Gretel Ehrlich - About Men
Gretel Ehrlich was born on a horse ranch near Santa Barbara, California and was educated at Bennington College and UCLA film school. She worked in film for ten years, then began writing full time in 1978 after the death of a loved one. She had been filming on a 250,000 acre sheep and cattle ranch in northern Wyoming at the time, and there she stayed. The book that resulted was THE SOLACE OF OPEN SPACES, published by Viking Penguin in 1984. Annie Dillard wrote of the book: “Wyoming has found its Whitman.” Solace became an instant classic. The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded her the Harold D. Vurcell Award for Distinguished Prose.
Working on ranches by day, Ehrlich continued writing at night and in the slow seasons. Following SOLACE, Penguin published her novel, HEART MOUNTAIN, in 1987, set in Wyoming during World War II, it is a portrait of a ranching community suddenly invaded by an internment camp for Japanese Americans. “Absolutely dazzling…” the Chicago Tribune wrote.
In 1991, Penguin published a second book of narrative essays, ISLANDS, THE UNIVERSE, AND HOME. Peter Stack writing for the San Francisco Chronicle described te book as: “A volume of ten deep, wandering essays that at times are so point blank vital you nearly need to put down the book to settle yourself.”
1991 was the year Ehrlich was hit by lightning while taking a walk on her ranch. She was hospitalized and severely debilitated for several years. She writes of the experience in her nationally bestselling memoir, A MATCH TO THE HEART, published by Pantheon in 1994.
Having recovered from her lightning injuries, Ehrlich began traveling. In 1993, she went to the foothills of the Himalayas in western China. Intending to write a book on the four sacred Buddhist in China, she was so appalled by the stripping away of culture and humanity during the Cultural Revolution, that she found herself writing something altogether different. QUESTIONS OF HEAVEN, published in 1994 by Beacon Press, was, she says, “a lament for a 5000 year old culture that has suffered almost complete extinction….almost, but not quite.”
That same year, Ehrlich also began traveling north to Greenland. “I wanted to get above treeline, to see nothing but horizons. Once there, she fell in love with the Inuit people and traveled with subsistence hunters by dogsled for months at a time out on the sea ice. “Greenland was a Siren singing me back. I could not stay away.” Eight years later, in 2002, her book, THIS COLD HEAVEN: Seven Seasons in Greenland, was published by Pantheon. “Combining timidity, foolhardiness, tenacity, erudition, and poetry, Ehrlich’s is a superb voice for the miracle of Greenland…” Tom McGuane wrote.
Other books by Gretel Ehrlich:
A BLIZZARD YEAR, Hyperion, 1999 (young adults)
JOHN MUIR, NATURE’S VISIONARY, National Geographic Books, 2000
YELLOWSTONE, Land of Fire and Ice, Tehabi Books, 1995
ARCTIC HEART, Capra Press, 1991 (poems)
DRINKING DRY CLOUDS, Capra Press, 1985 (short stories)
TO TOUCH THE BODY, 1981 (poems)
GEODE/ROCK BODY, Capra Press, 1970 (poems)
Gretel Ehrlich’s work, including essays, short stories, and poems have been included in many anthologies including: Best Essays of the Century, Best American Essays, Best Spiritual Writing, Best Travel Writing, and The Nature Reader.
Her work has been published in Harper’s, the Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times op-ed page, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, Life, National Geographic Adventure, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, Audubon, Anteaus, Architectural Digest, and The Shambala Sun, among many others.
Ehrlich’s books have been translated into French, Italian, German, Japanese, Danish, and Swedish.
Her awards include: National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities grant, a Whiting Foundation Award, A Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Harold B Vurcell Award at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She and the theatre director, Martha Clarke were awarded a Bellagio Fellowship. In 1991 she collaborated with British choreographer, Siobhan Davies on a ballet that opened in London’s the South Bank Theatre.
Ehrlich divides her time between California and Wyoming. She is a currently at work on a novel.
Questions to consider for Writing:
- Discuss other jobs/careers that are often tough on the body and heart, one with long hours and little pay.
- Is Ehrlich's essay a one-dimensional stereotype is a disservice to cowboys at large and men in general?