Forces of nature

  • TRESPASS: LIVING AT THE EDGE OF THE PROMISED LAND AMY IRVINE 361 pages, hardcover: $25. North Point Press, 2008.

 

Amy Irvine, environmental activist, writer and former professional rock climber, sets her memoir, Trespass, in the stark geology of Utah's red-rock wilderness. Following her father's suicide, Irvine retreats from Salt Lake City to rural Utah, where she is confronted almost daily by divisive public land-use demands and ubiquitous Mormon missionaries, not to mention her tumultuous love life.

At times scholarly, at times familiar, Irvine changes tones with ease. She draws parallels between Anasazi culture and modern life. The titles of the book's sections - Lithic, Archaic, Basketmaker and Pueblo - reflect her knowledge of Utah's prehistory, a structural originality that proves to be the book's greatest creative strength.

Though distinguished by Irvine's forays into regional history, Trespass is in many ways a prototypical memoir, following an abused child-to-rebel-to-wife-to-mother trajectory. Irvine's suffering leads her to an (often self-flagellating) role as an activist. She ruminates on her estranged father's suicide and her fear of being driven, largely by a sense of rootlessness, to the same end.

Adversarial by nature, Irvine is deeply opinionated on every controversy: wilderness versus rangeland; Mormons versus gentiles; her need for home versus her lover's nomadic impulsiveness. The daughter of a Catholic and a Mormon descended from Brigham Young's right-hand man, Irvine wrestles with the Mormon Church; it looms throughout the book as a threatening monolith. Passionate and sexual, she finds Mormonism sadly devoid of physicality. She grapples with what she sees as its inherent sexism, as her female neighbors get married and have children without pursuing careers or participating in community decisions.

Irvine, determined to break down modern life into its primal constituents, sees "the unwavering want for water, meat, sex, rest, peace" as the engine that drives civilization. The natural world is intensely moving and comforting for her. She hikes to combat stress and loneliness, and believes that "learning the lie of the land seems as vital as paying the mortgage."

Reflecting on her father's death and her subsequent retreat to a rural life, Irvine writes, "Organic materials. These are what I turned to in the face of death, when I most needed some kind of mooring." Ultimately, Trespass is the record of her honest search for mooring. Irvine's introspection is graced by good storytelling, but the historic research and the ambitious breadth of Trespass truly make it shine.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    North Cascades Institute seeks their next Executive Director to lead the organization, manage $4 million operating budget, and oversee 60 staff. Send resume/cover letter to...
  • DISTRICT MANAGER
    The San Juan Islands Conservation District is seeking applicants for the District Manager position. The position is open until filled and application plus cover letter...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Time Arts, a Bozeman-based nonprofit, is seeking an Executive Director. MTA advocates for and produces public artworks that advance social & environmental justice in...
  • BEND AREA HOME WITH AMAZING CASCADE PEAKS VIEW
    Enjoy rural peacefulness and privacy with one of the most magnificent Cascade Mountain views in sunny Central Oregon! Convenient location only eight miles from Bend's...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.