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••• The International Writers Magazine - 22 Years on-line - Obituary

Remembering Barry Lopez
• Jeff Beyl
The author of Arctic Dreams

Barry Lopez

Barry Lopez has died at 75. I crashed into a story online and it slapped me in the face. Lopez has been one of my favorite Oregon writers for a long time.

One day, some years ago in Portland, while I was going through some particularly lonely times, I was having lunch with a friend. My friend was a college professor, who taught English. I was carrying a book that he commented on. It was The River Why by David James Duncan. He mentioned that he had recently read enjoyed the book. Then he said to me that I might also like reading Barry Holstun Lopez. I went to the Powell’s bookstore in downtown Portland after our lunch and bought River Notes, The Dance of Herons and Desert Notes, Reflections in the Eye of the Raven. I was going to fly to San Francisco to visit family the following day and I planned to read the small books on the plane. In San Francisco, having finished River Notes and Desert Notes already, I went to City Lights Books in North Beach and bought Of Wolves and Men.

Arctic Dreams Through the following years, I quickly bought and read any and all books that Lopez put out. Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. Crossing Open Ground. About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory. The Rediscovery of North America, Horizon, among many others, both fiction and non-fiction. I read every magazine article I could find.

I cut them out and folded them into the larger books. His voice echoed in me. The importance of his subjects. His phrasings. The nuance and flow of his words like currents in a river. Like the undulation and fold of the land. I learned, through Lopez, to observe closer, with more patience, the natural world around me. I write about it in my own book.

I have met Lopez several times. He has personalized and autographed all of his books, in turn, for me. When my own book, A Conversation With the Earth, came out, I mention Lopez in the Acknowledgements as being a writer who has “inspired me to no end.”

I am sorry to hear that Barry Lopez is gone. I have re-read his books many times and will continue to do so. He has “helped me make it through some lonely nights,” to quote John Denver.

© Jeff Beyl Dec 29th 2020                                                                                    
 jeffbeylbooks at gmail.com

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