Caught in Fading Light: Mountain Lions, Zen Masters, and Wild Nature

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A personal exploration of wildness, territory, and the elusive nature of our lives

In this concise, richly contemplative book, Gary Thorp records his singularquest to see a mountain lion, or cougar—the “cat of one color”— in the wild hills and mountains of northern California, where he lives. Using the traditional form of Japanese writing known as nikki bungaku (literary diary), Thorp recounts his meditations and adventures, from taking a one-day class on tracking animals, to ...

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NY 2002 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Gift Quality. Brand New. Fast Arrival. Packaged in bubble wrap. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 176 ... p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. Gift Quality. Brand New. Fast Arrival. Packaged in bubble wrap. Read more Show Less

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Overview

A personal exploration of wildness, territory, and the elusive nature of our lives

In this concise, richly contemplative book, Gary Thorp records his singularquest to see a mountain lion, or cougar—the “cat of one color”— in the wild hills and mountains of northern California, where he lives. Using the traditional form of Japanese writing known as nikki bungaku (literary diary), Thorp recounts his meditations and adventures, from taking a one-day class on tracking animals, to visiting a mountain lion in the zoo, to his numerous forays into the hills during the day and night. The pursuit of one thing invariably leads him to discover many others: The tracks of a solitary mountain lion, for example, evoke a marvelous world of photographic imagery, literary events, dancing foxes, ocean voyages, and blind poets, all gathered together just beyond the limits of human vision. Thorp explores what it means to seek something you might not find and ponders the difference between seeing only darkness and being blind, offering as well bright glimpses into the Zen tradition. Combining an elusive and challenging pursuit with a centuries-old way of uncovering life’s ultimate answers, Caught in Fading Light will give readers a new way of seeing, and will captivate nature lovers and Zen practitioners alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One night, after realizing how bored he was by the evening news, the author of Sweeping Changes: Discovering the Joy of Zen in Everyday Life decided, quixotically but without qualms, that he wanted to see a mountain lion up close. The "cat of one color" was known to prowl the wild hills and hidden glens around Thorp's Marin County home, but in all his decades of hiking and camping he had never encountered one. This contemplative, concise little book is his diary of that quest, using a traditional form of Japanese narrative to record a journey that is part nature study, part wilderness adventure and part spiritual exploration. Thorp went to tracking school, rushed out on short notice when he heard of nearby sightings, honed his observational skills on whale-watching expeditions, gazed at a mountain lion (also known as the puma, cougar or hellcat) behind bars in the zoo, came across tracks alongside dusty roads, perched patiently for hours on rocks but three years passed before he finally glimpsed a mountain lion and then suddenly another for a total of 20 seconds. The account of his pursuit achieves a surprisingly suspenseful quality, but in the best Zen tradition, the real journey is within. Thorp studies himself as much as he does the elusive cat, embracing the world as he narrows his focus, all the while weaving his reflections on the nature of life through this satisfying journal of yearning, learning and observing. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
Gary Thorp is neither hunter nor naturalist, but a lay-ordained Zen Buddhist. As a Buddhist he seeks enlightenment. His choice of a path for enlightenment was to find a mountain lion. "My wish...was merely to be able to see a mountain lion. I was not the least interested in capturing a souvenir, even on photographic film. For me the mountain lion's elusive qualities were what gave the hunt its challenge and its merit. The animal's evanescence was one of the qualities I found most attractive." (p.18) Thorp's daily walks over the months provide much time for thought, for exploration of his own soul. " I wondered about the pieces of my own life and the elements of the search I'd been engaged in. I wondered if inspired scholarship could make sense of the loosely floating pages that described my past couple of years." (p.164) As an example of a meditative examination of self, Caught in the Fading Light has merit for those on a similar search. It is reflective and well written, quiet and occasionally ironic in tone. It was named a "Best Spiritual Book" by Spirituality and Health and should lend itself to the renewed interest in this area. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students and adults. 2002, Walker, 187p. bibliog. index., Ages 17 to adult.
—Katherine Gillen
Kirkus Reviews
A welcome and shrewd meditation on looking for a mountain lion and the art of seeing. Using the format of Japanese nikki bungaku ("separate, yet interrelated, short narratives that proceed in a continuous line from beginning to end, and which tell a sort of story"), Thorp (Sweeping Changes, not reviewed) sets down his experiences in pursuit of mountain lions on his home turf in northern California. He is not a naturalist, wildlife biologist, or hunter-"I didn't think of myself as being particularly stealthy, devious, or oblique. I was far from expert in the subtleties of sideways approach"-yet the mountain lion had become an "inescapable condition" for him. It spoke of something elemental, a glimpse of it in the zoo raising the hair on his neck. His quarry's elusive qualities are challenge for the hunt, and its evanescent nature is akin to Japanese art, flower arrangement, haiku, and Noh theater-appearing and disappearing, living and dying. Thorp, a student of Zen, discovers plenty of similarities between his search for the lion and his study of Zen, how the pursued are often unattainable, what the role of chance is in experience, how there can be a fabric of nothingness-since the lion may as well not exist for all his sightings (though, à la Peter Matthiessen and the snow leopard, maybe seeing isn't the best part). He does see things-fox, rattlesnake, eagles, and a "lunatic shrew"-and he comes to feel comfortable walking in the dark (the lion is mostly nocturnal), with the dark's heightening of reason and alertness. After all the thinking and footwork, it doesn't sound so jejune when Thorp says of his search: "It's all just part of living." An artful quest-curious, full of misgivings,humble: "searching for something was liberating, even though the object of the search had begun to feel more and more irrelevant." (Line drawings)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802713971
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Thorp began studying Zen in 1960 and was later lay-ordained in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. A former bookseller and jazz pianist, he is a full-time writer, doing research in marine biology and the ecology of mountain lions. He lives with his wife, Lura, in Marin County.

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