Paper pub. date
October 2010
ISBN 9780870715921 (paperback)
5.5 x 8.5 inches, 144 pages. B&W photographs.

Where the Crooked River Rises

A High Desert Home

Ellen Waterston

There is an otherness to the high desert, something momentous and sacred in the purity of the silence. In this compelling collection of personal essays, award-winning poet and author Ellen Waterston illuminates the people, places, and landscape of Central Oregon’s vast high desert.

In Where the Crooked River Rises, Waterston reveals the blessings and challenges of decades spent as a rancher and town resident in a place that “has been, and remains,” her touchstone and crucible. The high desert is Waterston’s teacher, and she describes its lessons with grace and care, inviting readers to look at their own lives through a lens of wide-open spaces, sagebrush and juniper, pumice and rabbit brush.

About the author

Ellen Waterston is the author of Between Desert Seasons, Poems; I Am Madagascar; and Then There Was No Mountain, a memoir selected by the Oregonian as one of the top ten books in 2003 and a finalist for Foreword Book-of-the-Year and WILLA book awards. She is founder and president of the Writing Ranch and founder and director of The Nature of Words. Waterston ranched in Oregon’s high desert for nearly two decades before moving to Bend, Oregon.

Read more about this author

“As a child I loved Oregon’s high desert because there was less to see, I thought, but you saw everything there was—stones, bones, weathered wood all naked in the sun…and then the closer you looked, the deeper you went. Let this book take you (perhaps shrunken as I am by life in town) far out to listen with Waterston’s keen intelligence at remote Oregon places. This book accelerates the seeker’s life, offering concise accounts of local character, rutted road, resonant silence, and unfolding mystery. Let Waterston locate you in dry, spare ‘speaking places’ where the waters of the spirit rise—‘to find gold not in the easy of it, but in the hard.’ Reading this fine book, you, too, will be ‘burnt and instructed.’ Like obsidian, emerging into a new understanding of Oregon, the desert, and human pluck, you will be ‘unearthed with the run-off, and sparkle like the bright, black eyes of a newborn.’”

—Kim Stafford, author of The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft


“In this colorful mosaic of essays drawn from her long experience of Oregon’s dry side, Ellen Waterston pictures the region and some of its inhabitants in nimble and passionate prose. Conversant with buckaroos and environmental activists, with spinster ranchers now in their graves and meth cooks taking a short cut to theirs, with boomtown Bend and tiny Paulina and nameless saged and junipered places, she confesses an “amalgamated faith” in the High Desert itself, evoking the harshnesses and bountiful graces of a storied landscape laboring to give birth to its future.”

—John Daniel, author of The Far Corner and Rogue River Journal


“In this remarkable collection of essays, Ellen Waterston conjures the beauty and variety of Central Oregon’s High Desert country... This collection is a treasure like the region’s legendary Blue Bucket Mine.”
—Craig Lesley, author of Burning Fence

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