Arctic Dreams: Group Read

Talk75 Books Challenge for 2022

Join LibraryThing to post.

Arctic Dreams: Group Read

Edited: Jun 19, 2022, 7:12 pm

"Winner of the National Book Award and a best-seller upon publication in 1986, Arctic Dreams is now acknowledged as a classic, a book that re-defined the genre of nature writing. In prose of transparent beauty, Lopez celebrates the Arctic landscape and the animals and people that live there. But he also looks deep into our dreams and the strange fascination that the Arctic exerts over our imaginations."

Born in January 1945, Barry Holstun Lopez is an American author, essayist, and fiction writer whose work is known for its environmental and social concerns.

Lopez has been described as "the nation's premier nature writer" by the San Francisco Chronicle. In his non-fiction, he frequently examines the relationship between human culture and physical landscape, while in his fiction he addresses issues of intimacy, ethics and identity."

Edited: Jun 19, 2022, 7:12 pm

I have enjoyed 2 books by Lopez- Of Wolves and Men and Winter Count, so I am really looking forward to reading Arctic Dreams, his award-winning book of essays, which many consider to be his best book.

I have not hosted a Group Read in a long time but at least 6 people showed interest in reading it, so I thought it earned its own thread. I will keep things loose and easy, knowing folks like to read at different paces. I hope everyone comments on each of the essays, without giving out dramatic spoilers. I will be reading a Kindle copy, so I am not sure how long these essays run. I will start mine tomorrow.

This is open to anyone that is interested. Sorry, I should have given a bigger heads-up.

Happy Reading!!

Jun 19, 2022, 10:44 pm

I’ve added this thread to the group wiki. Have fun!

Jun 20, 2022, 7:24 am

Thanks, Jim.

Jun 20, 2022, 10:14 am

I'm in. Thanks for setting this up, Mark!

Jun 20, 2022, 10:25 am

I'm in also. I read this many years ago, and now have a Kindle copy, so ready to go.

Jun 20, 2022, 1:16 pm

I’m in. Read the Preface, about to read the Prologue, and maybe some day soon I’ll start the book itself.😀

Jun 20, 2022, 1:19 pm

Great! There is 4 of us in. I plan on spending a large chunk of the afternoon with Mr. Lopez.

Jun 20, 2022, 1:39 pm

>7 jnwelch: Those two are among The Best Preface and Prologue ever written!

Jun 20, 2022, 1:48 pm

I am in as well!

Jun 20, 2022, 3:18 pm

I will start tomorrow Mark.

Jun 20, 2022, 4:15 pm

Seven have reported in. Not shabby. Waiting on our favorite Weirdo!!

Edited: Jun 20, 2022, 6:58 pm

Some of the critters that have been mentioned so far:

-Horned Lark. (I have seen these here during migration).

-Beluga Whale (They have a few of these at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.)

-Snowy Owl (I have seen a few of these).

-Collared Lemming

Jun 20, 2022, 7:05 pm

I agree with Marianne- The Preface and Prologue were a strong opening. I am now almost finished with the first essay, "Arktikos". This one sets up on how unique the Arctic is and how hardy the fauna/flora have to be to survive in these harsh conditions. It still breaks my heart, hearing about the massive slaughter of whales during the 1800 & 1900s.

Edited: Jun 21, 2022, 6:37 am

>13 msf59: Lovely.

Here is my cover, I've had this book for donkey's years, but only dipped before.

Jun 21, 2022, 12:00 pm

>14 msf59: "Arktikos" inspires us to watch, not merely see.

Jun 21, 2022, 12:05 pm

Piping up to say that I got a copy of the book, so I would like to join in with you!

Karen O

Edited: Jun 21, 2022, 12:37 pm

Mark, are we planning on reading at the rate of an essay a day? Just curious. That is a comfortable rate for me right now, so I will probably stick to it all the way through.

Jun 21, 2022, 1:10 pm

Hi Mark - would love to slow down a bit to read people's reactions...

Jun 21, 2022, 2:12 pm

>16 m.belljackson: Well said, Marianne.

>17 klobrien2: Welcome aboard, Karen. Love to have you along.

>18 alcottacre: >19 m.belljackson: I am reading a Kindle edition, so I can't readily see how long each essay is. Are they all about uniform length or do they vary? It is a long book, so I don't want it to drag on too much but I will gladly slow down.

Jun 21, 2022, 6:08 pm

>20 msf59: The first essay, Arktikos, is 25 pages long in my edition. The second, Banks Island, is 30+ pages long. Several appear to be about 40 pages long and there is at least one that is about 60 pages in length, so they vary.

Jun 21, 2022, 6:09 pm

In chapter 2, Lopez uses the word "timeless" and it strikes me as a highly appropriate word to use for the Arctic. Just a thought.

Edited: Jun 21, 2022, 6:58 pm

>21 alcottacre: >22 alcottacre: Thanks, Stasia. I just finished "Banks Island". I could probably do an essay a day or maybe just a little more. How many essays are there total?

Yep, his use of "timeless" is perfect.

Edited: Jun 21, 2022, 6:57 pm

^I finished the second essay, "Banks Island". The muskoxen are featured heavily. Fascinating animals. Lopez also supplied another reminder- Man has been killing animals, sometimes in massive numbers, for 18,000 years.

Currently there are about 170,000 muskoxen, up from 135,000 in 2008.

Jun 21, 2022, 6:59 pm

Fun Fact:

"Annual snowfall over most of the Arctic is light, often no more than four to six inches, and actual snowstorms are rare."

Jun 21, 2022, 7:28 pm

I am finally back on line. I can report I am in, poised to begin Arktikos as the sun sets tonight. I have not taken the time yet to read and digest all the posts in this thread. But I did see an ask if the planned pace is a chapter/essay per day. I'm going to have to read a little faster, since I'm being taken abroad, departing June 30.

>25 msf59: Hmmm. Will climate change alter the yearly snowfall?

Jun 21, 2022, 7:58 pm

>23 msf59: Mark, there are 9 chapters and an epilogue. Counting the epilogue, that means that (in my particular edition of the book) there are 416 pages of the text proper.

Jun 21, 2022, 9:42 pm

>25 msf59: The snowfall in the Arctic sounds like what I've read about the Antarctic, which is basically a frozen desert.

Jun 21, 2022, 10:36 pm

>24 msf59: Online Search offers video of Baby Muskoxen's First Day.

Jun 22, 2022, 4:45 am

I suspect I will take two days per essay (being a worker still, and always reading more than one book at a time).

Jun 22, 2022, 6:42 am

>27 alcottacre: Thanks, Stasia. About one a day sounds about right then.

>28 ffortsa: I thought the same thing.

>29 m.belljackson: Sweet.

>30 Caroline_McElwee: Whatever works for you, Caroline. We are just glad to have you along.

Jun 22, 2022, 10:35 am

I just read through the preface. Magnificent, even stately writing, and an almost intimate sense of the writer and the landscapes.

Jun 22, 2022, 10:37 am

>30 Caroline_McElwee: I think I’ll be reading at your rate, Caroline.

I loved the way Lopez sets up the framework for the book early on (Prologue): “At the heart of this narrative, then, are three themes: the influence of the Arctic landscape on the human imagination. How a desire to put a landscape to use shapes our evaluation of it. And, confronted by an unknown landscape, what happens to our sense of wealth.”

Karen O

Jun 22, 2022, 11:48 am

>33 klobrien2: Funny, Karen - I had bookmarked that exact quote for when I did my final thoughts on the book. It is a good one.

Jun 22, 2022, 1:00 pm

You had me at muskox!

On a trip to Alaska, we visited the muskox farm. In the buildings tour, among other things, we got to feel the wool taken from their underbelly. Incredibly soft (and expensive!). There was a rumor that a knitted qiviut scarf could be pulled through the eye of a needle. I don't remember now if that was true, but it was the softest, finest, warmest garment I've ever donned.

Muskox Farm, Palmer Alaska.

Jun 22, 2022, 2:07 pm

I’m really liking Lopez’s writing style. He’s very smooth and accessible, isn’t he?!

Karen O

Jun 22, 2022, 2:13 pm

>32 ffortsa: Couldn't have said it better Judy.

>33 klobrien2: I think the prose command to be read at a slower speen Karen.

Jun 22, 2022, 4:03 pm

>13 msf59:. Thanks for the photos!

I just thoroughly enjoyed the chapter on polar bears.

Jun 22, 2022, 4:55 pm

In "Arktikos," Barry Lopez might want to update this for future editions:

"Mankind is, in fact, even older than the Arctic,
if you consider his history to have begun with the emergence of Cro-Magnon
people in Europe 40,000 years ago."

Jun 22, 2022, 6:04 pm

>35 countrylife: "You had me at muskox!" I love it!! Glad you are joining us, Cindy. Hooray for the muskoxen.

I have been birding all day and just got home, so I have not cracked the book. I hope to read a bit this evening, otherwise I will have to play catch up.

Jun 22, 2022, 10:21 pm

I am struck by the language that Lopez uses to describe where he is: "timeless," "waiting in silence," "a sense of emptiness," "a feeling of directionlessness," etc.

Edited: Jun 23, 2022, 6:57 am

I started the book, and now see that the group read has started also. Nice to be sharing impressions.

Up till now I am finding it very accessible. Still reading Arktikos, lots of interesting stuff. The vulnerability of the arctic is what strikes me. And how it appeals to the imagination. I’m glad I started the book!

I haven’t seen any of the critters in your pictures in the wild, Marc, but some in a zoo. The horned lark can be seen here, and lots of migrating birds pass through that nest far to the north. Where does the arctic start?

Jun 23, 2022, 9:25 am

>35 countrylife: What a Great Place - Thank you for sharing THE MUSK OX FARM!

(Because of all the online horrors like 'What is a Musk Ox Good for' & ' How does it taste' Etc.,
I wrote to the Farm and this was their response =

"Hi Marianne, we do not sell meat.
We are a fiber farm, so our musk oxen live out nice long happy lives here
then have a full-body burial here on the farm when they pass.
Hope this helps answer your question and please let me know if you have any others.)


Edited: Jun 23, 2022, 5:40 pm

I finished the Tornarssuk chapter. It features polar bears and is my favorite of the essays so far. Absolutely fascinating animals.

"The Eskimos' affinity for the polar bear is easy to understand from the parallels in their ecology and the similarity of their dwellings."

Currently there are between 22,000 and 31,000 polar bears left. Not endangered yet, but certainly threatened and getting perilously close. Much different, than when Lopez wrote this book, in 1986.

Jun 23, 2022, 6:14 pm

>44 msf59: I learned a lot about polar bears reading that chapter. Not that I think I will remember it all, lol.

Jun 23, 2022, 6:16 pm

Hi Mark - skipping over the hunting, the capturing and the experimentations,

we arrive at Dorset Art and the Famous Flying Polar Bear!

A great one to download - I've now got a print in my little old book.

Jun 23, 2022, 9:32 pm

I can’t resist this group read. It’s a lovely coincidence that we are getting started in conjunction with the summer solstice.

I was fed up with all the animal slaughter when I tried to read this on my own last year. It will be easier to soldier through the uncomfortable parts with a group. I really like the idea of reading a chapter a day. There is so much information that I need those pauses to let everything settle in. I certainly know much more about Polar Bears and Muskoxen than I knew a few days ago!

Edited: Jun 25, 2022, 9:23 am

"Three million colonial seabirds, mostly northern fulmars, kittiwakes, and guillemots, nest and feed here in the summer."

I finished Chapter Four, which focused mostly on the narwhal- that wonderful, mystical creature of the sea. Lopez offers a lot of interesting details about these whales.

I have also started Chapter Five, which deals migration, which is endlessly fascinating. How is everyone else doing?

Jun 25, 2022, 10:29 am

I’m on Chapter 3; should be catching up this weekend. Loving this book!

Karen O

Jun 25, 2022, 10:53 am

>49 klobrien2: Same as me, Karen. I will be catching up over the weekend too.

Jun 25, 2022, 11:19 am

>48 msf59: Hi Mark - Will add comments as soon as I figure out how to do a Spoiler Alert again.

Jun 25, 2022, 12:28 pm

>48 msf59: I am fascinated by Narwhal's and those amazing tusks Mark.

Edited: Jun 25, 2022, 12:37 pm

I went back to camp mulling the arrangements animals manage in space and in time-their migrations, their patience, their lairs. Did they have intentions as well as courage, and caution?
My italics. I love such questions and pondering.

The trouble with this book is you could quote so much.

The Arktikós chapter made me think of the scientists and explorers who spent so many years in such extreme circumstances to observe and bring us understanding, and those who continue to do so, if now with more sophisticated kit to keep them more comfortable.

Edited: Jun 25, 2022, 1:22 pm

It seems like everyone has been enjoying this book. Makes me happy.

I meant to mention this much earlier, that I had immediately found Lopez's use of "Eskimo" surprising. That term has fallen out of favor and is now considered offensive. Of course, the book was written in the mid-1980s, when the term was used widely. Obama signed a measure in 2016, removing the term Eskimo from federal laws. The native Alaskans prefer to be called Inuit and Yupik.

Jun 25, 2022, 1:33 pm

>54 msf59: Yay for Obama. Knowing when it was written it didn't clang with me Mark. I assume in Horizon he will have shifted.

I plan to read that volume later in the year. It was the reason I wanted to read Arctic Dreams cover to cover now.

Jun 25, 2022, 3:58 pm

Being a tree person, here are some arctic birches

Image from this blog:

And the blue arctic willow, the stumpy low willow Lopez mentions, be it all in a domestic garden here:

Jun 25, 2022, 9:45 pm

The pictures add a new dimension to the reading. Thanks to Caroline, Mark, and Cindy. I’m glad you explained about the use of “Eskimo”, Mark. I wondered. I will finish the Migration chapter tonight. This quote was lovely:

”Watching the animals come and go, and feeling the land swell up to meet them and then feeling it grow still at their departure. I came to think of the migrations as breath, as the land breathing. In spring a great inhalation of light and animals. The long-bated breath of summer. And an exhalation that propelled them all south in the fall.”

Jun 25, 2022, 10:04 pm

I read chapters 4-6 tonight to catch up. I would love to go visit the Arctic if for no other reason than to see the wildlife and the sky!

Jun 26, 2022, 3:44 am

>35 countrylife: What a wonderful experience Cindy. I've just finished that chapter.

Jun 26, 2022, 3:04 pm

Coincidentally, where Barry writes:
"In biology,
those transitional areas between two different communities are called ecotones,"

I had just read, in the great YA book, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe:

"Do you know what an ecotone is?"

"It's the terrain where two different ecosystems meet.
In an ecotone, the landscape will contain elements of the two different ecosystems.
It's like a natural borderland."

Nice expansion on ARCTIC DREAMS...

Jun 26, 2022, 7:00 pm

"Birds tug at the mind and heart with a strange intensity."

"The ice floes, the caribou, the muskoxen, all drift. To lie on your back somewhere on the light drowned tundra of an Ellesmere Island Valley is to feel that the ice ages might have ended but a few days ago."

"I looked at out at the icebergs. They were so beautiful they also made me afraid.

^Quotes from chapters 5 & 6. Chapter 5 might contain the most beautiful passages so far. I wasn't as enamored with chapter 6. I wish it could have been much shorter.

Edited: Jun 26, 2022, 7:04 pm

^Examples of the Dorset "Okvik" artwork.

Edited: Jun 26, 2022, 7:07 pm

^The Icebergs by Frederic Edwin Church. Mentioned in chapter 6.

Jun 26, 2022, 7:14 pm

>63 msf59: Stunning painting Mark, thanks for posting.

Edited: Jun 27, 2022, 6:01 pm

-Arctic Fox

"You can sit for a long time with the history of man like a stone in your hand. The stillness, the pure light, encourage it."

"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."

I just finished Chapter 7. This one focused on the landscape and map-making.

>64 klobrien2: I love this carving, Karen. Thanks for sharing.

Jun 27, 2022, 6:26 pm

I see most of this group is speeding ahead of me, but that's fine. I find Lopez's writing quite hypnotic. Still on the Prologue, but will read more soon.

And thanks to Mark and >64 klobrien2: for the splendid pictures. I didn't remember anything about the Dorset people, and it's wonderful to see their art.

Jun 27, 2022, 8:29 pm

Thanks, Mark, for all the photos - can you also add the classic (all white) photo of the Dorset Flying Bear?

I keep a copy of that and The Icebergs in ARCTIC DREAMS.
Lopez has a magical way of weaving art and nature.

Jun 27, 2022, 9:48 pm

In chapter 7, Lopez says, "A Lakota woman named Elaine Jahner once wrote that what lies at the heart of the religion of hunting peoples is the notion that a spiritual landscape exists within the physical landscape."

I can see that clearly in much of what Lopez writes.

Jun 28, 2022, 6:58 pm

>68 m.belljackson: Hi, Marianne. Did you see that Karen shared a photo of the Dorset Flying Bear, up there in post # 64. Very cool artwork.

>69 alcottacre: Nice quote.

Just finishing up Chapter 8. Didn't get as much reading in today. Does anyone know how many pages remain in chapter 9 and the epilogue?

Edited: Jun 28, 2022, 7:55 pm

>68 m.belljackson: >70 msf59: I updated >64 klobrien2: to add another image, one with a plainer version of the Dorset flying bear. Marianne, is this what you were thinking of? Just "Google" "Dorset floating flying bear" to see others.

Karen O.

Edited: Jun 28, 2022, 8:11 pm

>70 msf59: I'm reading on Libby, and Chapter 9 has 75 pages, the Epilogue has 15 pages. So you are close to finishing! (Although there are a lot of tasty appendixes, etc.).

Karen O.

P.s. Okay, now my Ipad has Ch. 9 at 52 pages, the Epilogue at 10. Your mileage may vary, I guess.

Jun 28, 2022, 9:05 pm

I am having to slow down a bit as I have TIOLI challenges that I need to complete by Thursday and I am dealing with CFS again. Hopefully I can catch up and complete the book by the weekend.

Jun 28, 2022, 9:15 pm

>70 msf59: Yes, while that is also a Classic, your readers might like The Dorset Flying Bear! I keep a copy in my book.

Jun 29, 2022, 5:40 am

I am lagging behind as well. Never mind, I love the writing. It obviously is an older book! No mention of global warming. I just finished the narwhal chapter, and thinking of how endangered they are right now because of that.

Jun 29, 2022, 7:27 am

I'm still with the polar bears. Very much enjoying my read.

Edited: Jun 29, 2022, 7:34 am

>72 klobrien2: Thanks, Karen.

Yah, for the the Dorset Flying Bears, narwhals & polar bears.

Edited: Jun 30, 2022, 5:25 pm

Article about Barry Lopez in the NYTimes: I think this link will work, since I'm trying to gift it:

Let me know if you have trouble clicking on the link and getting the article...

I know it's way ahead of the game, but I'd be interested in a shared read of Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World after we finish Arctic Dreams!

Karen O.

Edited: Jun 30, 2022, 5:28 pm

>77 msf59: I'm deep in the heart of Chapter 5 (Migration), reading about the mind-splitting sheer numbers of birds and other wildlife. I've enjoyed having the pictures of the critters available as I read; makes it more vivid, I guess. So I decided to look up a bird called "oldsquaw duck," both in the interest of seeing if a new name had been assigned to hopefully replace that ugly old-fashioned name, and to see what the bird looked like. I hadn't ever heard of such a bird.

Beautiful bird, right?! And Wikipedia says that the current name for the bird is "Long-Tailed Duck," which is much more descriptive and much less offensive.

Karen O.

Jun 30, 2022, 11:49 pm

I finished chapter 8 tonight. Interestingly enough, I am slated to read Barrow's Boys by Fergus Fleming in July, a book that I have read before and can recommend if anyone is interested in reading more about Britain's voyaging days.

Jul 1, 2022, 5:34 pm

>79 klobrien2: Just about to start that chapter Karen.

I'm not in a big reading mood at the moment, quite unusual, but in a way that suits this read as I can just wallow in it a bit.

Jul 1, 2022, 5:43 pm

>78 klobrien2: Thanks for posting this article Karen. I will certainly add this volume to this years reading, probably after reading the sequel to Arctic Dreams, Horizon

Jul 2, 2022, 7:21 pm

How’s everyone’s reading going? Still hanging in? I, myself, am deep in Chapter 6 (“Ice and Light”), getting awed and/or mind-blown every few pages.

Have a great weekend!

Karen O

Jul 2, 2022, 10:16 pm

I finished the book tonight. I very much enjoyed it. Thank you again for setting up the group read, Mark.

I thought I would mention that Tony (meanderer) recommended a book on my thread: "I would recommend Duncan Pryde's Nunaga for its warts and all account of life in Eskimo communities in the 1950s and 60s. Pryde worked for the Hudson's Bay Company at several trading posts in the Arctic and became immersed in the local culture. If I remember correctly he became the foremost expert on Eskimo languages and dialects and began writing a dictionary and grammar but only got as far as the end of the letter A before he died."

Jul 3, 2022, 1:46 pm

If you can order enough (other books and gifts) to balance the high shipping cost,
Barry Lopez' final book, HORIZON is on sale at online Daedalus Books for $6.98, from $30.00.

Jul 3, 2022, 6:04 pm

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! I have not abandoned the Group Read. I promise. I just haven't been on LT much, the past few days. I finished the book on Thursday. Glad to hear everyone seems to be enjoying Arctic Dreams. Please keep sharing thoughts and pics.

>78 klobrien2: >79 klobrien2: >83 klobrien2: I would be up for Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World: Essays, Karen. Maybe, toward the end of the year? Hopefully, someone will send out a reminder.

I love the long-tailed duck. I have seen a couple of these. I think I saw them in MI. I agree "oldsquaw" is a cruddy name. Ugh.

"getting awed and/or mind-blown every few pages." LOVE IT!!

Jul 5, 2022, 12:04 pm

Chapter 6 IS really blowing my mind! Here's a sample of what awes me: "The Greenland ice cap, forming continuously from layers of compacted snow and trapped air and expanding at varying rates, is 1500 miles long, 450 miles wide, and up to 11,000 feet thick." I have trouble visualizing that!

Or, how about this one: "It seemed almost superfluous, but the third mate took the measure of one (iceberg) with his sextant: 64.7 meters high by 465.4 meters long (212.27 by 1526.88 feet). Another is 70.4 meters high by 371.0 meters long (230.97 by 1217.19 feet); but the numbers cannot encompass them. The ice reaches far below the surface of the water and stretches away in a third dimension. It is impossible to know how much of it lies beneath the water--”four-fifths of its height and seven-eighths of its mass is the mariner's general rule. And the shape of each one changes as our ship passes. New valleys, slopes of wind-packed snow, ramparts and spires, and columnar bluffs come into view. Another set of measurements of the same iceberg turns out differently."

I'm reading the book in Libby (my library's ebook reader) and there are lots of cool tools for highlighting/extracting/importing, which is how I was able to pull these quotes so easily. Fun!

I should be starting Chapter 7, "The Country of the Mind" later on today.

Karen O

Edited: Jul 5, 2022, 3:48 pm

Chapter 6 "Critter Watch":

Ribbon Seal:


Karen O

Jul 6, 2022, 6:51 pm

I've finished Chapter 7: The Country of the Mind.

Here are a few passages that grabbed my mind as I was reading:

"If one can take the phrase "country of the mind" to mean the landscape evident to the senses, as it is retained in human memory and arises in the oral tradition of a people, as a repository of both mythological and "real-time" history, then perhaps this phrase will suffice."

"The perspective of most maps of the land, to begin with, is an abstraction, because it represents what the moving eye, not the stationary eye, sees in an overview. The map is two-dimensional, while the earth is three-dimensional and curved in two planes; neither the renderings nor the projections are ever quite accurate, and if the scale is large, the distortion can be extreme."

"In the face of a rational, scientific approach to the land, which is more widely sanctioned, esoteric insights and speculations are frequently overshadowed, and what is lost is profound. 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."

"These studies have revealed a long and remarkably unbroken connection between various groups of indigenous people and the particular regions of the Arctic they inhabit. It is impossible to separate their culture from these landscapes. The land is like a kind of knowledge traveling in time through them. Land does for them what architecture sometimes does for us. It provides a sense of place, of scale, of history; and a conviction that what they most dread-- ”annihilation, eclipse” will not occur."

Okay, I'll stop.

On to Chapter 8: The Intent of Monks.

Karen O.

Jul 6, 2022, 9:53 pm

I love all the pictures you are sharing, Karen! Thank you.

Jul 7, 2022, 7:01 am

>90 klobrien2: Thanks for the photos Karen.

I'm not going to get much reading time in the next couple of days, but hope to finish this fascinating read over the weekend.

Jul 7, 2022, 8:37 am

>88 klobrien2: >90 klobrien2: Love the critter photos! I am in love with those guillemots. Wow. Love those quotes too. I bookmarked a lot of passages too.

Jul 7, 2022, 11:47 am

>91 alcottacre: >92 Caroline_McElwee: Doing the pictures and quotes is helping to keep me focused in the book—I need the help! Sorry to be loading the thread up, but it’s only for a few more chapters!

>93 msf59: I am amazed at how many beautiful animals and birds this region has! And Lopez’s writing is so quotable! Libby makes it so easy with the highlighting-and-then-exporting thing.

Chapter 8 for me today!

Karen O

Jul 7, 2022, 12:00 pm

>89 klobrien2: Karen, I also kept track of lots of quotations. Lopez is an amazing nature writer. As much as I liked learning about the animals in the beginning of the book, I think I appreciated the middle chapters focused on the impact of the landscape on imagination and the arts even more. I loved the metaphor comparing icebergs to cathedrals.

Thank you for posting the wonderful pictures.

Jul 7, 2022, 12:05 pm

I finished the book yesterday and put a few thoughts (and more quotations) on on my thread.

Jul 7, 2022, 12:39 pm

Outlier Opinion: While Barry's environmental writings are impressive...

After spending pages describing the wisdom, beauty, and perseverance of the mighty Narwhal,

he then betrays his loyalty by eating it...

all because he doesn't want to offend his Inuit hosts.

Respect for them and none for the Narwhal.

Edited: Jul 7, 2022, 7:04 pm

>95 Donna828: >96 Donna828: >97 m.belljackson: Lopez seems to be eminently quotable; such a powerful writer. I'm just putting a few of my favorites in, as part of the group read. >96 Donna828: I read your writeup--thanks!

There was a point in the past week, when I didn't think that anyone else was still reading, like I was alone in the Arctic. I'm glad to see that this was not the case, and I love reading other people's takes on the book.

Karen O.

Edited: Jul 7, 2022, 7:53 pm

Karen's Chapter 8: "The Intent of Monks" (The history of Arctic exploration by Europeans)

"An arctic voyage in quest of unknown riches, or of a new passage to known riches, could mean tangible wealth for investors, and it could mean fame and social position for a captain or pilot."

"The literature of arctic exploration is frequently offered as a record of resolute will before the menacing fortifications of the landscape."

"Arctic history became for me, then, a legacy of desire--the desire of individual men to achieve their goals. But it was also the legacy of a kind of desire that transcends heroics and which was privately known to many--the desire for a safe and honorable passage through the world."

"What every culture must eventually decide, actively debate and decide, is what of all that surrounds it, tangible and intangible, it will dismantle and turn into material wealth. And what of its cultural wealth, from the tradition of finding peace in the vision of an undisturbed hillside to a knowledge of how to finance a corporate merger, it will fight to preserve."

"Not only did men of such different background and pursuits rarely converse, but the field observations of fishermen and whalers, or of common seamen, were thought by the upper classes not quite appropriate to the developing purposes of science, nor useful for the general education of politically or commercially sophisticated men."

Karen O.

Jul 7, 2022, 8:00 pm

>63 msf59: Did you see how big this painting (The Icebergs”) is?— 6 feet by 10 feet. Just love it.

Karen O

Edited: Jul 8, 2022, 5:28 pm

>97 m.belljackson: I am often conflicted about these things Marianne. But sometimes it is necessary to hold a contradiction in one's mind.

I have been a vegetarian (occasional vegan) for most of 38 years, though over the past 8 have eaten fish 2-3 times a month. However, I know were I to live somewhere unserviced by a supermarket/grocers, I would likely eat some meat.

I think throughout the book Lopez talks about the respect that native inhabitants have for the creatures they hunt for food and materials, so his admiration for the narwhal, yet choosing to eat it out of respect for cultures he is with doesn't sound out of place if you are a meat eater anyway. Other cultures take as sacred animals eaten commonly in the west. I think everyone can only do what their consciences permit.

I have more difficulty with meat-eaters who don't 'look in the face' the fact that what they are eating was once an animal. Many of my urban-living friends fall into this category. They would all soon become vegetarian if they had to hunt for their dinner!

Jul 8, 2022, 5:13 pm

>97 m.belljackson: I just finished the Epilogue, and Lopez addresses this issue, I think (well he talks about hunting, which is a precursor to the eating, right?):

"I brood often about hunting. It is the most spectacular and succinct expression of the Eskimo's relationship with the land, yet one of the most perplexing and disturbing for the outsider to consider."

"No matter what sophistication of mind you bring to such events, no matter what breadth of anthropological understanding, no matter your fondness for the food, your desire to participate, you have still seen an animal killed."

It's a big cultural conflict. I am not a vegetarian, but I hate to think of animals being killed for meat. I feel hypocritical, but there I am.

Karen O.

Jul 8, 2022, 5:24 pm

Karen's Chapter Nine: A Northern Passage

"The strength of British naval exploration was its regimented discipline, exerted by officers who believed completely and indefatigably in what they were doing. Its failure was its ethnocentrism, its attitude of moral and technical superiority to the Eskimo, its perception of the land as deserted and unamenable."

"Arctic exploration had had a military and scientific cast under Barrow's orchestration. It was selflessly performed for God and country. The Americans entered the Arctic with no such illusions."

"The same land-- plants, animals, small trees, weather, the low hills, rivers, and lakes-- is, as one might easily guess, seen differently in different eras by men of dissimilar background."

"The notion of Eskimos exploring their own lands and adapting anew at the same time Europeans were exploring the Arctic was something the Europeans were never aware of. They thought of the Arctic as fixed in time--a primitive landscape, a painting, inhabited by an attenuated people. They mistook the stillness and the cold for biological stasis. They thought nothing at all changed here. They thought it was a desert, a wasteland."

"The browns and blacks and whites were so rich I could feel them. The beauty here is a beauty you feel in your flesh. You feel it physically, and that is why it is sometimes terrifying to approach. Other beauty takes only the heart, or the mind."

And a few more from the Epilogue:

"But the ethereal and timeless power of the land, that union of what is beautiful with what is terrifying, is insistent."

"It is possible to travel in the Arctic and concentrate only on the physical landscape--on the animals, on the realms of light and dark, on movements that excite some consideration of the ways we conceive of time and space, history, maps, and art."

Karen O.

Edited: Jul 8, 2022, 5:36 pm

Chapter 9 "Critter Watch" and "One Interesting Thing"


Arctic Hare:

Inuit Men in Kayak, circa 1900:

Jul 8, 2022, 5:42 pm

I've now finished my read of Arctic Dreams. I'm rating it a 5-star, for the scope of its study, and the beauty of the prose. I've enjoyed reading with you all! And I'll pay attention to this thread, because I'm feeling a real sense of withdrawal. I'll also look forward to reading more Barry Lopez, either Horizon or Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World: Essays, or both!

Thanks to Mark to getting this thread and the read going! And thanks to all of you for sharing the journey.

Karen O.

Jul 8, 2022, 5:47 pm

>103 klobrien2: >103 klobrien2: Barry Lopez makes his case for Inuit hunting, yet he offers no reason why the Inuit

choose to have no spiritual connection with the caribou or the narwhal.

They choose to respect the Polar Bear,
but not these two migrating creatures so it's okay to kill off many which will not be eaten.

For some unknown reason these immigrants count for little.

It would have been welcome if Mr.Lopez had stood up for them.

Jul 8, 2022, 5:49 pm

>102 Caroline_McElwee: Yes, why do we eat our fellow creatures when we are not fast enough to run them down

and lack the canines to chew them without cooking!

Edited: Jul 11, 2022, 7:43 am

I really loved going on this journey with Lopez. His passion for the landscape, the people and the creatures that live here. Wonderful prose, you could quote half the book.

It lost half a star for when Lopez's voice describing his experiences disappears in the last few chapters to narrate the previous explorations. Maybe those chapters should have been appendices, they didn't give enough information to be fascinated by, and felt a bit like awkward lists.


>84 alcottacre: I just acquired this book Stasia, though will probably be a while before I get to it.

>63 msf59: >105 klobrien2: And thank you again Mark and Karen for the photos which added to the reading experience.

Jul 20, 2022, 1:45 pm

Audubon is featuring a 2023 ARCTIC Calendar.

Jul 20, 2022, 4:50 pm

Well the grandkids are gone and I am back to reading again after some afternoon naps. i have cracked the cover of Arctic Dreams and will greatly value this thread as I read through the book. Read the prologue last night and I can see that Lopez is a good writer.

Jul 21, 2022, 3:35 pm

>111 mdoris: I hope you enjoy the journey Mary.

Jul 21, 2022, 3:39 pm

>112 Caroline_McElwee: Thank you Caroline.

Jul 21, 2022, 5:27 pm

>104 klobrien2: >105 klobrien2: Thanks, Karen for keeping this thread lively. I appreciate it. I consider this a successful Group Read!

>109 Caroline_McElwee: I agree with your summation, Caroline, including the ending. It still did not take away from my overall opinion.

Jul 23, 2022, 12:26 pm

SIERRA Magazine's Summer edition shows a beautiful "Black Unicorns Are Real" Narwhal photo
and many words that sound like they were lifted directly from Barry Lopez,
with these additions:

"The narwhal's tusk senses changes in temperature, pressure, percussion.
It accurately measures the levels of salt in the water.

It reaches forward and translates all that information to a nerve
that goes directly to the brain.
Information transmitted by the tusk changes a narwhal's heart rate.
The tusk gives the heart and mind details about the ocean of the narwhal's existence."

Jul 23, 2022, 8:38 pm

>115 m.belljackson: Thanks for the heads-up! Amazing animal!

Karen O

Edited: Jul 30, 2022, 12:11 am

It is really hot here right now on the west coast of B.C. so reading this snow/ice book of Lopez's maybe cooled me down a bit. I had wanted to join the group read but I did have a library wait that didn't let that happen. Oh well! Yes it is an amazing book, one that I can see deserves all the accolades that it receives. It is big! There are so many parts to it, parts about animals, history, geography, exploration, explorers, natural wonders, philosophy, art, personal insights and struggles, figuring out what is important, survival stories, tragedies, geology and more. Oh my this is a big book! I bookmarked about 5 passages or more that were stunners and I lost all my bookmarks so that will not happen. Yes the writing was very good! I have wanted to read this book for a very long time and feel pleased that I have now done so.

Thanks Mark for organizing the group read!

Aug 9, 2022, 1:56 pm

I am hopeless with group reads - sorry. I read a little of the book during my trip to Massachusetts, but I'm only in the second or third essay. After all the group reads I thought I'd participate in, this should have been an obvious pass. But of course the writing is interesting. I worry that it is a bit outdated and that animals are more endangered than he states after all these years.

Aug 25, 2022, 7:41 pm

I finally finished the book. Very good and lots of interesting stuff there. I agree that the chapters about the history of the exploration could have been a bit shorter. What I found most fascinating, is what he tried to write about in his last chapter, and also earlier in the book, the feel of the life of the land as a living organism to be respected. Versus the technocratic view of the land as something to be used. I wish more people would see to respecting and honoring all of life. Would be of a lot of benefit. I have never been in the arctic, and you can’t reproduce an experience like that, but I have felt something similar sometimes, when you are roaming through nature, a forest at night with singing nightingales, or at sea. Does this sound familiar?

Aug 26, 2022, 3:28 am

>119 EllaTim: Yes Ella, on a smaller scale I've enjoyed that feeling. Hearing my first ever cuckoo for example. I've never been anywhere really wild, but have read books by those who have.

Aug 26, 2022, 6:00 am

>120 Caroline_McElwee: Oh yes, I can imagine. Certainly a cuckoo, as they are a part of one’s imagination through music!

No I’ve never been anywhere really wild too, but one can get glimpses.

Aug 26, 2022, 3:10 pm

>119 EllaTim: Congrats on finishing—the ending chapters are a little slog-gy, aren’t they?!

Reading the book has made me very aware of the Arctic, and it’s as if I have a sort of radar now for news articles about that part of the world. It’s such a pristine, wild place, sort of a “canary in a coal mine.”

Thanks for your words!

Karen O

Mar 16, 2023, 5:33 pm

Recently finished Arctic Dreams. Overall, deep attention to detail leading to wonderful insights into the natural world, and area clearly with still much to discover.

Mar 16, 2023, 6:26 pm

>123 C_Ray: Hi Christian, spot on. And welcome to Librarything. I'm sure you will quickly become addicted.

Mar 17, 2023, 7:58 am

>123 C_Ray: Welcome to LT, Christian. I hope you can join us on more Group Reads.