Waist Deep in Black Water

Overview

John Lane has scaled a granite dome in the Suriname rain forest and waded past cottonmouths in the heart of a Florida cypress swamp. He has shadowed crocodiles in a Yucat?n mangrove thicket and paddled the rapids of North Carolina's Tuckaseegee River in search of a drowned kayaker. Waist Deep in Black Water offers a collection of Lane's writings, which range in topic from wilderness exploration, to conservation, to family history in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

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University of Georgia Press 4/9/2004. New paperback. Signed by author.

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Overview

John Lane has scaled a granite dome in the Suriname rain forest and waded past cottonmouths in the heart of a Florida cypress swamp. He has shadowed crocodiles in a Yucatán mangrove thicket and paddled the rapids of North Carolina's Tuckaseegee River in search of a drowned kayaker. Waist Deep in Black Water offers a collection of Lane's writings, which range in topic from wilderness exploration, to conservation, to family history in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

John Lane's writing has appeared in American Whitewater, Southern Review, Terra Nova, and Fourth Genre and in the anthologies The Heart of a Nation and A Year in Place. His books include several volumes of poetry and Weed Time, a gathering of his essays. Lane is an associate professor of English at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

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Editorial Reviews

Southern Living
Let this author take you away from the cacophony of the modern world to the wild places-eons-old settings that remain unchanged. . . . John Lane's collection of eighteen outdoor essays features exquisite descriptions that recall the beauty and mystery of the earth as it must have been in raw and unfettered times. . . . For those seeking escape from the crush of contemporary times, this book leads to sanctuary.
Kirkus Reviews
Concise forays into the heart of places scattered throughout the Americas and within his family's history, from poet Lane (Weed Time, not reviewed). These self-contained essays follow Lane as he takes in passing landscapes as well as his home one in the South Carolina piedmont. If he is afield-visiting a medicine wheel in Wyoming, the edenic granite inselbergs of Suriname, a waterway thick with crocodiles in Mexico-he bones up on the place's literature, ever wary that it's someone else's imagination at work ("the imagination, I fear, is not as immediate as walking a stretch of good, hard country that's new to you"). He tries to get into a place intuitively, to hunt and gather his won reactions, happy to know, say, about the Mayan sense of time ("Circles revolving within larger circles, some with a radius of 54,000 years") but not disappointed when he can't slip into the mindset. Around his home patch, he is eager to understand its "watershed thinking," Gary Snyder's approach, vulnerable to its visceral impact. He fights to preserve a Girl Scout camp, 56 acres of wilderness-within the confines of a city limit-that holds an endangered species: the dwarf-flowered heartleaf, which "like Camp Mary Elizabeth, flourishes only as long as it does not push up into the light." There's a slow poke down a local piedmont stream, where Lane is stung by "the darkest nostalgia when I see the bricked-up windows of the old mill," and there are slow ambles into the brittle emotional landscape of family: "My father's death placed me psychologically: I am the son of a suicide. I live in a place of abandonment . . . the weather is never predictable." Lane has a fluid eye in "a world where time moves in morethan one direction and no landscape holds steady for long," and it's energizing to see through that eye, open as it is to both light and darkness.
From the Publisher

"Intriguing and well-wrought essays from a southern boy who is a collector of stories, each like a pretty rock gathered from some high place. Lane's pockets are full. His informants are wind and sage, storms and dark water, a love of land, the strange muteness of history. This is a book of searching, traveling through the uncharted territory where the human psyche meets wildness, to glean what lies in the depths of life. Lane's adventures carry us down many unknown and beautiful roads; like the best of journeys, they bring us back to ourselves."--Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

"Lane has a fluid eye in a 'world where time moves in more than one direction and no landscape holds steady for long,' and it's energizing to see through that eye, open as it is to both light and darkness."--Kirkus Reviews

"Let this author take you away from the cacophony of the modern world to the wild places—eons-old settings that remain unchanged. . . . Lane’s collection of eighteen outdoor essays features exquisite descriptions that recall the beauty and mystery of the earth as it must have been in raw and unfettered times. . . . For those seeking escape from the crush of contemporary times, this book leads to sanctuary."--Southern Living

"The work of a deep soul . . . The many-sided graciousness of his prose reminds us that the past is not dead, and that 'we don't stand in a line. It's more like a circle, and anyone at anytime can be the center.'"--ISLE

“In this engaging collection of narrative essays, Lane has taken the notion of Southern story telling beyond its immediate boundaries, letting it roam to the cairns of Wyoming, the crocodile lairs of the Yucatan, the cypress swamps of Florida, even the jungles of Suriname. Reflective, attentive to both people and place, naturalist Lane carefully reveals the landscape—of outer geography and inner spirit—that helps define us."--Bill Belleville, author of Deep Cuba

"Lane writes with equal measures of wit, wisdom, passion, and humor about natural places that matter to him—a medicine wheel in the Big Horns, a cypress swamp in Florida, a rain forest in Suriname, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, not to mention the priceless woods and rivers near his home in South Carolina. Like all good nature writers, Lane explores himself as he explores the landscapes that inspire him, and this book is a wonderful account, written with clarity and depth, of his travels within and without. John Lane takes the land seriously. His essays matter."--Christopher Camuto, author of Another Country: Journeying Toward the Cherokee Mountains

"John Lane's essays are each a gem: occurring naturally, apparently effortlessly, but revealing beauty beyond anything man-made. This is a wonderful collection, and Lane is an important American author."--Brett Lott, author of Jewel

"A trek into two realms: wild landscapes that are among the most mysterious and compelling on earth, and the tangled halls of human experience. Lane's writing is casual and honest, but also full of insight. He gracefully accomplishes two of the essayist's most difficult tasks: building a sense of place and revealing the workings of his heart."--Jan DeBlieu, author of Hatteras Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820326214
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2004
  • Pages: 200

Meet the Author


John Lane’s writing has been published in Orion, American Whitewater, Southern Review, Terra Nova, and Fourth Genre. His books include Waist Deep in Black Water, The Woods Stretched for Miles, and Chattooga (all published by Georgia), several volumes of poetry, and Weed Time, a gathering of his essays. Lane is an associate professor of English at Wofford College.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note
Medicine Wheel 3
The Once-Again Wilderness 17
Ascent and Summit 24
Natural Edges 32
A Stand of Cypress 37
My Last Eden 54
The Crocodile 62
Something Rare as a Dwarf-Flowered Heartleaf 83
The Road 95
Walking Kelsey Creek 105
Huxley 112
Headwaters 120
Death by Water 131
One Family Line 139
The Inheritance of Autumn 152
Slurry 160
The Ice Storm 169
Confluence: Pacolet River 174
Acknowledgments 187
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