Deep Creek, by Pam Houston

Based on what I have read in this luminescent almanac of essays, there is no writer who works harder than Pam Houston. Houston bought her ranch in the mountains of Colorado in the mid-90's with a 5% down payment and spent the next twenty years teaching writing all over the world as well as writing her own books and articles to support herself and the several domestic animals living on her ranch. Houston needs nature like most of the rest of us need WiFi. Trapped in a horrific childhood, the outdoors was her only true escape (aside from time spent with her beloved babysitter), and she flung herself deeply into the wilderness for much of her young adult life. The ranch was her godsend, a piece of earth she could call her own that allowed her soul the time to heal itself. Populated domestically by horses, mini donkeys, sheep, dogs, chickens, and one feral cat, and migratorially by elk and birds and coyotes, the ranch provides both an unbreakable routine of animals who depend upon her care and a deep connection to wilderness.

The routine of the ranch provides the bones for this book, with each essay punctuated at beginning and end by a short anecdote about Houston's animals, cupping the longer pieces like parentheses. The essays delve into Houston's past and her present, as well as a few ruminations about her future, the future of the ranch and the future of our planet. This is no easily definable work of nonfiction: part memoir, part farm tale, part screed against climate change and a documentation of its already-felt effects. Houston is, unsurprisingly, given she's been able to support herself as such, a wonderful writer. Her keen attention to detail is matched with a ready humor and insightful eye, paired with a hint of self-deprecation and a healthy dose of wonder at how lucky she has been in her adult life. I can honestly say that I'm ready to be out there on the ranch with her, already, sight unseen, in love with the place she calls her home.

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