Perhaps because California holds so many fascinating stories and natural wonders, the physical and cultural landscapes of our Sierra Nevada rarely receive the focused attention they deserve. But thanks to this inspired collection of readings, readers can rediscover the wonders of these mountains as well as the very human stories embedded in them. Historians Noy and Heide undertook this project with characteristic care, intelligence, and enthusiasm, and they don’t disappoint. Gathered here are not only some familiar Sierra chroniclers—James Hutchings, Dame Shirley, Bret Harte, John Muir, Ansel Adams, Gary Snyder—but also voices that illuminate the breadth of human experiences with the “range of light”—Jack Stewart, Ramon Gil Navarro, Maxine Hong Kingston. Reading this collection is to be reminded that the landscapes of the Sierra have awed, nurtured, terrified, enriched, beguiled, and inspired millions, denizens and visitors alike. Care must be taken that they will continue to do so for future generations. Thanks to the editors and Heyday Books, the Sierra Nevada is newly illuminated for all.
— Dr. Patrick Ettinger,
Associate Professor, Department of History, California State University, Sacramento
This is a remarkable anthology, taking the reader chronologically from the dawn of time when Yokuts, Washo and the Maidu’s passed on their first memories of their respective worlds to environmental issues of today. The most celebrated writing about California’s Sierra Nevada by scientists, journalists, diarists, artists, poets, and popular writers is compressed into this neat tome. Familiar authors such as Sarah Royce, Bret Harte, Louise Clappe (Dame Shirley), and John Muir are paired with other less well known voices by romantics and realists who have gone to the mountains and returned, putting their stories and impressions into print. Carefully chosen by the editors, the entries will serve the serious student of history, literature and the environment, as well as the general public interested in an overview of this most unique geographical region within the state. Truly interdisciplinary, this book belongs on every bookshelf of the best-of-the-best of California.
— Dr. William R. Swagerty,
Director, John Muir Center, University of the Pacific
California is a composite of several distinct locales, none more remarkable than the Sierra Nevada, the state's spine. On the sublime peaks or in the secret canyons of the Sierra, in the luminosity its alpine afternoons or in the star-fogged clarity of its nights, people are moved to not only examine what great nature has created, but also to gaze inward at their own natures. The writers in this excellent collection move in both directions and capture not only the beauty but also the wisdom offered by these mountains, what they evoke in us. The traditional Yokuts chant acknowledged, "My words are tied in one with the great mountains/ With the great rocks/ With the great trees...." The selections in this fine collection demonstrate the universality of that ancient prayer.
— Gerald Haslam,
best-selling author of Coming of Age in California and Workin’ Man Blues
Brilliantly assembled and introduced, this first anthology of Sierra Nevada writings stands as a landmark publication. Native Americans, explorers, missionaries, gold seekers, governors, mountain climbers, naturalists, environmentalists, essayists, and poets are all represented with their powerful descriptions and compelling insights into California’s grand and glorious mountain range.
— Gary F. Kurutz,
Author, Bibliographer and Curator of Special Collections, California State Library.
It is indeed challenging to tell the story of the Sierra Nevada through the written word. However, The Illuminated Landscape does so with a remarkable diversity of perspective, nearly equal to the biological diversity of the place itself.
This mountain range is a magnificent place. Whether you discovered it through a firsthand visit, the words of Muir or the lens of Adams, for most us this place leaves an indelible mark. Its beauty, its majesty, its remarkable terrain inspires awe.
Beyond its beauty, the Sierra Nevada provides nearly two-thirds of the state’s water. It is home to hundreds of plant and animal species, not to mention more than 600,000 human residents. It is one our state’s most prized areas to recreate, vacation and to find solace.
For those of us with an “official” responsibility to protect and steward this place, the duty is both sobering and inspiring. Today, the region deals with its latest set of challenges – catastrophic fire, climate change, economic sustainability and population growth to name a few. Underlying these challenges is the clear urban/rural divide that exists in California and affects public policy and investment. Most Californians have not had the chance to visit the Sierra and witness the “light” for themselves. Despite the fact that millions of our residents rely on the Sierra for their water, most have no connection to the source of their lifeblood.
The Illuminated Landscape provides us an important opportunity to take the time to reflect on this magnificent place and why it matters so much to us. It carries an important message to Sierra Nevadans and all Californians – this range is very special and we dare not fail to act to protect and sustain into the future. Enjoy.
— Jim Branham,
Chief Executive Officer, Sierra Nevada Conservancy
This anthology looms large on the horizon for those who want to learn about, enjoy and experience the Sierra Nevada. A truly terrific collection.
— David Guy,
Chief Executive Officer, Yosemite Association
Editors Gary Noy and Rick Heide invite us to head on up the trail, into the vastness of the Sierra Nevada, illuminated by the words of generations who have found resource and refuge in this magnificent mountain range. Beginning with tales of the first inhabitants The Illuminated Landscape guides us through the continuing story of how we humans are grappling with the environmental, economic, geographic and cultural forces that shape the Sierra. We join in the hope that generations to come will be able to hike along a high Sierra ridge and lean on an old juniper tree to feel its power.
— jesikah maria ross and Catherine Stifter,
co-directors of the regional media project Saving the Sierra: Voices of Conservation in Action, found at SavingTheSierra.org.
jesikah maria ross is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and Director of The Art of Regional Change, a program of the UC Davis Humanities Institute.
Catherine Stifter is a two-time Peabody Award recipient.
The Illuminated Landscape is a connection with elders, explorers, stewards, historians, artists, residents and travelers, all of whom have been transformed by the Sierra Nevada. The selection of writings cut across generations, cultures, and economic groups and stimulates appreciation of how these mountains have changed our own lives. Our relationship to the Sierra changes with time and culture but threads of all the past experiences still resonate inside us. This book records and explicates those experiences. By exploring the depth and richness of this work we are both inspired and informed to face the conservation or preservation challenges of today and to more deeply appreciate our own connection to the Range of Light.
— John Muir Laws,
author of The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada and Sierra Birds
“This anthology of Sierra writings stands tall.”
— Sam McManis,
“The Illuminated Landscape: A Sierra Nevada Anthology is a book as classic as Yosemite itself – it’s sure to become a standard resource.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Readers will appreciate the many perspectives – and the illumination they bring … [The Illuminated Landscape] is essential reading.”
Chico Enterprise Record
“The Illuminated Landscape: A Sierra Nevada Anthology brings together the best literature about our own back yard….As a primer, reference or call to preservation, depending on the reader’s perspective, The Illuminated Landscape delivers up history with a look ahead to a future Sierra.”
Sacramento News and Review