is simply there - untouched, silent and complete. It is very lonely, yet the absence of all human traces gives you the feeling that you understand this land and can take your place in it.
Edmund Carpenter
Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience; to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder upon it, to dwell upon it.
He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it.
He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of the moon and the colors of the dawn and dusk.
N. Scott Momaday
For Sandra
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On a warm summer day in 1823, the Cumbrian, a 360-ton British whaler, sailed into the waters off Pond's Bay (now Pond Inlet), northern Baffin Island, after a short excursion to the north.
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