Believing In Place
A Spiritual Geography Of The Great Basin
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: University of Nevada Press
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At the dawn of the twenty-first century, two very different events reminded Americans and the world about the power of religion in defining place. The first, which occurred on September 11, 2001, will live in infamy as a horrendous act perpetrated by the darkest side of religion. That religion, a brand of radical Islamic fundamentalism...
1. Landscape and Storytelling
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In early October of 1881, three passengers gazed from a train rolling westward through Nevada. Although they had spent many hours on the California-bound train together, the three did not know each other and had nothing in common. One was a Paiute Indian ranch worker who, by virtue of birthright in an agreement...
2. Darkness and Light
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For the last several days, I’ve been driving from sunup to sundown, taking in the stunning desert landscapes of the Great Basin. At the end of the third day out of Reno, I’ve worked my way into the heart of the region. Now, with evening coming on, I’m driving like a bat out of hell between Ely and Pioche, Nevada. Somewhere...
3. Water and Memory
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Rolling out of Pioche, Nevada, I take one last look at the town in my rear-view mirror. Like most mining towns in the Great Basin, this one is chiseled into a canyon and flanked by mine dumps veneering the steep hillsides. Here, at about 6,000 feet above sea level, piñon pines cling to the rocky slopes of the Highland Range...
4. Stories in Stone
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The geology of the Great Basin presented a bewildering variety of landforms to nineteenth-century observers. I’m thinking about this as I travel across the region with maps in hand, trying to figure how everything fits together. Maps help greatly here, and one is especially helpful. Among my most prized possessions...
5. Encounters with the Wind
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Flying over the Great Basin in a commercial airliner, I gaze down into the Salt Lake Desert near the Utah-Nevada state line. It is late spring and the sky cloudless; from 23,000 feet the dark mountains appear like rows of purplish cinders, the broad valley floor is bright white. Looking closer, I see that the wind has stirred...
6. In Search of the Great Spirit
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As I drive the highways and graded back roads throughout the Great Basin, or hike back into the region’s isolated valleys and mountains, I sense the Native American presence everywhere. It is palpable in the names and the features of the landscape, like the Pequop Mountains and Mono Lake. It is also evident in the handsome...
7. Chosen People, Chosen Land
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On the graded road out of Trout Creek and Callao, Utah, I’ve just left the Goshute Indian reservation and am heading north through the edge of the Great Salt Lake Desert. The folklorist Richard Poulsen’s almost nihilistic words about desert places ring clear here, where the Great Basin is at its most desolate in appearance...
8. Vanishing Cities of Zion
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I think about J. H. Beadle’s observations and prophecies as I look out at the skyline of Salt Lake City on a bright summer day. True, the grand physical landscape of Utah overshadows most works of humankind here, as is plainly evident in the spectacular Wasatch Mountains that loom off to the east and the vast sweep...
9. Pilgrimages to Babylon
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It’s nearly 10 P.M., and I’m still an hour out of Las Vegas when I become aware of the city’s luminous presence. Even though I’m seventy miles north of the city, the glowing sky to the southwest reveals both its location and its sheer energy. At about 11 P.M., I reach the outskirts, stopping for the night at one of the casinos...
10. Landscapes of Armageddon
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As I spread a map of the United States before me, the Great Basin’s geographical position seems secure, locked safely between imposing mountain borders that buffer it from geopolitical storms. But Lewis Mumford’s woeful words are on my mind as I ponder the Great Basin’s changing position in world affairs...
11. Into Sacred Spaces
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These words are fresh on my mind as I pull into Battle Mountain, Nevada, in late May of 2000. For the last two hundred miles, I’ve rolled along the enigmatic Humboldt River, which twists and turns like a green satin ribbon that someone casually dropped across the sagebrush-covered landscape of central Nevada. This...
12. Believing in Place
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The convergence of science and spirituality is on my mind as I head out into one of the most forbidding locales in North America. Craving silence, I’ve driven my white rental car out onto the porcelain-like surface of a dry lakebed in northwestern Nevada. There is no shade here, and the brightness of the light is both...
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Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 50 b/w photos, 47 line art, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2003