Circling Home

John Lane

Discovering home ground in the tradition of Wendell Berry and Annie Dillard


"Two verbs: to roam, to home. Nature writers, going back at least to the great T'ang Dynasty poets, have wrestled with these two urges. Lane spent the first half of his life roaming and writing about life on the move. Now comes Circling Home, his big-hearted account of settling down with a family and homing in on the richly textured landscape that surrounds his new hearth. Like Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson before him, Lane superbly demonstrates the virtues and the obstacles of becoming native to one place."
—Erik Reece, author of Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness

"Lane puts a saucer down on the topographical map of his homeplace and finds within that circle 'a theory and practice of settlement.' Circling Home recounts the 'adventure travel' he does within that one-mile radius. Whether building a sustainable home with his new wife, kayaking the flooded creek with his stepsons, walking the golf course with his naturalist's eye, or unearthing local history in conversation with his neighbors, Lane writes with beautiful care and attention. This book makes very good company for anyone trying to live a more intentional life."
—Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Writing the Sacred into the Real

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After many years of limited commitments to people or places, writer and naturalist John Lane married in his late forties and settled down in his hometown of Spartanburg, in the South Carolina piedmont. He, his wife, and two stepsons built a sustainable home in the woods near Lawson’s Fork Creek. Soon after settling in, Lane pinpointed his location on a topographical map. Centering an old, chipped saucer over his home, he traced a circle one mile in radius and set out to explore the area.

What follows from that simple act is a chronicle of Lane’s deepening knowledge of the place where he’ll likely finish out his life. An accomplished hiker and paddler, Lane discovers, within a mile of his home, a variety of coexistent landscapes--ancient and modern, natural and manmade. There is, of course, the creek with its granite shoals, floodplain, and surrounding woods. The circle also encompasses an eight-thousand-year-old cache of Native American artifacts, graves of a dozen British soldiers killed in 1780, an eighteenth-century ironworks site, remnants of two cotton plantations, a hundred-year-old country club, a sewer plant, and a smattering of mid- to late twentieth-century subdivisions.

Lane’s explorations intensify his bonds to family, friends, and colleagues as they sharpen his sense of place. By looking more deeply at what lies close to home, both the ordinary and the remarkable, Lane shows us how whole new worlds can open up.

A Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book

Page count: 224 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


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John Lane’s writing has been published in Orion, American Whitewater, Southern Review, Terra Nova, and Fourth Genre. His books include Waist Deep in Black Water, The Woods Stretched for Miles, and Chattooga (all published by Georgia), several volumes of poetry, and Weed Time, a gathering of his essays. Lane is an associate professor of English at Wofford College.