In 1912 John Muir wrote that "the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light . . . it still seems above all others the Range of Light."
Now, the light shed on Muir's beloved mountains by the work of some 75 writers has been collected in "The Illuminated Landscape: A Sierra Nevada Anthology" ($19.95 in paperback from Heyday Books, www.heydaybooks.com), edited by Gary Noy and Rick Heide. Co-published by Sierra College Press and Santa Clara University, the book features voices as different as Mark Twain and Gary Snyder. It is essential reading.
The two editors will talk about and read from their anthology at Lyon Books in Chico on Tuesday, August 31 at 7:00 p.m.
Noy is the director of the Center for Sierra Nevada Studies at Sierra College in Rocklin and is in the midst of team-teaching "The Sierra Nevada," an interdisciplinary course. Heide has a journalism background and won a 2003 American Book Award for an anthology of Latino literature.
The editors structure their book historically, from "the golden misty dawn" (1840 and before) to the "quiet-colored end of evening" (1991 to the present). Genres range from the "Old Gambler's Song" of the Maidu to an excerpt from Tom Knudson's "The Sierra in Peril" series for the Sacramento Bee, which won a Pulitzer Prize.
Jack London is here, carefully introduced, as is Henry David Thoreau (who, though never visiting the Sierra Nevada, was a critic of the California Gold Rush: "a touchstone which has betrayed the rottenness, the baseness, of mankind").
Several pieces were specially commissioned. Nevada City author Jordan Fisher Smith tells what happened when he arrested a woman high on drugs in the American River Canyon. Poet Maria Melendez recounts her first camping trip in the Sierra Nevada. Biologist Joe Medeiros writes of "The Power of Trees," and asks a series of haunting questions that end the book: "Will our grandchildren be able to hike along a high ridge in the Sierra and lean against an old juniper? Feel its energy?"
Readers will appreciate the many perspectives--and the illumination they bring.