The Solace of Open Spaces – Gretel Ehrlich

I bought this book towards the end of last year, remembering a fantastic review on What’s Nonfiction?. I got a Penguin edition from 1985, so almost my age, and while reading the book I constantly had to remind myself that it was written a while ago.

It is a collection of essays that Ehrlich wrote over the course of five years while leaving in Wyoming. She went there for a work project and stayed, changing her life completely in search of solace, but also meaning. All of the essays are about Wyoming, she writes about the limitless spaces, but also about people she met. She peppers her texts with anecdotes that often made me laugh, even though the mood of the book is more lyrical and slow-flowing. Ehrlich writes about nature, about how her life changed since she started working on a ranch, she writes how merciless nature is and how that can be exhausting but also comforting. She describes the relationship between ranchers and animals, the fact that the work on a ranch changed so little over the decades because the basic laws of nature are constant, the seasons come and go and they rule the life. It was this part that made me wonder about how much changed since then, let’s be honest since 1985 nature may not have changed much, but the technology did and I had to wonder how the all-present and accessible data changed the way the ranchers now work.

Ehrlich writes about spending whole days out in the endless space, how everyone asks her if it is not boring, but how it actually can be overwhelming because so much is happening because our senses retune to a different frequency because in such space there’s no one to help and one has to rely on oneself, a feeling that is both scary and empowering. I read the whole book in one evening and it was a treat, it calmed me down and transported me to a different time and place. It just made me wonder if there are many more places like this in our crazy, hectic world, or if it is just a matter or creating a space like this in our brain, of learning to cut the noise out and focus on just being.

Meditation in a book. I definitely recommend it.

What do you do to regain your balance (other than reading, of course)?

Quotes from The Solace of Open Spaces

4 thoughts on “The Solace of Open Spaces – Gretel Ehrlich

  1. Such a beautiful review of this wonderful book! I’m so glad I could introduce you to it, that makes me really happy because I found this book very calming and comforting too, and the lyrical writing was so lovely to read. I love what you wrote, that it’s a meditation in a book – it really does feel that way!


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