In this career-defining work, Browning explores the breaking point every mind has after finding her own limit during a gauntlet of traumatic events. Pulled out of this blast-crater moment in her life by a friend, she is brought away from the insanity and deep into the snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains where, standing in front of a herd of wild buffalo, she comes face to face with the terms we all must come to surrounding the loss we face in this life. Offering no answers and seeking no pity, Browning lays herself bare in this radically authentic offering. She carries restricted subjects such as miscarriage, mental illness, and suicide out of the silence by offering her own private journey as an example of the power of transcendence.
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About the Author
L.M. Browning is an award-winning author of twelve books. In her writing, Browning explores the confluence of the natural landscape and the interior landscape. In 2010, Browning debuted with a three-title contemplative poetry series. These three books went on to garner several accolades including a total of 3 pushcart-prize nominations, the Nautilus Gold Medal for Poetry, and Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award. She has freelanced for several publications and has a biannual interview column in The Wayfarer Magazine in which she has interviewed dozens of notable creative figures such as Academy Award-Nominated filmmaker Tomm Moore and Peabody-winning host of On Being Krista Tippett. Balancing her passion for writing with her love of learning, Browning is a graduate of the University of London, and a Fellow with the International League of Conservation Writers. In 2011, she opened Homebound Publications, a rising independent publishing house based in Connecticut. She is currently working to complete a L.B.A. in Creative Writing at Harvard University’s Extension School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. visit her at www.lmbrowning.com
Read an Excerpt
“The world that used to nurse usnow keeps shouting inane instructions.
That’s why I ran to the woods.”–Jim Harrison, Songs of Unreason
Cimarron Valley , New Mexico
The stark golden prairie stretched out to the base of the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Among the overgrown grasses, dry wooden fences rose. The posts were strung together by braided barbed wire that carried from one pole to the next. Just beyond the wire, we saw themhulking, horned, billowing heavy breaths through their wide nostrils into the chilled December air.
It was the day after Christmas. We traveled down u.s. Route 64, en route to Taos. We were just outside of Cimarron Valley in northern New Mexico when they came into sight. “Buffalo!” exclaimed Mallory and I simultaneously in the otherwise quiet car. A herd of brown, thick-coated bison flew by the drivers-side window. Mallory quickly pulled a U-turn on the deserted country road. We got out of the car and slowly approached them.
In the language of the Lakhóta, the name for the buffalo is thathánka. The buffalo was held in sacred regard by the tribe. The great animal gave everything it had to the peopleits flesh for food, its hide for shelter and clothing, its bone and sinew for everything from needles to tools. The buffalo stands as a symbol of self-sacrificeit gives until there is nothing leftand in doing so makes life possible for the people.
As I stood theremy creased leather boots breaking through the stiff, frosty grassI looked dark eye to dark eyea single female buffalo moved out of the herd and began walking toward me. I was reminded of a painting I saw as a child by Robert Bateman of a buffalo emerging from behind a veil of thick mist. I was transfixed. Here I was brokena shadow of myselfand she a wild thing, untamed, and strength untold. Some otherworldly grace encircled us. In the space between us, we spoke of the ineffable thingsof what it is to sacrifice all of one’s self, of grief, and gratitudeand of the terms every living thing must come to.
Unlike other books in my library, I wrote To Lose the Madness with no intention of sharing it with others.I wrote this essay and presented it for an advance narrative non-fiction course at Harvard as a way to “process” a period in my life of mental strain. After class, people began coming up to me privately telling me their stories of suffering and dark times. It was as though my piece had given voice to this unspoken, hidden movement of wounded people around me struggling silently through each day.This book, more than any other I have written, is a conversation starter and it is a needed conversation.
So Ia notoriously private personam going to share the story of my most difficult moments with the world. The prospect of this is both exciting and terrifying. Fear and trembling aside, I am 35-years-old, and I have come to realize that I have no answersnot one. I used to believe in answers but I don’t anymore. Instead, I have only my journey and the time has come to own it.