Walking Nature Home, A Life’s Journey

Louann Atkins Temple Women and Culture Series

Illustrations: Sherrie York

University of Texas Press, 2009

Clothbound, $24.95


Kindle edition


Audiobook edition (read by the author!)


Fans of the natural world and how it corresponds to our own biology will find a kindred spirit in this provocative story. –Library Journal

You really must read this book. — Story Circle Book Reviews


From the beginning:

“You’ve got two years, or perhaps five,” said the doctor, leaning over her metal desk. “I’m sorry.”

She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes, then replaced the lenses carefully before explaining that she had sent my test results to specialists. They concurred with her diagnosis: the way the disease was progressing, they thought, my life would not last long.

It was February of 1980. I was twenty-three years old, attending graduate school while working for the U.S. Forest Service, married to my college sweetheart, and at the beginning of what seemed like a promising career.

I shifted on the slippery vinyl seat of the chair, picked up my mechanical pencil, and recorded her words in tidy script in a ruled notebook. I wanted to remember the facts, so I took notes. I am a scientist. I observe and record from a careful distance. It’s what we do, how we make sense of the world.

Just a few weeks before, I had stood breathless atop a narrow ridge hundreds of feet above the Shoshone River, my ski tips aimed precisely perpendicular to the edge. It had snowed all night, laying down a thick blanket of fresh powder. My husband, Kent, and I had risen before dawn, thrown our gear into the truck, and driver the slick and winding highway as fast as we dared. The air was still. The sun threw dazzling sparks from the untracked surface of the snow. My stomach clenched as I surveyed the dizzying drop.

“Go!” said Kent from behind me.

I took a deep breath, flashed a smile over my shoulder, leaned forward, and plunged into an explosion of powder. Hours later, snowcrusted and sweaty from repeating the climb to the top of the ridge and exhilarating ride down, I hauled myself into the truck.

If you had asked me, I would have said I was perfectly happy.

But my body knew better. ….