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The lonesome crowded West


"Nevada 2" by Thomas Struth, 1999.

From Wallace Stegner’s essay “Living Dry,” included in Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs (1992):

“Scale is the first and easiest of the West’s lessons. Colors and forms are harder. Easterners are constantly being surprised and somehow offended that California’s summer hills are gold, not green. We are creatures shaped by our experiences; we like what we know, more often than we know what we like. To eyes trained on universal chlorophyll, gold or brown hills may look repulsive. Sagebrush is an acquired taste, as are raw earth and alkali flats…

You have to get over the color green; you have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns; you have to get used to an inhuman scale; you have to understand geological time.