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Impressions of the West: Gary Snyder


The Etiquette of Freedom is a new book chronicling a cosmic-ranging conversation between two of the great poets of the West: Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison. Here is a snippet of that conversation, in which Snyder describes the area around his home in the Sierra Nevadas:

"It's quite clear that all of the year-round spring sites on the Sierra ridge that I live on were Indian settlements. Grinding stones are around there, and the oaks are bigger. They were nourished by special treatment - it's quite interesting to see, and it has taken me years to develop the eye to see that. Some old Native American, Native Californian women who do basket weaving went out with me in the woods there, and they were looking through the forest and meadows saying, 'We are responsible for that.' ... Meaning a certain oak grove, meaning a meadow that had lots of bunches of deer grass growing for basketry. And then they would look elsewhere in the woods and say, 'We didn't touch that.'

So the community is the whole neighborhood in which you clench the nonhuman. ...

I'm just waiting until the price of gasoline gets really high and then some future generation up in the Northern Sierra will have horses again."

The Etiquette of Freedom (pp. 50-51, 53), Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison       

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