Waist Deep in Black Water

Title Details

Pages: 200

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 04/09/2004

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2621-4

List Price: $25.95

Related Subjects

NATURE / Essays

Waist Deep in Black Water

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  • Description
  • Reviews

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 own writings that range from wilderness exploration, to conservation issues, to explorations of family history in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Lane's trek to the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark in Wyoming becomes an occasion to draw connections between religion, sexuality, and mountain lore. A hike into Kentucky's Red River Gorge prompts a meditation on the words and spirit of Wendell Berry, who helped prevent the gorge from being dammed. Some of Lane's writings are set closer to home, where the South Carolina hills meet the Blue Ridge. In "Something Rare as a Dwarf-Flowered Heartleaf," Lane recounts his campaign to stop the development of a woodland area within Spartanburg's city limits. Family issues also surface, as in "Confluence: Pacolet River." Here Lane kayaks through country where his family has lived for generations as he reckons the distances between himself and his farming, millworking forebears.

Something is always at stake wherever Lane takes us: a stand of old-growth trees, a primate population, a friendship, a soul. Lane bestows loving attention on the places and people he visits in this collection and, in the process, goes beyond the traditional concerns of nature and travel writing.

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.'


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

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

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

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

About the Author/Editor

JOHN LANE is professor emeritus of environmental studies at Wofford College. A 2014 inductee into the South Carolina Academy of Authors, his books include Circling Home, My Paddle to the Sea, and Coyote Settles the South (all Georgia). He is also coeditor of The Woods Stretched for Miles: New Nature Writing from the South (also Georgia), and he has published numerous volumes of poetry, essays, and novels. Coming into Animal Presence is his most recent work. He lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina.