Synopses & Reviews
A poet at heart, Amy Minato rejects her life of consumption in Chicago to go back to naturespecifically, to a commune in Oregon, where she rediscovers herself.
"When the urban bustle of Eugene, Ore., got to be too much, poet Minato (The Wider Lens) moved to a woodsy cabin on a commune and absorbed a year's worth of material for this uneven collection of essays and poems. Simplifying her life in the rustic surroundings, she learned that 'it is freeing to emerge, even unwillingly, from the clutch of possessions.' A decomposing raccoon attuned her to the realities of life and death, chopping wood taught her patience, and snails reminded her to slow down. Minato's lyrical prose tosses off beguiling evocations of the landscape and flora around her ('The pheasants come out of the grass like puffs of smoke') in almost every line. Unfortunately, her belletristic penses can seem precious ('What is lost when I deny myself cloud-gazing?') and her denunciations of consumer society sound both strident and shallow ('Why must there be 30 kinds of cereal?... Every minuscule decision takes time and energy, takes me that much further away from my writing, the land, the people I love and my connection with everything deeper'). There is finely wrought nature writing here, but pat assumptions about rural authenticity and the corruptions of society make Minato's year on the land seem curiously unexamined. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A restless city poet recounts her experiment with country living.
The idea to swim against the "consumptive current" and move west came to Minato (The Wider Lens, 2004) during a Chicago traffic jam. Increasingly bothered by the global impact her metropolitan existence was having on the environment, the poet packed up and headed to Oregon for graduate school. But after eight years, even Eugene proved too urban for her, and she moved again, this time to a ten-square-foot cabin that was part of an eight-acre commune on Siesta Lane in the relative wilds of Rainbow Valley, Ore. Her memoir, a veritable menagerie of thoughts, observations, photos, poems and lovely pen-and-ink drawings by Muir, is the result of Minato's year or so away, where she discovered as much about herself as the wonders of nature. "Not so simple--simple living," she realized early on. Characterizing each of her fellow Siesta Lane residents, the author doesn't neglect herself, saying she's a "single woman with ninety-eight part-time jobs trying to figure out how she connects to the greater forces of the universe and to the tiny earwigs that hide in the curled-up seed heads of Queen Anne's lace." Part of this volume's charm lies in its somewhat fractured composition, which mirrors the author's state of mind during this transitional period. Short chapters hop from "Incubation" to "Freaks" to "July" to "The Garden," while loosely conveying the sense of time's passage as Minato adjusted to her rustic domestic situation. Living without many modern conveniences--for example, only the commune's main building had a kitchen and running water--led her to provocative conclusions: "For us it appears to primarily be the mind that evolves, and we then cater our surroundings to our weakening bodies." She took some radical actions as well, such as getting rid of her cat after he brought home one too many birds.
An evocative record of a year in the woods and an interesting study in enacting one's beliefs.
"A restless city poet recounts her experiment with country living. "
Minato rejects her life of consumption in Chicago to go back to nature--specifically, to a commune in Oregon, where she rediscovers herself. "Siesta Lane" is both a practical case study in living green, and the heartwarming story of a modern idealist who discovers just what it takes to live a year unplugged.
About the Author
Amy Minato is a poet, writer, and teacher. Her book of poems, The Wider Lens, was published in 2004. Minato earned her MFA in creative writing and master's in environmental studies at the University of Oregon. She lives in Portland. This is her first book of nonfiction.