Dakota: A Spiritual Geography Paperback – Apr 6 2001
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After 20 years of living in the "Great American Outback," as Newsweek magazine once designated the Dakotas, poet Kathleen Norris (The Cloister Walk) came to understand the fascinating ways that people become metaphors for the land they inhabit. When trying to understand the polarizing contradictions that exist in the Dakotas between "hospitality and insularity, change and inertia, stability and instability.... between hope and despair, between open hearts and closed minds," Norris draws a map. "We are at the point of transition between east and west in the United States," she explains, "geographically and psychically isolated from either coast, and unlike either the Midwest or the desert west."
Like Terry Tempest Williams (Refuge), Norris understands how the boundary between inner and outer scenery begins to blur when one is fully present in the landscape of their lives. As a result, she offers the geography lesson we all longed for in school. This is a poetic, noble, and often funny (see her discussion on the foreign concept of tofu) tribute to Dakota, including its Native Americans, Benedictine monks, ministers and churchgoers, wind-weathered farmers, and all its plain folks who live such complicated and simple lives. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Nearly 20 years ago, poet Kathleen Norris and her husband moved from New York to the isolated town of Lemmon in northwestern South Dakota, home of her grandparents. Living there radically changed her sense of time and place, forcing her to come to terms with her heritage, her religious beliefs and the land. Norris learned to value the prairie landscape and to cope with the harsh climate. She found small-town life a mass of contradictions: generous hospitality mixed with suspicion of strangers, inertia and a sense of inferiority. One boon to her new life was a community of Benedictine monks; with them she recaptured her (Protestant) Christian faith and discovered inner peace. This is a fine portrait of the High Plains and its people as well as a very personal memoir of a spiritual awakening.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Kathleen Norris's past lay in western South Dakota, but for twenty years she had abandoned both her faith as well has her history. She went to school in New York but decides to move back to Lemmon, SD with her husband. Her book is subtitled "A Spiritual Geography". She writes early on that geography comes from the words for earth and writing, and so knowing that this is a spiritual geography we immediately know that this is a spiritual discussion of the Dakotas, as well as also being about Norris herself.
Norris writes about small town life and small town church, and a semi-history of the town of Lemmon. Since most of the details are told in anecdote, it makes things easier to read. One thing that struck me was how she was comparing monastic life to small town faith and how much things tied together like that. The focus on monastic life and on monks is a theme and a topic that will run throughout the book as well as into her subsequent books. Kathleen Norris may not have a mainstream Christian faith, but she has a deep reverence and respect for the Christian tradition and faith, especially that which has come from the monasteries.
This is a slow moving, peaceful book. It is thoughtful, intelligent, and moving. It is filled to the brim with a steady faith in Christ and in some ways, it moves like time spent in a monastery. I don't know if this sounds like a recommendation, but it is meant to be. I found Dakota to be very interesting and along with Dakota, I would recommend Norris's later book: Amazing Grace.
In immediate and human terms she identifies the economic causes and cultural consequences of a broad regional trend. In places her commentary is caustic as she quotes someone who opines that now the farmers are becoming Indians, too, that is to say that everyone in the western areas of North Dakota and South Dakota is becoming marginalized. She describes well the defensiveness of the remaining people who question the motives of professionals who seek to settle in their midst, deeming that such individuals must be second rate or failures of some sort.
Another related characteristic is the inwardness and the creeping parochialism of the community subject to population loss. It would seem that there is a loss of connection to the values of the greater society. She finds that in the course of her observations she has seen instances where families overvalue the children who manage to leave the region and undervalue those who remain to care for family members and to farm. It seems as if the children who stay in the region are seen as losers, diminished beings, who did not cope well in the competition of life.Read more ›
From the earliest days of Christianity (and indeed, since the earliest days of religion, period!), women and men have sought understanding in the the large, unpopulated expanses of the earth, far from the madding crowds of urban life. Moses discerned his call from God in the desert wanderings after fleeing Egypt, only to return as the Deliverer; Jesus' first act after baptism was to wander the desert; Mohammed had his desert experience; prophets, sages, wise women and men have always found in the solitude and magnitude of places such as Dakota a spirituality hard to express.
Kathleen Norris, however, does an admirable and enlightening job of putting words to that very ephemeral concept. Combining personal stories with prayerful reflections and mediations, Norris weaves together a book whose riches slowly unfold only for those who give particular attention; however, it yields treasure to even the most cursory of readers, too. Neither Kathleen Norris nor her husband were natives of the land, both having come from vastly different places than the sparsely populated, silent and enigmatic plains. Yet Norris has become a spokeswoman of sorts for the spirituality that is found in a place such as this, the modern equivalent of the early Christian Desert Fathers.
Like those early fathers (alas, not much is recorded about the women who made such decisions in favour of isolation), she has attached both a meditative and monastic framework to her searchings. Being a protestant by upbringing, Norris brings a critical, outsider view to the understanding of monastic practice and the spirituality inherent therein.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Norris brings the joy of faith, and the struggles of being a person of faith in the present world into context. She is witty and well grounded in her understanding of life.Published 22 months ago by Rev, R. Glenn Ball
I already ownned Kathleen Norris' ACEDIA AND ME, a book I cherish.
DAKOTA, written fifteen years earlier, did not disappoint, but drew me into a physical and spiritual... Read more
I wasn't sure I'd like Dakota because my spirituality leans toward activism rather than asceticism. Kathleen Norris, however, in her elegant, steady way, encourages reflection and... Read morePublished on July 15 2003 by Mary J. Cartledgehayes
When I read this book my expectations were high and remained on that level for the first 20 pages. After that I realized this book is less a realistic description of what life in... Read morePublished on March 31 2003 by Florian Gast
If you wish to find answers to questions you didn't know you had simply read this book. What a wonderful, realistic description of this region, the people and life!
T. Read more
Norris is quite amazing, having overcome the natural fault of looking at the world through her previous pre-conceptions...i.e. Read morePublished on July 23 2002 by Richard R. Carlton
While I thought the author had a nice handle on the English language her over-riding theme seemed to be a comparison of life on the Plains with Benedectine Monks. Read morePublished on May 21 2002 by Ronald Brown
The subtitle here is "a spiritual geography" -- the book is roughly 20 percent northern prairie geography and 80 percent Norris' fascination with asceticism and monasticism. Read morePublished on April 8 2002 by Wesley L. Janssen
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