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When I first moved to Alaska in the summer of 1987, one of the first books I read was “Arctic Dreams” by Barry Lopez, published in 1986, and winner of the National Book Award.  Lopez wrote with intensity and clarity of the northern landscape, the subtleties of the endless light of summer, and of the unspoiled landscape and our seemingly insatiable desire for the things the land possessed, which he used as metaphor for the ultimate dominion of man over nature.

Robert Adams  writes  that all true art comes from suffering—not a comforting thought to the young hoping to create art—but suffering is an undeniable part of the human experience, and is the force that drives us  to seek consolations—truth, beauty, love.

Yesterday, I listened (twice) to an interview on  NPR Fresh Air between Terry Gross and Barry Lopez, in which he discussed his childhood experiences as the victim of a pedophile,  a man posing as a respected doctor.  The entire interview is gut wrenching to listen to—not only was he subjected to sexual abuse, but he also speaks of the failure of other adults to confront the abuser. And near the end of the interview, he speaks of the consequences of his decision to publish the article—the mail he is receiving from others who have also been subjected to abuse—and his feelings of being unable to help—that he is just a writer, not a trained counselor, not an expert witness—and that he finds himself once again on the edge of the abyss.

Lopez has called the landscape of the Arctic “numinous”–the belief that places have spirits—not a common belief in the 21st century—but perhaps a ray of hope when gods and men have failed so profoundly to protect the body and soul of a child.

This morning, just after sunrise, I took my camera into the nearest numinous place I know, a mangrove swamp located several hundred yards west of where I slept last night.   And, using the only gift given me, I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and anguish for the soul of Barry Lopez.   May  this place, and its spirit, and other places of beauty, heal and protect him, because we need every story he has the strength and courage to tell.

Mangroves, Cape Coral,  Florida, January 11, 2013

Mangroves, Cape Coral, Florida, January 11, 2013

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