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Dakota: A Spiritual Geography Paperback – Apr 6 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (April 6 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618127240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618127245
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #268,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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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Format: Paperback
Kathleen Norris is the author of Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, and The Cloister Walk. She is a poet. Dakota was her first work of nonfiction/memoir. Having read both Amazing Grace and The Cloister Walk, I had an idea of what to expect from Norris's work. She writes deeply personal and deeply spiritual books. Dakota has the same type of feel to it, but the location and the subject is different.
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.
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Format: Paperback
We have read of the emptying out of the population in selected areas of the prairie states. We have also read of the demise of the family farm because of competition from industrial-style farming operations and consequent over production. We have also read of the destruction of the habitat and other kinds of environmental abuses resulting in the near disappearance of the actual prairie eco-system. Some or all of the factors noted above have resulted in the creation of a new frontier. Kathleen Norris provides a subjective account of the same phenomena in her book, Dakota.
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.
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Format: Paperback
'Nature, in Dakota, can indeed be an experience of the holy.'
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.
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