Though Gretel Ehrlich (AYR-lihk) was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, she has since 1976 made her home—spiritually and physically—in Wyoming. She attended Bennington College, the University of California, the Los Angeles Film School, and the New School for Social Research, but her writings also clearly indicate that she learned from the natural landscape to which she was drawn. She created a home for herself in Shell, Wyoming, dividing her time between writing, ranching, and sheepherding. Ehrlich writes in a variety of genres but seems most at home in her essays in which she offers new ways to grasp the interconnectedness of the landscape and people of the western United States.
Ehrlich won the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1986, for The Solace of Open Spaces, and the Whiting Writers’ Award, Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, in 1987. Her best work binds a natural process, often an event in the western weather or a dominant feature of a natural landscape, with a corresponding human emotion or shift in human perception. She encourages readers not merely to “see” these natural processes as mirrors of the human condition but rather to use them to focus on their own thinking about the necessity of living in landscapes (physical or emotional, urban or rural, eastern or western)—landscapes that can shift in a moment from harsh confrontation to joyful support.
Ehrlich’s first nonfiction collection, The Solace of Open Spaces, contains twelve essays that began as journal...
(The entire section is 648 words.)