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Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild
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Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  369 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
Long believed to be disappearing and possibly even extinct, the Southwestern bighorn sheep of Utah’s canyonlands have made a surprising comeback. Naturalist Ellen Meloy tracks a band of these majestic creatures through backcountry hikes, downriver floats, and travels across the Southwest. Alone in the wilderness, Meloy chronicles her communion with the bighorns and laments ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by Vintage (first published 2005)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
"Where is the water? I describe a confluence of rivers hidden in folds of stone, a spring on the side of the mountain in land so holy, you must sing every footstep you place on it."

The concept for this book was a month-by-month collection of musings and discoveries over a year of observing the desert bighorn sheep of the U.S. and Baja, Mexico. Meloy begins the year in November with sheep sex. While I do find it remarkable that the rams' testicles expand to the size of cantaloupes during the mati
One of those books that all riders on the planet would do well to consider reading. Meloy writes of a year spent with bighorn sheep in the mountains of southern Utah where she lived, with side trips to several other desert and mountain "islands", and how their teetering populations epitomize the risks of humankind losing a core feature its identity by a loss of the "wild."

This is "nature writing" which one could characterize as blending the poetry and emotional relationship of an Annie Dillard
I find sheep to be dull creatures. I say this as a dedicated conservationist, and one who firmly believes that all organisms have an innate right to exist, or at least to exist for as long as they can in the bloodthirsty battlefield of natural selection.

But Meloy writes about her bighorns with such unstinting love, and such poetry, that it becomes impossible not to fall in love with them yourself. Her avowed adoration of wild things is apparent in the way she describes a group of bighorns dozing
Jan 08, 2008 Issy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ali Kate
Finally finished this one. It's as dense as a thicket of nature and just as enjoyable. Everytime I glazed over something, eavesdropping in the subway say, she brought me right back in with a lovely line. Meloy's voice is so charming and she writes so many truisms about the human benefits gained from having a relationship with the natural world She makes me seriously consider dropping my entire life to go watch sheep in the desert.
Rift Vegan
Feb 18, 2016 Rift Vegan rated it did not like it
Shelves: burroughs-medal, 2016
The writing in this book is beautiful... I seriously wanted my kindle in one hand and a paintbrush in the other because I'm sure my paintings would be as beautiful as the desert scenes Ellen Meloy paints with her words! Unfortunately, the beautiful writing did not save this book. The title is what attracted me to this book, I wanted to read about "Imagination" and being out in the Wild, but EM barely mentions it.

And I didn't learn much about Bighorn Sheep, either, other than they are pretty har
Jun 09, 2008 Bonnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It was a joy to read and has great phrases. She was unfortunately very prophetic regarding herself, "I am here to learn something-time is running out." (Did she know?)
This is a cautionary tale.
She tells it like it is.
I learned a new word: Philopatry: loyalty to the group and to their home range. And another new word: rupicaprid: mountain goat-antelope.
Many wonderful substories: Regarding Steinbeck: Pg 96 & 97: "On a hardwood plaque the crew mounted their trophy, a sheep tu
Ellen Meloy monitored a band of desert bighorn sheep that she called the 'Blue Door Band' for a year. Her acclaimed book, the last she wrote before her unexpected death of a heart attack is more than a tale of the endangered species. Rather it is a revealing story of the connections between animals, humans, and their sometimes fragile environments. Learn more at the Ellen Meloy Fund website (lj)
Feb 13, 2012 Kim rated it it was amazing
The author's prose is lyrical. Her observations were heart-felt and moving. You feel in love with her journey and the big horn sheep. She became a friend in your joint journey to find the big horn sheep that would mysteriously vanish and then reappear. Ellen Meloy's death was a real blow-she was an outstanding writer. And I would have loved to read more of her books and more of her journey with the big horn sheep.
Aug 07, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it
Just when you've learned more about bighorn sheep than you might think you want to, Ellen Meloy grabs you by the hand and runs barefoot through a moonlit night to foil the rustlers. If you choose only one Meloy, pick The Anthropology of Turquoise. If you choose another, Eating Stone, published after her death, will help sate the addiction that could take hold of you.
Apr 29, 2008 rachel rated it it was ok
I'm rating a book I didn't finish, which makes me completely unqualified to issue any kind of rating. Here it is nonetheless.

I couldn't get into this. I don't doubt that it's an interesting read, but I had to force myself to finish just the first chapter. I didn't dislike it; I just didn't care to go on.
Aug 06, 2013 Jay rated it it was amazing
Such a good read! Ellen Meloy was often personal, frequently poignant, and always fascinating. Her observations about small town Utah life (she lived in Bluff) were as engaging as was her writings about desert bighorns, the primary topic of the book.
Kirk Astroth
Nov 24, 2016 Kirk Astroth rated it it was amazing
A really well-written, lyrical book about one woman's love affair with a band of big horn sheep she names the Blue Door band living on the Colorado Plateau. She lives amongst them and travels their routes. To learn more about the role that big horns play in our landscape, she travels to New Mexico, California, Baja and Nevada to study other bands and examine petroglyphs. She even participates in a translocation effort to relocate a herd in Canyonlands. Melody is a great writer with an incredible ...more
Jul 27, 2017 Sue rated it it was amazing
I must paraphrase a review found on the cover of this book... as it applies perfectly. "Eating Stone is ..a work of power, beauty, wisdom, tenderness, and great humor. This book reminds me of what it is we love about reading great books: time stops, and a deeper understanding, a deeper way of being inhabits the reader." Ms. Meloy's writing pours our imagination into the southwest desert with her descriptive writing and gives us pause to wonder what our world would be like without it's wild parts ...more
Feb 24, 2017 Agarbarino rated it really liked it
The writing style is very unique, and if you pay close attention, it's extremely witty. I enjoyed reading the book, but it wasn't a "must read in one setting" kind of a book. It was best spread out over a couple of months, picking it up when I wanted to appreciate good writing and vivid detail. I live in Idaho/WY and have had various encounters with Big Horns. Just this last week there was an article in the local paper about how expensive hunting permits are possible saving their habitat. Needle ...more
Nov 02, 2014 Katie rated it liked it
The first thing you need to know is that the subtitle and publisher's blurb on this book are horribly misleading. This book is as much about imagination and the loss of the wild as it is about the desert, sheep sex or petroglyphs. In fact, many of these topics take up a lot more real estate in this book than man's imaginative connection to wildlife. Also, the author is not often alone in the wild but spends days in the desert observing bighorns in between her treks with friends, collaborations w ...more
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Nov 02, 2014 Cindy Dyson Eitelman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-14
Poetry in prose so beautiful I can't write about it.  I'm not good enough.

It's a loosely structured ode to the Bighorn Sheep of North America--both the Blue Door band that the author is watching and the other small enclaves widely scattered around, occupying a tiny portion of their original range.  I can't imagine a world in which I'll never have the hope of hiking the canyon and coming unexpectedly on a band of bighorns...or canoeing a remote river and or catching sight of them edging down the
N.J. Ramsden
Feb 07, 2014 N.J. Ramsden rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Slow, undulating prose about the author's time following, watching, and trying to understand bighorn sheep in the deserts of the US... Melloy's book has the rhythms of a measured, thoughtful process, and a delivery somewhere between an observational study and an inward gaze, and seems to be suggesting that we need whatever wildness is left in the world as a foil to our urbanised, technological lives, or as an essential mode of contemplative therapy that keeps us functioning as human. She seems t ...more
Susan Eubank
Here are the questions we discussed at theReading the Western Landscape Book Club at the Arboretum Library of the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden on February 4, 2015.

• What was your favorite fact?
• Was there any part that you didn’t understand what she was talking about? Where?
• Can you tell about a wildlife experience that you had, that was reminiscent of any of hers?
• Did you follow and agree with her conclusions? Did this book make you think differently? Why? Why not?
• What
Mar 28, 2014 Amber rated it it was amazing
A new favorite author, a mix of poetry, nature observations, educational bits and personal reflections. This book has so much to tell, to be reread, re-enjoyed and savored for its beauty.
This book covers, among other things, the life and history of North American Ovis - Big-horned sheep. Meloy was a fantastic naturalist, following the daily lives of these species while simultaneously providing observations on all of the other flora/fauna of the area. In addition she covers the economic and psyc
Nov 18, 2011 Kristen rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up in Arches NP, on my way out here this fall. I saw that it was about bighorn sheep and that it was a National Book Award finalist, and decided it was worth the money and the space in my car.

The book's premise is that wilderness, the foreignness of its inhabitants and their place, is inextricably linked to our imaginations and, henceforth, our humanness. I was overwhelmed by how much I liked Ellen Meloy's vocalization of this idea.

Here's a favorite part, written about the p
Aug 16, 2015 Zola added it
This book renewed me. I wish I knew what to say without sounding pandering or heaping sloppy praise - this book was /real/. It offered up the complexities of conservation alongside the profound spiritual and emotional possibilities inherent to observation of the natural world and its denizens. It broke my heart, it scared me, and it gave me something back. It reminded me of my humanity, a curse and a gift. It made me feel hopelessly inadequate but also present in that inadequacy - like maybe I c ...more
Nov 19, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it
Nature writing at its best! I will never be able to look at mountain sheep the same way after reading this book. But neither will I be able to think of the Southwest the same. Meloy's love of the natural world, the desert, and her amazing prose made this book one of my favorites. I especially liked how she expressed so eloquently the importance of all living things and how tragic it would be if the wonderful creatures in our world would disappear.
"Shall we be honest about this? The mind needs wild animals. The body needs the trek that takes it looking for them. I am interested in both desert natives and the places where they live. When I am lucky, desert bighorn geography may actually have sheep in it. More often, there are places where this mammal should be but is no longer, and in this emptiness, too, there is fieldwork to be done."

Kept my Attention - 3
Meaningful - 3
Must Read - 3
Mar 31, 2008 Reuel rated it really liked it
Ellen Meloy was one of the writers-in-residence that worked with Whitman College Semester in the West kids (aka "Westies") the first two years of that program (2003 and 2005). She died a couple of weeks after the Westies left her home in 2005, so when Lia went on the third SITW trip in fall 2007, they had to find other writer-naturalists to teach them. Still, they read a couple of her books, including this one.
Jan 06, 2015 Matthew rated it really liked it
Several passages of excellent writing that I had read over and over, and several images that I recall and have thought about during the time that I was reading the book and since. This one definitely got into my head and will stay with me. The ending, especially, focused her thoughts and conclusions in a melancholic and beautiful conclusion.
Nicole Sheets
Nov 23, 2016 Nicole Sheets rated it really liked it
Reading Meloy's loving, quirky essays about bighorn sheep is a good antidote to reading the news right now. I didn't love this book as much as her _Anthropology of Turquoise_, but there's still much to enjoy. It's a fresh reminder of what we lost when she died a few years ago, and a deeper sadness that there won't be more of her observations and calls to love and save the wild.
Jan Underwood
Jun 03, 2013 Jan Underwood rated it it was amazing
This account of the author's year of living among a herd of wild bighorn sheep in Utah reminds me of the poetry of Mary Oliver--minute observations of nature captured in gorgeous language. Funny, deeply intelligent and at times devastatingly beautiful, this book kept me enthralled for months. I read it very slowly, savoring every page.
Jan 28, 2015 Adam rated it it was amazing
Not since Edward Abbey have I read a more eloquent poet of the desert-- that is where the comparison ends, however. Meloy's prose is that of a patient observer and lover of wildlife, mixing the science and the sporadic ecstasy of wildness. In skirting the temptation to anthropomorphize her subjects, somehow makes them all the more empathetic.
Judith Rodenbeck
Aug 23, 2007 Judith Rodenbeck rated it it was amazing
I've just started reading this beautiful book nominally about watching Bighorn sheep in the Utah desert. Crafted writing, and a slow-building contemplative mode that made me think of two of my favorite books of the last few years, Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard and Rebecca Solnit's Rivers of Time.
Melissa H.
May 30, 2014 Melissa H. rated it really liked it
This is a love story to the wilderness, and to Southern Utah specifically. The author follows a band of bighorn sheep for a year and tells the story of the land, the sheep, and of her own upbringing. Beautiful writing. The land, the animals--everything-- is so well described. Felt like I was there.
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Ellen Meloy was an American nature writer. Among the awards she garnered are the Whiting Writer's Award (1997) and the John Burroughs Medal (2007); in 2003 she was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, for The Anthropology of Turquoise Meditations on Landscape, Art & Spirit.
More about Ellen Meloy...

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“Its beauty stirs the imagination, and I wonder if the last refuge of all that is truly wild lies not on earth but in light.” 7 likes
Homo sapiens have left themselves few places and scant ways to witness other species in their own worlds, an estrangement that leaves us hungry and lonely. In this famished state, it is no wonder that when we do finally encounter wild animals, we are quite surprised by the sheer truth of them.

Each time I look into the eye of an animal...I find myself staring into a mirror of my own imagination. What I see there is deeply, crazily, unmercifully confused.

There is in that animal eye something both alien and familiar. There is in me, as in all human beings, a glimpse of the interior, from which everything about our minds has come.

The crossing holds all the power and purity of first wonder, before habit and reason dilute it. The glimpse is fleeting. Quickly, I am left in darkness again, with no idea whatsoever how to go back.”
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