Waist Deep in Black Water

John Lane

Personal writings infused with a deep respect for wilderness and place


"Intriguing and well-wrought essays from a southern boy who is a collector of stories, each like a pretty rock gathered from some high place. Lane's pockets are full. His informants are wind and sage, storms and dark water, a love of land, the strange muteness of history. This is a book of searching, traveling through the uncharted territory where the human psyche meets wildness, to glean what lies in the depths of life. Lane's adventures carry us down many unknown and beautiful roads; like the best of journeys, they bring us back to ourselves."
—Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

"Lane has a fluid eye in a 'world where time moves in more than one direction and no landscape holds steady for long,' and it's energizing to see through that eye, open as it is to both light and darkness."
Kirkus Reviews

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John Lane has scaled a granite dome in the Suriname rain forest and waded past cottonmouths in the heart of a Florida cypress swamp. He has shadowed crocodiles in a Yucatán mangrove thicket and paddled the rapids of North Carolina's Tuckaseegee River in search of a drowned kayaker. Waist Deep in Black Water offers a collection of Lane's own writings that range from wilderness exploration, to conservation issues, to explorations of family history in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Lane's trek to the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark in Wyoming becomes an occasion to draw connections between religion, sexuality, and mountain lore. A hike into Kentucky's Red River Gorge prompts a meditation on the words and spirit of Wendell Berry, who helped prevent the gorge from being dammed. Some of Lane's writings are set closer to home, where the South Carolina hills meet the Blue Ridge. In "Something Rare as a Dwarf-Flowered Heartleaf," Lane recounts his campaign to stop the development of a woodland area within Spartanburg's city limits. Family issues also surface, as in "Confluence: Pacolet River." Here Lane kayaks through country where his family has lived for generations as he reckons the distances between himself and his farming, millworking forebears.

Something is always at stake wherever Lane takes us: a stand of old-growth trees, a primate population, a friendship, a soul. Lane bestows loving attention on the places and people he visits in this collection and, in the process, goes beyond the traditional concerns of nature and travel writing.

Page count: 200 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $24.95

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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.