Chamberlain carries readers through desert solitudes
Roaring Fork Valley author and poet Karen Chamberlain’s new nonfiction book, “Desert of the Heart: Sojourn in a Community of Solitudes,” (Ghost Road Press, Denver, 234 pages) is a joy to read, especially for those of us who value desert places.Terry Tempest Williams, author of “Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place,” has called the book, “… luminous in its language, spare and expansive like the desert itself. Karen Chamberlain has written a remarkable memoir … (she) has polished what she experienced into shimmering stories, crafting a beautiful narrative of place.”In the almost five years Chamberlain lived in the remote Utah desert at Horsethief Ranch, she found not only a refuge from the busyness of life in a Colorado mountain resort, but traveled deep into her heart.As caretaker of the ranch in southeast Utah’s redrock county, she became master gardener, handywoman and caretaker of a place almost forgotten by time.Chamberlain is an award-winning poet, who lived for many years in Aspen producing wildlife films for PBS television and directing the Aspen Writers’ Workshop. Most recently, she and Carol Bell have conducted a writers workshop in Glenwood Springs.In a defiant act of literally running away from home, she went to work as caretaker for the ranch owned by Michael Behrednt, a wealthy Aspen friend, who was on an around-the-world cruise.When she began her life-changing, and affirming, sojourn in Horsethief Canyon, “I’d sold a comfortable, convenient condominium in which I’d hardly had to change a light bulb, to scrub mud out of rickety cupboards in a crumbing stone house with a leaky roof, no electricity or phone, and nobody else to fix things when – not if – they went wrong.”She cleaned the ranch house and outbuildings relentlessly; planted, tended and harvested an abundant garden and, in the process, became adept at coaxing precious water through the ranch’s cranky pipes.She cared for her beloved horses, riding out to explore the territory with her dog Koa.As the book unfolds, we learn about her own history, as well as the history of the ranch. We meet a varied cast of characters, visitors to the ranch – some her relatives, some friends, some the owner’s friends, many quirky sojourners much like herself.We also catch the threads of an old friendship turning to love between Chamberlain and Remo, a curmudgeonly bachelor who opened his heart to her, albeit gradually, and with whom she shared her mystical love of the desert.Throughout her narrative of life on a remote desert outpost are musings about life and nature, written in the lyrical language of a poet. She speaks about love and fear, violence and serenity, and most of all about her enduring passion for wild places.Chamberlain will sign copies of her book from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday at the Through the Looking Glass bookstore in Glenwood Springs.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.orgWho: Karen ChamberlainWhat: Signing her new book, “Desert of the Heart: Sojourn in a Community of Solitudes.”When: Sunday, April 30, 1-3 p.m.Where: Through the Looking Glass Bookstore, 816 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs
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