The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality

Book, 2007, 296 pp
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A intensely personal account of the healing power of wild terrain.

The Solace of Fierce Landscapes explores the impulse that has drawn seekers into the wilderness for centuries and offers eloquent testimony to the healing power of mountain silence and desert indifference.

Interweaving a memoir of his mother's long struggle with Alzheimer's and cancer, meditations on his own wilderness experience, and illuminating commentary on the Christian via negativa--a mystical tradition that seeks God in the silence beyond language--Lane rejects the easy affirmations of pop spirituality for the harsher but more profound truths that wilderness can teach us. "There is an unaccountable solace that fierce landscapes offer to the soul. They heal, as well as mirror, the brokenness we find within." It is this apparent paradox that lies at the heart of this remarkable book: that inhuman landscapes should be the source of spiritual comfort

Lane shows that the very indifference of the wilderness can release us from the demands of the endlessly anxious ego, teach us to ignore the inessential in our own lives, and enable us to transcend the "false self" that is ever-obsessed with managing impressions. Drawing upon the wisdom of St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhardt, Simone Weil, Edward Abbey, and many other Christian and non-Christian writers, Lane also demonstrates how those of us cut off from the wilderness might "make some desert" in our lives.

Written with vivid intelligence, narrative ease, and a gracefulness that is itself a comfort, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes gives us not only a description but a "performance" of an ancient and increasingly relevant spiritual tradition.

"[...T]he author describes and unfolds the mutually illuminating interaction in himself between his profound sensitivity to place, especially the hard places of this earth, and his experience of one of the hardest of life's losses. Lane uses his wide and deep knowledge of the mystical tradition to interpret this experience in such a way that the reader is enlightened and encouraged."--Sandra M. Schneiders, Professor of New Testament and Christian Spirituality, The Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley

"[...] Lane [...] tells the story of the relationships between inner and outer wilderness. The landscape is an integrant of selfhood. To be 'in the desert' is to want something--water, promise of exodus. But there is no replenishment of these desires. The imagination and the 'self' are transfigured--given illumination--when the desert has its way. In the emptiness, the Voice says, 'stay with me; talk with me, not about me or you. This is my body, along with the echoes from yonder mountain.'"--Richard E. Wentz, Professor of Religious Studies, Arizona State University, author of John Williamson Nevin, American Theologian

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