Melissa Walker

Melissa Walker

Melissa Walker is vice president of National Wilderness Watch, chair of the Georgia chapter of Wilderness Watch, serves on the Southern Appalachian Council of the Wilderness Society, and is the author of Reading the Environment and Down from the Mountaintop. She has been Professor of English at the University of New Orleans and Mercer University and a fellow of Women's Studies at Emory University. Walker lives with her husband in Decatur, Georgia.

"Here is a fascinating and tender odyssey of a woman who decides, in her early fifties, to reexamine her life. In grappling with the complexities of our world, she sets out to discover life at its most basic and untrammeled, and falls in love with wildness. What she learns is a lesson for us all. This adventure-filled book is a love song to wilderness, and a travel guide to what’s important. Walker’s narrative is clean and dead-level sincere: we know this is a writer we can trust." —Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

Books

Living on Wilderness Time

Soon after her fiftieth birthday, Melissa Walker set out on a journey that many women of her generation have mapped only in their dreams. Having spent her adult life raising children and climbing the academic ladder, Walker decided to put some of the environmental theories she'd taught into practice. Leaving her suburban life, she ventured into the wilderness.

Like many American chroniclers before her who have surrendered to the aimless pleasures of the road, Walker had no geographical destination in mind, but she did have two definite goals--one personal, one political--for her journey. She was looking for the peace and solitude of the backcountry, certainly, but she also wanted to learn the dynamics of preserving wild places and to devote herself to that cause.

Walker took off on three extended solitary trips over the next two years, establishing a way of life for herself that continues to this day. In the Sky Islands of southern Arizona, on the banks of the Popo Agie River and the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming, in Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, and Olympic National Park, in Gila and Glacier Peak Wilderness, she encountered the hazards of wild animals and extreme weather, and she began to reassess what parts of her life she could control. Her belief in the primacy of individual achievement changed as she confronted the hidden structures of life. And her understanding of her environment broadened when in addition to grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions, she also met ranchers, loggers, cowboys, and outfitters whose livelihoods depend on activities that may threaten wilderness.

Living on Wilderness Time is a book for those who have visited wild places and want to return and for others whose overcommitted urban lives make them long for land where time is measured differently and human beings are scarce. Above all it is a call to join those, like Aldo Leopold, who see wilderness as vital to the human community.

(University of Virginia Press, September 2003)