Linda Hogan is a Chickasaw woman. She is also a poet and novelist. With "Dwellings," her first attempt at essay, she has written a loving treatise on the meaning of home.
Hogan writes about the way animals live on the Earth. She describes eels circling in dark water, bees tunneling in the side of a hill and snakes flashing like lightning along an Oklahoma highway.Hogan writes about abundance. She writes, also, of cruelty. After watching two men stock a stream by kicking the fish into the water rather than using a net, Hogan reflects on apes who have been taught sign language.
"Even when animals can communicate their misery, we still deny them the right to existence free from suffering and pain," she writes.
Hogan asks her readers to understand the spirit of the natural world and to construct their lives in harmony with that spirit. She writes not so much about architecture or buildings but about dwelling in the world, dwelling gracefully and respectfully.
As for herself, Hogan uses sweat-lodge ceremonies to renew connections to her ancestors, to animals and to the land. The ceremony is a point of return, she says, a way to go back to the natural community. Its purpose is to mend the broken connection between humans and the rest of the world.
During a sweat ceremony, "the land merges with us," she writes. "Gold rolling hills take up residence, their tall grasses blowing. The red light of canyons is there. The black skies of night that wheel above our heads come to live inside the skull. We who easily grow apart from the world are returned to the great store of life all around us, and there is the deepest sense of being at home here in this intimate kinship. There is no real aloneness. There is solitude and the nurturing silence that is relationship with ourselves, but even then we are part of something larger."
Linda Hogan, who teaches at the University of Colorado in Boulder, will visit Salt Lake City on Aug. 17 to read and sign copies of "Dwellings" at A Woman's Place Bookstore in Foothill Village at 7 p.m.