Horizon by Barry Lopez will make you hit the pause button on your busy life to ponder what it means to be a human being living on amazing planet Earth.
I believe this is a good thing.
When you give yourself permission to step away from your overbooked calendar and endless to-do list, you give yourself a gift. You make space in your mind to wonder at the world, contemplate what and who is really important to you, and determine what you are willing to do to protect it and them.
That is what this book is about for me. You may find something else that resonates with you. I doubt anyone reading it will walk away untouched.
Before you settle into a comfortable chair and crack open Horizon, you should be aware that you are about to become a time traveler. Proper clothing and a spirit of adventure are essential as you will be accompanying Lopez on excursions into the past at some of the most remote places on Earth.
Horizon is a memoir, travel diary, and a treatise on humanity. Bits of history and geography reside alongside commentary about the state of the world and the people who occupy it.
Even readers with a good grasp of vocabulary will probably find themselves looking up at least a few words.
At the beginning of Horizon, Lopez gives readers a brief overview of his personal history and explains why he wrote the book.
Then you will head off to the first of six destinations spanning the globe.
- Cape Foulweather, Oregon
- Skraeling Island, Canada
- Puerto Ayora, Galápagos Islands, Eastern Equatorial Pacific
- Jackal Camp, Kenya, Eastern Equatorial Africa
- Port Arthur to Botany Bay, Australia
- Graves Nunataks, Antarctica to Port Famine Road, Chile
Lopez uses these locations as backdrops for recounting his own explorations as well as those of famous and not famous people of the past and present. His descriptions of these places are breathtaking making you feel as if you are there. Underlying the geography, flora, fauna, weather, and history of these regions is a running commentary on humanity.
You will find awe and grief and hope among the pages of Horizon.
Lopez does not shy away from making eloquent yet blunt statements about the state of the world as he observes it. Some people may not want to read these words but for me, they speak the truth.
“I read daily about the many threats to human life—chemical, political, biological, and economic. Much of this trouble, I believe, has been caused by the determination of some to define a human cultural world apart from the nonhuman world, or by people’s attempts to overrun, streamline, or dismiss that world as simply a warehouse for materials, or mere scenery.”
He also embraces all of humanity and delivers messages that I believe are universal.
“It has long seemed to me that what most of us are looking for is the opportunity to express, without embarrassment or judgment or retaliation, our capacity to love.”
The Bottom Line
Barry Lopez is an adventurer, artist, and author. Judging by the opportunities he receives to visit far-flung places to work alongside archaeologists, biologists, and other scientists, he must know an inordinate number of people and be an adequate field researcher who possesses excellent camping skills.
He has traveled extensively around the globe sharing his observations of the non-human natural world as well as the people who inhabit it now, did in the past, or may in the future.
In the beginning, reading Horizon was kind of a chaotic experience. It seemed as if one minute Lopez was describing a patch of land on the Oregon Coast, then he would switch to talking about Captain James Cook’s attempt to land there hundreds of years ago, and the next moment he would be discussing the avariciousness of humans.
Then I realized that I liked this. It was as if I was accompanying Lopez on his travels and having a conversation (all be it one-sided) with him that went on for 512 pages.
I paused often to mark passages with sticky flags or to form my own response to something he had just said. Sometimes I would bring topics to the dinner table to discuss with my family so in a way they were on the journey, too.
All through the book, Lopez acknowledges that each person perceives places, people, and information in their own way. He throws his observations out there and then steps back allowing you to feel and think for yourself.
Horizon is worth the time it will take you to read it.
“We are the darkness, as we are, too, the light.”
Featured Image at Top: View of Cape Foulweather from the Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint on the Oregon coast – photo credit MightyFree/Wikipedia.