Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award
An inspired reflection on the bond between wild creatures and the human imagination, told as a chronicle of four seasons with a band of rare desert bighorn sheep.
Among the steep cliffs of Utah’s canyonlands a band of rare desert bighorn sheep simply vanished. Although the word “extinct” was bandied about, their passing seemed to fit the downward spiral of native wildlife in the Southwest that began in the early twentieth century. Remote, isolated, and elusive, this band slipped through the cracks. The bighorns were gone. Then they came back.
We have allowed ourselves few places and scant ways to witness other species in their own world, Ellen Meloy writes, an estrangement that has left us lonely and spiritually hungry. Now, with generous empathy and wry humor, the award-winning author of The Anthropology of Turquoise describes the mystery of the bighorns’ self-rescue. In the role of an “amiable, nosy neighbor,” Meloy matches her seasonal geography to theirs, observing cycles of breeding and birth, predators and death, the exquisite match of animal to place, of blood and bone to a magnificent redrock canyon.
On backcountry hikes, downriver floats, and travels to Mexico, the Great Basin, and the Chihuahuan Desert, Meloy roams the rugged habitat of these intriguing and precarious natives. Throughout, we revel with her in the air, light, and dazzling colors of the high desert. Most of all, we come to understand why she finds that watching wild animals intensely is very much like prayer.
“Piercingly beautiful. . . . Its chapters map a vibrant, curious mind in love with the particulars of the Southwest landscape.” —The New York Times Book Review
“One of our finest natural-history writers. . . . Her own knowledge of the natural world is deep, her prose breathtakingly beautiful and often startling.” —Annie Proulx, Globe & Mail
“A major contribution to an understanding of the land. . . . Meloy’ s genius seems evident on every page of this thoughtful, impressionistic book.” —Deseret News
“One of the American West's greatest contemporary naturalists. . . . More than a mere adventure, Eating Stone concludes Meloy's love affair with the western desert and the wildlife it nourishes.” —Outside Magazine
Beautiful. . . . Not since Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard has an author transported us so completely into the wilderness.” —The Plain Dealer
“Ellen Meloy’s Eating Stone is an incomparable work of power, beauty, wisdom, tenderness, and great humor. This book reminds me of what it is I love about reading great books: time stops, and a deeper understanding, a deeper way of being, inhabits the reader. Ellen is missed deeply, and all the more so when reflected in the beauty of these pages.” —Rick Bass, author of Caribou Rising
“In nearly every writer’s life, one book stands out from the others. While all of the books might be fine, one proclaims the writer’s energy and passion, all of her heart and all of her soul. Eating Stone is that book for Ellen Meloy. It is her prayer, her elegy, her song for mountain sheep and for all of life in this wondrous, breakable world.” —Nora Gallagher, author of Practicing Resurrection and Things Seen and Unseen
“If you are lucky enough to glimpse the bighorn sheep, invisible and nearly invisible along the ledges and against the rocky hillsides, and if you are watching from a very great distance, you may see her, a lanky wind-whipped woman, moving among the herd, touching flanks, taking notes. And when we have lost the bighorn sheep forever—through destruction of habitat and other thieves—they will still reside here, as shimmering holograms in Ellen Meloy’s moving story of the Blue Door Band.” —Jo Ann Beard, author of The Boys of My Youth
“Through the lens of mountain sheep, Ellen Meloy looked on the earth and saw that it was good. About her fellow humans, she was less pleased, yet compassionate and wry. There’s fire in this prose, the energy of a writer in love with language and with our stony, watery planet.” —Scott Russell Sanders, author of Hunting for Hope
“In telling the story of a lost flock of mountain sheep, Meloy leads us through that ‘spellbound threshold between humanity and the rest of nature.’ There, in the radiance of her patient, enthralling observation, we encounter the mortality of the natural world, that increasingly familiar place where ‘deep landscape falls farther and farther away, always at the point of loss.’ ” —Honor Moore, author of Red Shoes
NOMINEE - National Book Critics Circle Awards
FINALIST - National Book Critics Circle Awards
A recipient of a Whiting Foundation Award in 1997, Ellen Meloy was a native of the West and lived in California, Montana, and Utah. Her previous book, The Anthropology of Turquoise, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won the Utah Book Award. Meloy spent most of her life in wild, remote places; at the time of her sudden death in November 2004 she and her husband were living in southern Utah. In her honor, her friends and family founded The Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers, which provides support to writers whose work reflects the spirit and passions of her work.