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The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  257 ratings  ·  46 reviews
In the tradition of Kathleen Norris, Terry Tempest Williams, and Thomas Merton, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes explores the impulse that has drawn seekers into the wilderness for centuries and offers eloquent testimony to the healing power of mountain silence and desert indifference.
Interweaving a memoir of his mother's long struggle with Alzheimer's and cancer, meditati
Paperback, 282 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press (first published 1998)
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4.24  · 
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 ·  257 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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May 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I geek out over Belden Lane's work. Truly, I do.

I read this book slowly, taking small bites and sometimes smiling, laughing out loud, tearing up, or just nodding, all the while finding myself looking around for someone else that I could show it to, share it with, and point out pieces and passages within it. Most of the time, I couldn't, and when I did find a listening ear, I found that most of what Lane is discussing that I was trying to rephrase is more experiential, and indeed, word-stripping
Dec 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This man is amazing. He goes back and forth between the desolation of his mother's battle with illness and his times of solitude in monasteries around the globe. The writing is amazing .. a bit academic at times but still wonderful. I learned so much about the dark night of the soul from Belden Lane.
Sean Post
Nov 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
Lane explores the parallels between the desolate places of our world and the desolate moments in our lives. Both are marked by uncomfortable silences. In the moments that we most desperately long to hear from God sometimes there is silence. This much I can affirm.

Yet Lane's theology collapses on itself. While I am comfortable reading many mystics, Lane pushes for a spirituality that transcends words (and possibly even religions?...) Certainly there are elements of God that are beyond knowing, b
David A-S
Jan 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Reading this is almost like taking a continuing education course in Spirituality and Self-Care for the Modern person. Lane never makes himself out to be a spiritual master, but he references about 50 people whom he would give that label. The reader journey's with Lane then into his own spiritual landscape as informed by all those encountered in his studies. Moreover, the depth of spiritual growth he seeks is so much harder to arrive at and rich to search for than much of today's pop-spirituality ...more
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Upon finishing The Solace of Fierce Landscapes I immediately wanted to read it again. Belden's work starts out very academic - he is a professor - but his meticulous research woven with story-telling ultimately reveals the power, depth, intricacies, nuances, and inspirations of mountain and desert symbolism in the Christian tradition, and in a universally spiritual sense that is accessible to all. I finished this book feeling like I had been given sips of water along the way of the long desert j ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: christianity, prayer
I felt there was too much repetition, not a kind of spiral movement by which more and more of the author's thought is disclosed, but mere repetition of the fundamental (and unique, it seems) thought: "desert teaches abandonment". I liked the chapter on desert fathers most, and also the dialectics of the indifference (to all that is not important) and attentiveness (to the very few things that are important). Well; the subject is immensely worthy, as any pratictioner of silent prayer would confir ...more
Leslie Klingensmith
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it

Liked this book a lot and could see reading it over and over again at various stages of life. It is, however, very heavy. There were a few times when I really wished for some levity. I kept on, though, because that seems to be one of the main points of the book, to push on even when it is hard or when it is arid. Was ultimately glad I did.
Susan Halvor
I loved this book, and how Belden Lane drew deeply from the deserts and mountains, but also from the Mystics... From the Desert Mothers and Fathers, to C.S. Lewis to Edward Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams to Wendell Berry to Thomas Merton. And I'm continuing to roll around the idea of an indifferent God who is also wildly filled with love. There is so much here.
Sep 23, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meditations on wilderness, prayer, self, God, and death. Written as his own mother was dying in a nursing home, and as he faces the death of his father, when he was just a child, for truly the first time. A modern companion to the writings of the ancient desert father and mothers.
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book combined an in depth study of desert spirituality with the author's own personal journey. I liked it, but it's not for the faint of heart.
Angela Joyce
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faith-in-general
This needs to be read slowly, in quiet moments of solitude... and it is worth taking the time to do this.
May 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Begun. Paused. Maybe I'll get to it. Once you get apophasis there's not a lot left.
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Dense, difficult read at times, like traversing the landscapes described.
Harry Allagree
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was for me an exceedingly rich book, one which bears much more quiet reflection. It wouldn't even have come on my "radar", had not the young rector of our parish joined in a backpack tour of "fierce landscapes" in the Southwest with a whole group of other women clergy last year. Part of their priming for the trip was to read, among other material, this book by Belden Lane. The rector mentioned it in the parish newsletter, & I'm certainly grateful that she did.

Lane's description of what
Tamara Murphy
In The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, author Belden C. Lane creates a physical setting of the desert for the spiritual work that takes place when we seek a holy detachment from all of the distractions created by external circumstances of our everyday life. Lane repeatedly warns against the temptation to romanticize the monastic work done in silence and solitude. Referring to the desert as a “geography of abandonment”, sets the stage as the place “where one confronts one’s inevitable loss of contro ...more
Sam Moss
I expected this book to be an accessible/academic history of desert spirituality and monastic life, and there was some of this, but it was a bit more self-helpy and personal that I liked. He does a lot of theorizing too, which felt thin. I felt that he never went into great depth about the desert fathers or other traditions and seems to assume a lot of shared knowledge. Also significantly focused on the judeo-christian tradition, which is not surprising, but again, a little disappointing.
Gail Richmond
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Belden Lane is a superlative writer. That said, the text of Fierce Landscapes is dense and slow reading, which makes it all the better to re-read passages, meditate, and learn.
In preparation and reverie for my New Mexico pilgrimage to Ghost Ranch and Christ in the Desert Monastery, an excellent choice.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was recommended to me by a wise friend who is an author. Full disclosure it was a stretch for me. I had to look up words and read it slowly in chunks. But it was good to push myself to read out of my comfort zone and learn new thinking.
Dec 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved his meditations and thoughts on deserts and mountains (and his curating of pretty much every other writer/thinker/theologians thoughts on the subject as well). I did not so much love his story with his mom. Overall I liked the format though and found lots of gems.
Oct 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I found it quite biblical and steeped in religion.
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good read for group study that helped me get in touch with my own interior landscape and grief not dealt with.
Todd Putney
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite writers on spiritual themes. Like his other books this one will be kept near by.
John Wills
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very deep, very moving, an educated perspective on grief.
Sam Eman
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one to savor, just a page or two at time. Excellent, even provocative, reflections on finding God in barren places.
Aaron Terrazas
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Weird, wandering, and overall too religious for my taste, but in fleeting moments, hauntingly beautiful. Worth reading.
Ed Wojniak
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
This excellent, moving book does much to honestly address the seeming "harsh majesty, indifference," and yet the "allurement of God's love as depicted by the desert. Lane takes us to the point of relinquishment until solace is within reach.

"Solace lies at the still point of emptiness — beyond hope, beyond proof, beyond consolation. Deliberately aiming the exercise of indifference (apatheia) at oneself, one releases little by little the anxious thoughts of the distracted ego. The false self is gr
This is a complicated book. Lane weaves together personal experiences in the mountains and deserts, along with his mother’s dying, reflections on his vast knowledge from early Christian history, and the theology of an unknowable God. The writing is dense and I found myself reaching for both a regular dictionary as well as a Dictionary of Church History. His thesis is that “apophatic tradition, despite’s its distrust of all images of God, makes an exception in using the imagery of threatening pla ...more
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: christian
This is a difficult book to characterize. One one hand, it is the author's reflection upon fierce landscapes, that is, his spiritual experience of time spent in mountains or deserts on various retreats in the United States, Egypt and beyond. On another hand, it is an theological reflection on the experience of the Desert Fathers and their more recent successors of the desert and the mountains. On another hand, it is a personal reflection about his experience with this mother's own descent into h ...more
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is dense and layered and I feel like any attempt I make at summarizing its content would fail to do it proper justice. It is a study of intertextuality.

This book is an extended meditation on the nature of the physical landscape of desert and mountain's and their relationship to the desert and apophatic spiritual tradition (mostly) within Christianity (mostly). Lane's exploration of this theme is interposed with stories of Lane's own exploration of mountain and deserts and the story of
Steve Penner
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it
This is one of the most difficult books I've slogged through in a long time. I put it down several times to pick up other books and magazines, but finally came back to it and finished while enduring a seasonal cold. It is long meditation on the meaning of mountain and desert especially in light of the desert fathers and mothers of early Christian history. It also weaves the author's experience of accompanying his mother through her final three years in a nursing home, victimized by Alzheimer's d ...more
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