Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Meloy's Last Message

"The taste of meat lingers on my tongue. Rain and river. Bedrock to soil to plant to milk to bone, muscle, and sinew. I am eating my canyon. Eating stone.”

I have written here before about my adoration for the prose of Ellen Meloy, and once again I have to bow down to this amazing naturalist.

Last night I regretfully finished the final pages of Eating Stone - Imagination and the Loss Of the Wild, Ellen Meloy's last gift to us before her untimely death in the fall of 2004.

Meloy's magical colorful phrasing, her artistic brush-stroked words fill curiously unnoticed voids in my soul and carries me away to wild places. Who else could describe a ram's scrotum thusly:

..."the size of a ripe cantaloupe from Texas."

Or describe vandals' bullet holes among rock images as "bubba glyphs"?

Tracking the lives and habits of the almost extinct desert bighorn, Meloy shares her love of the wild and of the creatures that inhabit it with us. Interspersed with her factual reporting are essays on Hopi spiritualism, geology lessons, and Mark-Twainian wit that bites your tongue like the stogies favored by said long ago American humorist.

I randomly open the book to any page and find jaw-dropping prose, literary craftsmanship I can only dream about possessing.

Here is a passage that combines both the power of her descriptive writing and deliciously wicked sense of humor:

On the back of the elephants, above the canyon, things become a bit dreamy. Ravens chortling softly. Prehistoric thoughts on the rock behind my head like cartoon bubbles. The memory of black-haired children alive with laughter around a table in an adobe house. Air with exquisite taste; clear, chilled, like iced lime. A redrock land that stretches a hundred miles into the sacrament of space. I am not paying attention.

I hear the sound of a waterfall. How nice, I think. A waterfall just like Tahiti.

Unmistakable: the splash of liquid on stone. This is most curious. No rain in sight. Not flash-flood season. No water except for scattered frozen puddles in the wash on the flats below. The place is as dry as old sticks. This is not Tahiti.

The water sound comes from a low saddle of slickrock above me, barely seventy yards distant. Atop the rock, in classic position, head erect, hind legs stretched back, back slightly depressed - is a bighorn ram. He is pissing out a thunderous stream on the sandstone

If you haven't discovered the seduction of this woman's writings, make haste to mend that hole in your library. Celebrate through her eyes our precious western landscape that is disappearing faster than you know.


Trace said...

This is wonderful Pattie. I'll check out more of Ellen's work. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever read anything by Barney Nelson? I have a feeling you would like her. Try "The Wild and the Domestic."

Very much out of date web site:

prairie point

Bluff VFD said...

I just finished Ellen's Eating Stone tonight, so many years after we lost her. I have held it in reserve, not wanting to open it and face her. I gave her CPR that night in November, 2004. My first time and I suppose hers too. I wish there had of been some magic in my breath that could have revived her- I want so much to read what whe would have written next. Bye Ellen, I will let you go in peace now.

Cowtown Pattie said...


Thank you so much for leaving this comment. It is always a pleasure to meet another Meloy friend/fan.

Truly, I am sure you did your best with the CPR.

Like you, I hesitated reading "Eating Stone" knowing I would never get the joy of another unread book from Ellen. She was one of a kind, and I the richer for having found her wonderful writings.